By Nick Nugent
Mr Porter ***
1012 VN, Amsterdam
Tel: 020 811 3399
Open 7 days a week
The W hotel is the latest of a string of high-end hotels which have opened in Amsterdam recently and is one of the biggest at around 280 rooms, once finished. It occupies two sites on either side of the Spui, one in the old Telephone Exchange building and the other in the old Kas Bank building, which contains a new fine dining establishment, The Duchess. The first thing you need to know is that Mr Porter and in fact the Duchess are not the W hotel’s restaurants. They are in fact part of the Entourage Group which seems to specialise in putting high-end restaurants in hotel groups. The group consists of Amsterdam’s places to be, such as Momo, Izkaya, The Butcher and now The Duchess and Mr Porter. I had been to Mr Porter for a drink one Sunday afternoon with some friends so I was aware of it. On this occasion I had some former Amsterdam mates coming from abroad for dinner and I had suggested this place.
The theme of the restaurant, as the name may convey, is meat and lots of it. I was a very lucky boy this time as I was having dinner with 5 glamorous ladies, so I was a little concerned with the meat issue, but there was enough other stuff on the menu to keep eveyone happy. I had also been given a tour of the whole W hotel complex the day before and had the concepts of the hotel and restaurant explained to me. If you are interested you are welcome to contact me at email@example.com and I can explain, but I don’t want to spoil the all the surprises. I will say though that the whole menu is a sharing menu. The servers explained that approximately one starter per person and one main per person, unless you went for the huge 1Kg steaks, would be about right. I was also feeling a bit nervous about this as I felt sure that some of the ladies really did not want to share their dishes.
So for starters we ordered the whole baked cauliflower, spicy tomato salad, charcoal grilled foie gras, grilled baby squid and yellow tail spicy ceviche. We also had Arabic bread with a dip of cream and chili salsa. In fact everything was quite spicy. The foie gras was excellent, the cauliflower, which I had had before, was great and the rest was ok, but the ceviche was really not to my taste as it looked and tasted rather clumsy. I chose a very reasonably priced De Bortoli Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from New South Wales, Australia at about 40 euros per bottle, which was very easy to drink.
A couple of the ladies opted for fish, one picking the lobster and the other the prawns in a spicy tomato sauce. Myself and one other friend picked the Hanger stank and one other picked the small ribeye. So this is where the sharing concept really falls down for me. I am not the biggest fan of this concept in any case, as I have had too many experiences with bad tapas than I care to mention. You may know the issue. You order a dish you think you are going to like, only for it to be set at completely the opposite end of the table from you, where it is devoured in seconds as it tastes better than all the crappy patatas bravas which others have ordered. The food came out roughly in the order which I mentioned above and we had this awkward period where the ladies who had ordered the lobster and prawns sat there looking at it as no one else had food. We ordered some sides as well but I will get on to that later.
A look at the dessert menu revealed nothing interesting for our guests. It was crying out for a chocolate fondant or something like that. We had the 18:30-21:00 shift and they were expecting other guests any minute, so our allocated time was over and we had to vacate our table. What happened next was entirely inevitable, could have been foreseen, and should have been dealt with better. The 21:15 sitting turned up, coinciding with the 21:00 shift wanting to leave and looking to get their coats. No host or hostess was manning the reception as they were too busy seating people and there was no one to get coats. This meant people took matters into their own hands and started rifling through the coats to find their own. You could have taken any coat you wanted at this time. I still have the coat check ticket!
I need to mention the music. On our arrival it was sort of chill out Ibiza style stuff, very nice. By the time we were finishing our mains it was full on big room, club tunes. I can only imagine if you take the 21:00 sitting you are dancing on the seats by the end of your starters. For the clubbers out there, it would get you in the mood, although possibly the food is a bit too heavy for full on clubbing afterwards.
The entourage group have created another destination restaurant for the hipsters and boys and girls about town, however this does not mask some of the problems with the format. Some of the food is outstanding, but some is exceptionally ordinary. It is a lovely place to be with the view over the city, styling details and service quality all very good. I just cannot get past the fact that my guests just wanted to have their own plate of food which they ordered, at the same time as everyone else. I am not sure whether this sharing thing is to compensate for kitchen staff who cannot cook to order, but it does not work in this establishment for a group with disparate tastes like ours. Maybe if a bunch of carnivores turn up it would be absolutely super, but for us it did not work. Food, service and environment worth the 3 stars I gave, but concept is a big fat zero.