By Nick Nugent
Brasserie Ambassade ***
1016 AZ Amsterdam
Tel: 020 5550255
Open 7 days a week
I was recently asked by a friend of mine, who knows I love to eat out, where they could take a group of clients for a really nice French meal. Let me tell you I was a bit stumped. I have been to Flo, Sluizer, Bistro Neuf, Braque, De Compagnon and La Rive, but I really only rate La Rive and I am sure that a Michelin Star place was a bit too much for this business meal. So I had a look at all the French-style restaurants on my list which are highly rated and saw that the only one I had not been to was Johannes. However, when I suggested it, my friends told me they thought it was just Dutch food with a French twist and not that good. Barrique was suggested by one of my friends. I have not been there so I could not comment and was left La Rive as my only recommendation. This was not a position I enjoyed, not being able to recommend a restaurant and frankly I was embarrassed. So, queue some “Rocky” style music, and on to an evening of research over a bottle of wine.
From my research of French-style restaurants, the one that hit the brief was Brasserie Ambassade. It is attached to the hotel of the same name and has been open, by the time this article has been written, for around 5 months. The thing that stood out for me was how reasonable the prices were for a restaurant attached to the 4 star Hotel of the same name. I also liked the look of the interior from the pictures on their website.
Looking at the menu it is full-on French classics. Contrary to my initial comment I found that the starters are quite pricey, but the mains are entirely reasonable and the wine pricing was extremely reasonable. On sitting down we took a nice glass of Bourgogne Cremant fizz.
For starters my partner went for the oysters and I asked for a starter portion of their mushroom risotto. The oysters were well presented with the classic shallot vinaigrette and the risotto was beautifully presented with lots of well-cooked, winter vegetables. We asked for a wine pairing with the starters and were offered a Grenache blend, Du Sud, Cotes de Thongue, Frankrijk, 2014 rosé which was light, but had enough body to stand up to the flavours.
For mains I chose the bavette steak and my partner had one of their specials which happened to be an entrecote with red wine sauce.If any of you have had a bavette steak before you will know that it has to be served almost blue. They did ask me how I wanted it and I did say medium rare, but in the end it came rare to blue. I knew it had to be like this and so I did not complain, but I did mention to them that if any other British person came and asked for it medium rare, they might have a problem.
It was a great piece of steak. We took a bottle of Lalande de Pomerol, Château Bourseau, Bordeaux, France, 2010. It was great with the food, but it was not really a sipping wine due to the notorious amount of tannin in there. The entrecote was also very well cooked and the red wine sauce was great. Both were served with a salad and fries. The fries were very fresh and homemade, the salad was nicely dressed. On the whole very reasonable brasserie style food.
We decided to share the Dessert au Chocolat which consisted of a chocolate fondant, which was a perfect accompaniment to the remaining red wine, and also the Assiette de Fromage which consisted of mostly local cheese apart from a very good Roquefort. A decent end to the meal.
The décor inside is very smart and modern, but the abstract paintings on the walls were somewhat challenging for me. After about 30 minutes they realised there was no music on and so this came a bit of surprise when it started, but it remained low and in the background. The bench seats leave something to be desired for comfort as the their depth meant you could not rest your back against the wall, unless you are a very lanky Dutch person. I think cushions need to be provided for those of us who are shorter in the pant department. These guys should have and would have got 4 out of 5 but they committed one cardinal sin at the end. I really hate it when you have finished and you have the dregs of wine left, but you still have to wave frantically to get some attention to pay the bill. Maybe they think they are being very generous and giving you space to chat etc. When I’m done I’m done and I want to move, so hanging around for 10 more minutes really did not appeal. Apart from that the service was excellent all night.
They suggested we have a look at the bar downstairs called The Library. The idea is that anyone who has written a book and stays in the hotel should leave a signed copy. They have now got over 4000 volumes beautifully displayed. It was a nice place to enjoy a digestif.
I don’t think I mentioned it before but the restaurant gives exceptional value for money on their Champagnes. Of those I can remember they have Laurent Perrier, Pol Roger, Louis Roederer and, my personal favourite, Bollinger, all for € 69.50 per bottle. I need to find something quick to celebrate as that is outstanding value. On the whole I think if you fancy that brasserie experience you cannot go far wrong with this place. I just hope they can keep it up and keep the prices down.