It’s the kind of place that makes you wish that you, personally, and the nation, generally, had a deeply rooted lunch culture. Of course that’s only if you don’t already and also if by ‘lunch culture’ you mean more than a broodje kaas, which, even if not one to be admired, is as deep rooted a culture as any. Appropriate or deliberate, then, that the restaurant’s name is Breda, a town in the ‘Bourgondisch’, bistro-friendly, lunch-loving half of the Netherlands.
But this and the fact that everyone running the place originally comes from there, is probably Restaurant Breda in Amsterdam’s strongest link to Breda, Breda. Not that one cares. Not when one is sitting on a beautiful green couch with one’s wine glass reflecting outside’s high grey skies and you consider, finally out of the wind, what a marvellous thing it is to have a proper lunch. A proper lunch on a Friday afternoon in a proper, high as those grey skies-ceilinged, dining room. One that is elegant (the light fixtures are stunning) without being fussy (you might be out for lunch but this is still Amsterdam) and built around a long bar (important).
Our reservation was for 1 p.m. but with last night’s not nearly as chic dinner feeling only hours away, we chose for the 3-course menu (€29.50) over the 4 (€36.50) or 5-course (€42.50) options. And that, and the name of the wine in your glass (unfortunately vin naturel only comes by the bottle) is all you are to choose; the object being to settle yourself back down on that couch and enjoy watching the chef, whose other restaurant, Guts & Glory, bases its menus on one animal at a time, exercise his skill and new-found freedom in cooking with all kinds of beasts (fin, feather, shell) at once.
Before there was a beast, however, there was a vegetable broth made from the kitchen’s leftovers; from the taste of it, much celery or its relatives. But this also may have come from the swirl of lovage oil on top, a herb that can punch well above its weight as a substitute to celery or parsley in the taste department (the French call it céleri bâtard). Alongside this came a savoury sort of poppy-seeded profiterole filled with a mushroom creme and a very light, golden brown potato soufflé. All together very salty and very sumptuous.
Next came an amuse bouche of good, fresh, fat mussels in a velvety smoked butter sauce with parsley oil, all of which got almost all over when we tried prying them from their shells, this being a dish to share and thus also one bowl to drip over. But we managed and besides, all the plates and bowls were beautiful.
Then came fish: raw slivers of can’t-taste-it-fresh sea bass on a pool of oyster crème, slices of cucumber, minutely chopped horseradish for pep and sprigs of feathery dill to garnish. This was to be our favourite dish for how the different flavours, each of them very pronounced on their own, balanced one another out.
The next course arrived with the warning we must watch out for the bullets – those in the wild duck, two thick cuts of which came besides pureed turnip and a rich, blood-sausage sauce, and under a small portion of spiced red cabbage. The cabbage might have made the whole affair a little too Christmas for the 29th of January, but was necessary to stand up to the duck, a red-blooded beast; quite how red and how beastly always surprises me… considering it’s a duck.
No bullets in the next little treat either, nor, as my family says when you can eat a lot of something easily, ‘no bones’. No, none to be found in the cotton-puff of white chocolate mousse with beetroot puree and Macaron. Nor were there any bones or otherwise in the vanilla ice cream, a royal-sized scoop of which was slathered in honey-brown caramel, pieces of soft apple and toasted macadamia nuts, and crowned with the next level ingredient for those wanting to up their salted-caramel game: a crisp of chicken skin. Chocolate makers take note.