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Tunes restaurant at the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam

Rating: 88.
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Note: Tunes closed in 2014 and relaunched as Taiko by Schilo with Asian-inspired cuisine

In December 2011 a new luxury and trendy hotel opened its doors in Amsterdam: the Conservatorium Hotel. The hotel is located bang in the middle of Amsterdam's Museumplein and the stunning 19th century building that houses the hotel, designed by the Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel, originally served as a bank. In more recent years the building housed the Sweelinck music conservatory. After an extensive three-year refurbishment and re-design of the interieur the building now has 129 hotel rooms, a wellness area, a lounge/brasserie and a restaurant and bar called Tunes. The Conservatorium Hotel was named 'Best New Hotel' in the Condé Nast Traveller Hotel List 2012 in April this year.

The lounge and brasserie are located in a beautiful internal courtyard which has spectacular floor to ceiling windows and a glass ceiling. Tunes restaurant is located is a separate part of the building. Executive chef of Tunes restaurant is Schilo van Coevorden, an experienced chef who has worked at a number of renowned restaurants in hotels in Amsterdam, London, Dubai and Japan and in Michelin starred restaurants in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Before accepting his current position Schilo van Coevorden was executive chef at Schilo restaurant at the Finca Cortesin resort in Marbella, Spain.

(source: Conservatorium Hotel)

Tunes restaurant is open for dinner from Monday till Saturday. You can choose between the a la carte menu and two 8-course tasting menus, a vegetarian (€92) and a 'normal' one (€105). I had dinner there on Saturday 19 May 2012 with my husband and two friends and we all had the 8 course tasting menu.

With our aperitifs (their house champagne is Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve) we were served some delicious green olives and caramelised walnuts. Next was an amuse bouche: Razor clam, shellfish jelly, herring caviar, sesame seeds and avocado crème. Well-cooked razor clam, creamy avocado and a nice touch of olive oil. An excellent start of this meal.

The first course of the tasting menu was Farmhouse yoghurt, beetroot sorbet and Royal Dutch caviar (from Eindhoven). Delicious sorbet with good intense beetroot flavours and it went really well with the flavoursome yoghurt which had a nice touch of acidity. Lovely richness from the caviar.

Second course, White asparagus, Iberico ham, Salmorejo, quail's egg, ham mousse, crisp potato cubes. Salmorejo is a traditional Andalusian soup often served with an egg and dried ham garnish. In the Netherlands white asparagus are traditionally served with cooked ham and chopped egg. In this case the Salmorejo was served as a sauce with the white asparagus together with two small slices of Iberico ham and a poached quail's egg. The ham mousse was wonderfully airy and had a distinct dried ham flavour. A dish with bold flavours and a happy marriage between Spain and Holland.

Next up was Lobster cappuccino, tomato foam (made with Raf tomatoes) and samphire powder. Good intense shellfish/lobster bisque generously filled with pieces of gorgeous succulent lobster. The delicately flavoured tomato foam was delicious. A rich and buttery dish that was lifted by the samphire powder and a hint of cayenne pepper. Also liked the difference in temperatures in the dish, the bisque was warm and the foam was lukewarm.

Fourth course, Langoustine, butterhead lettuce, BBQ powder, carrots, bearnaise. The langoustine was cooked a la plancha. If done well this is a fantastic way to cook langoustines but in this case it had gone completely wrong, all I could taste were bitter, burnt flavours. The bearnaise sauce was also disappointing; it didn't have the right consistency as it was thick instead of light and airy, it was flavoured very heavily with tarragon and chervil and lacked acidity. A messy and poorly executed dish.

Fifth course, Oxtail potstickers (steamed and fried Chinese dumplings), corn crème, puffed corn. Lovely potstickers with a delicious soft oxtail filling. The corn creme was wonderfully creamy and sweet. Nice texture and flavour from the puffed corn. The dish was nice but it could have done with some more sauce.

On to the sixth course, Wagyu beef (blade + topside steak), various types of beetroot, pommes Dauphiné, beef and hazelnut jus. The slow-cooked blade steak (as blade steak is traditionally prepared in the Netherlands) was rich and succulent and the topside steak was perfectly cooked. Lovely well-reduced jus with nice but very subtle hazelnut flavours. A flavoursome if somewhat unbalanced dish. The large piece of rich slow-cooked blade
threw the dish off balance.

Seventh course, Raspberry Daiquiri Tunes style. A fantastic dessert made with fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet, Daiquiri coulis, lime zest and a jelly filled with rum. Wonderful pure raspberry flavours and a lovely touch of freshness from the lime zest.

Eight course, Chocolate olive tree (Memories of Andalucia). A chocolate dessert consisting of a chocolate tree filled with chocolate ganache, chocolate sorbet, olive oil jelly, chocolate crumble, pistache and sponge cake. All the individual elements were well-made but together it was just too much and too rich, although the olive oil jelly did cut through some of the chocolate richness. I guess the slightly idiosyncratic presentation of this dish is an acquired taste - but it isn't mine.

So where does this leave us? The Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam is a special place and Tunes is a special restaurant. One can see why it has become popular very quickly. When it comes to the quality of the food however, my opinion cannot be entirely positive. This tasting menu was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some very nice and very well-executed dishes, some dishes needed more work and some dishes just didn't - work. The menu seemed to lack some focus and finesse and the presentation needs some work too. Tunes has all the ingredients to become one of Amsterdam's leading restaurants and one with a truly cosmopolitan feel. The chef and the restaurant need a bit more time however to define their character and individuality in this stunning but almost overwhelming (buy Dutch standards anyway) ambiance.

Posted 25-05-2012


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