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Le Petit Bistro at The Grand in Amsterdam - perhaps not?!

Rating: 83.
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The week of 10 - 16 March 2014 was a remarkable week in gastronomy. Michelin published the Main Cities of Europe guide 2014 and announced the future publication of a new Nordic guide. Michael Ellis commented on Noma and the third star (so far not forthcoming) and in the Anglo-Saxon world there was a lot of discussion about the web of interdependency weaved by bloggers, journalists, restaurants and PR-companies. Oh, the joys of a jolly press lunch or an (un)solicited free lunch for an individual blogger or a boatload of them. I get invited daily but I never ask for an invitation and I never accept one. I want my reviews to be as close as possible to the experience an "anonymous" punter might have. I do not want my judgment to be clouded by the psychology of the freebie.

But isn't this a very calvinist approach to matters? Surely a litte hob-nobbing, a little shoulder-rubbing, a little you-scratch-my-back-I-will-scratch-yours can't hurt? It may have been like that for some, but the times they-are-a-changing and transparency and disclosure are paramount in the days after a financial crisis caused by limitless greed that shook the world. Is there such a thing as good publicity that is bad? Can positive opinions hurt a restaurant? Today I wondered. Le Petit Bistro at The Grand Hotel in Amsterdam opened last month for an audience of people considered useful and those present were raving. The leading Dutch newspaper 'De Telegraaf' published a very positive review yesterday. I visited the restaurant today. Unconvincing is an understatement.

Booking a table wasn't easy. The hotel website does mention something about Le Petit Bistro having opened in February but there is no real reference to it let alone to a menu or a wine list. I did manage to secure a table however and I was quite pleased since the 22-cover establishment is indeed "petit". The kitchen is overseen by Joris Bijdendijk, who also is executive chef at the Michelin starred restaurant Bridges in the same hotel.  Le Petit Bistro offers a three-course menu for €36 and there is a good a la carte menu. I had lunch with my husband on Sunday 16 March 2014. My husband had the three-course menu and I ordered dishes from the a la carte menu.

Being in a restaurant is about eating and drinking. Consuming food and drink is the purpose of the exercise. However, after some 45 minutes we had only been served 2 mackerel rillette canapés and 5 shrimp "bitterballs" (delicious, but hard to eat because the breading was too thin to hold the filling). Service was not forthcoming and did not seem to care. The cutlery for the main course was being put on the table before our starters had even appeared. When we expressed our surprise, the error was swiftly corrected, but it did leave the impression that our order hadn't been passed on to the kitchen.

Just when I was about to leave the restaurant after waiting for an hour, my shrimp cocktail arrived (ambitiously priced at €21). It came with toast and I asked for some butter. I could see the waitress performing many jobs while I was waiting for the butter to arrive and when it did, I had just finished my dish. Shame. When I shared my displeasure about the lack of service with her, she frankly did not give a damn.

My main course was 'The Grand Royal Burger'. This burger is priced at a considerable €26, yet if you want chips you have to order them separately at €5 per portion. The chips, French fries in this case, were nice but I was not that impressed with the burger. The meat of the patty had been ground too finely, giving the burger a heavy texture and I thought the herb seasoning was overpowering the meat flavours. Then there was chewy bacon, cheese that hadn't melted properly and a bun that was a tad dry (I am being friendly here). 

For dessert my husband and I shared a cheese course, which was fine and it came with nice crispy toasted bread.

So where does this leave us? Overall it was a very underwhelming experience. I left the restaurant disappointed. The food was so-so and the service was slow-slow - even if they tried to make amends later on. I was wondering who was in charge - was anyone really? I like the concept, I like the location and I really liked the filling of the shrimp bitterballs, but apart from that, this lunch was a shambles. O Fortunatos!

Posted 16-03-2014


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