Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
November 15, 2004
Situated on one of the streets that radiate out from the old centre across the Grachtengordel, Van Harte is an informal, youthful bar/restaurant with a retro feel. The tables are stylishly simple and well spaced; the interior nods towards a 70s/modernist look.
I arrived to find the place was fully booked. My forlorn expression instilled pity in the young waiter who, after brief consultation, found me a seat on the end of an otherwise occupied table. I was welcome. Here the solo diner was not seen as an embarrassment to be tucked away, but as a culinary adventurer to be applauded and accommodated. That’s how I chose to interpret the staff’s kindness anyway.
The menu was simple: five starters, five mains, and five desserts. The food is best described as contemporary European; heavy French influences are evident, with Filet Mignon and Chanterelle mushrooms available. Veal is very common across Northern Europe and appeared as both a starter and a main course. I chose it as a starter with potato salad, which, the menu kindly informed me, was a typically Dutch dish. My view of typically Dutch dishes is based on what Oma and Opa served up when I was a mere slip of a second generation immigrant: meatballs, mashed potatoes, and deliciously fatty gravy being the staples, with liver and other assorted offal occasionally thrown in when we weren’t looking. It was time I was brought up to date.
After my foolish mixing of grape and grain on the previous night, I decided to stick with beer. Van Harte has a good selection and I opted for Natte, a cloudy dark beer brewed in Amsterdam that I would best describe as sweet and chewy.
The veal and potato salad arrived with an artistic flourish and a smile from my new lifelong waiter friend. The pretentious food critic in me would label it texturally fascinating; his more down-to-earth sidekick would opt for pleasant. The real delight was the main course that followed–pork ribs arched grandly over a sauce of clams and chorizo. I rounded things off with a poached pear and another chapter of my paperback (an important addition for the solo diner if you want to avoid staring at people in a stalker-like fashion). While I lingered over my beer and reading, I never sensed any impatience from the staff; they knew a connoisseur when they saw one-or had they noticed the notepad?
A fine meal in a cool restaurant–this is what dining on expenses should be like.
From journal Amsterdam - why I shouldn't go abroad alone