on January 19, 2013
Another month and back in Amsterdam again. This month we have the added complication of dealing with quite deep snowfalls which meant we needed to think a bit more carefully about where to go and how to get there. Of course we’ve got to eat and so this month we tried to keep things simple and eat near to the hotel to avoid walking too far in the snow. I think we probably picked the very closest possible option to the Novotel on Europaboulevard and went for a place called Rosarium which is situated on the other side of the road within the grounds of the Amstel Park. I’m fairly ashamed to admit that despite staying regularly in the Novotel for the last 4 years, I hadn’t actually realised there was a park right opposite. We live and learn.For those who like to know the punch line up front so they can decide whether to bother with the details that follow, Rosarium was absolutely dreadful. Six of us ate there and six of us agreed it was the worst team dinner we’d ever had – and we’ve had some pretty dodgy ones. Normally I’m the one who thinks it was rubbish and everyone else says it’s not so bad, but this time we had complete unanimity; NOBODY will ever willingly go back.Rosarium is located in a beautiful modern building with high ceilings and large glass windows and – the clue is in the name – it’s surrounded by the park’s rose garden. I have to take their word for that as everything was totally covered in snow. And the snow gives a good clue to one of the two main reasons we hated our dinner – the building was so cold that we wondered if we’d accidentally booked into the Ice Bar and they’d forgotten to bring us the fur hats. I have never been in a restaurant that was so cold. The architecture was partly to blame, the weather mostly to blame but the restaurant has to have a plan on how to avoid chilling their customers. It’s not like it was unseasonably cold weather – it snows in January in Holland, get used to it. It wasn’t Antigua or Indonesia where they could reasonably be expected to not be prepared for snow. To be fair the waitress warned us they had some issues with the temperature and tried to find us a slightly less freezing corner to sit in but we were stupidly cold and if we’d realised HOW bad it was going to be, then we would have said "Thanks but no thanks" and phoned out for a pizza.The restaurant looks very stylish. The main dining area is round and we sat on curved benches at the edge of the room, noticing the seriously high ceilings and the massive chandeliers without realising this was going to be like eating in a frozen warehouse. We have several of those at work, so we know frozen warehouses and we wouldn’t choose to eat in them.The waitress took our drinks orders, brought us menus, delivered some olives and bread rolls and tried to warm us with her sunny smile. It was like trying to warm Buckingham Palace with a single Bunsen burner. The waitress described the ‘specials’ but they didn’t sound too special to us so we asked for the full menu which was very small but had a few dishes that sounded like they might be interesting. Two of us don’t eat meat and she warned us that she only had five portions of monkfish. Bearing in mind there were only 10 diners in the whole restaurant, it didn’t seem like too much of a risk that we’d be beaten to the punch on the sea-devil.The rolls were good and we shivered away on our seats feeling sure that sooner or later we’d get used to it. I eventually remembered a seminar I once went to about how you really don’t adjust to cold – unlike adapting to a room that smells bad or is smoky which you can adapt to, cold is cold and you can’t stop noticing.Starter options included a tuna dish, scallops served with a vegetable none of us had ever heard of, a steak tartare, something that sounded disgusting and had been done to a pig cheek, a split pea soup with crayfish and a vegetarian salad of quinoa and goat cheese. We opted for three portions of tuna, a vegetarian salad, a soup and the ‘special’ tuna which was served with some strange Japanese fruit and vegetables. For main courses we opted for two vegetarian pastas, a so-called ‘USA steak’, two monkfish and one colleague ordered a second starter as her main course. The menu was not cheap. The cheapest starter was the soup at €12.50 and the most expensive €17.50 for the pig cheek ‘thing’. My tuna starter was an outrageous €16 so I was hoping for something really good. Main courses started at €19.50 for the vegetarian pasta and rose to a shocking €26 for the monkfish.
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