You’ve Neva Had it So Good

Cafe Restaurant Neva reminds me of a Hanna Barbera hero, such as Hong Kong Phooey. By day, it is a mild-mannered cafe that serves the Hermitage museum in Amsterdam,  but by night it is transformed into a modern European fine dining restaurant, fighting hunger and exciting the palates of the well-heeled.

Well, actually, having never eaten there before, I may be understating the lunch fare. It is done by the same company, so the sandwiches could be every bit as magical as the evening dinner.

This was our penultimate venue for restaurant week, and it was a real treat. And after this restaurant week, I have revised my view of Dutch service. Without exception, every place we went to was friendly, helpful and pleasant. No sharp words or blunt answers.Thank you for making me confront my prejudices, waiters of restaurant week, I apologise and I salute you all.

I also have to admit to being a bit too intimidated to use a flash to take the photos, which is the reason for the substandard photos for this post, but the food was so good I didn’t want to avoid writing this up for the sake of the photography. It is hardly as though I am David Bailey everywhere else on this site in any case. If any of you have any tips on overcoming shyness in using flash in the low lighting of a restaurant, please let me know.

Anyway, back to Neva. The food here was both clever and delicious. It had the right amount of a nod to modern cuisine, with some surprising touches, without being too fussy. Although they did like a good foam. I think every dish had some of one variety or another.

Baby Leeks With Trout Eggs and a Buttermilk Dressing

Baby Leeks With Trout Eggs and a Buttermilk Dressing

The Big Guy, being Swedish, loves fish eggs, from Beluga caviar right through to Kalle’s Kaviar. As soon as I saw this on the menu, I knew that there was no way that he would have anything else. He loved it, and wolfed it down really quickly. I may have mentioned that he is not a man of superlatives, but he certainly seemed very happy with it. It was matched with an excellent Czech  Riesling. If you have never tried Czech wines, this is an excellent place to start, it is a light and fresh Riesling, but with all the required fruit.

Mackerel Ceviche with Cucumber Textures

Mackerel Ceviche with Cucumber Textures

This plate was as pretty as a picture, but it wasn’t a small dish. The cucumber textures were foam, sorbet, pickled, a mayonnaise with horseradish, meringue, and tiny cucumber microgreens. The foam worked really well in this context, delivering an intensity of flavour that plain cucumber doesn’t. The microgreens were lovely. I have been getting into microgreens a lot of late, as they are an easy way to do the 52 week salad challenge, especially in the winter months when it is hard to stop legginess. To my knowledge, none of the saladchatters has had a go at growing this one yet, but I have recommended it.

The meringue was savoury, and was salty, which was surprising. I hadn’t thought of making savoury meringues before, but I will play around with this, because I often have leftover egg whites, due to my custard addiction.

The only criticism I have about the dish is that mackerel was really more sashimi than ceviche, it was definitely not marinated in citrus juice. That said, it was very skilfully filleted and presented, so that you only got the most delicate flesh and no blood line. If it were any fresher, I may have had to slap it.

Oxtail Ragout with Celeriac

Oxtail Ragout with Celeriac

This is what the Big Guy had for his main. The celariac was in the gnocchi, the foam and as a pickle. It was a little light on the ragout of oxtail, which served as a background flavour, rather than the star of the dish. Despite this, it was fresh and lovely, with a juiciness being added by the pickle. The Big Guy says he could definitely eat it again.

Grey Mullet with Fennel in Bouillabaise Jus

Grey Mullet with Fennel in Bouillabaisse Jus

More foam on this one, this time it was fennel. I was much more interested in the fennel cream, which was really good; intensely aniseed, but with the lovely fresh greenness of herb fennel. It also cut through the bouillabaisse sauce really well. I loved this dish, it was really well cooked and well-balanced. I love fennel though, and this would definitely be a problem if you didn’t like it.

We both had the caramelised white chocolate cheesecake with chocolate rocks and blood orange sorbet for dessert, but we were far too eager to tuck in to take pictures, which is almost a shame because the presentation was a feast for the eyes. That paled into insignificance when we tasted it. Goodness me was this good. I would not normally choose white chocolate on a menu, but this was more like toffee, or the fudge you get when you boil a tin of condensed milk. The chocolate rocks were dark and crumbly, as I like them. The sorbet sounded odd in the mix, but was a revelation. It wasn’t sharp, but neither was it too sweet, and cut through the rich cheesecake.  For me, this was the highlight of the meal. Utterly delicious.

We rounded off the meal with a coffee and a herbal tea. With this, we also received a complimentary tin of petit fours and biscuits, all of which were very well made. It is touches like this that, for me, demonstrate the care that goes into making a meal out a real experience. And that is what an evening meal at Neva really is, from the extra touches, the friendly staff to the excellent food. Not to mention the beautiful surrounding of the Hermitage museum.

Outside of Restaurant week, they offer a three course theatre menu for €29, and a 4-6 course tasting menu for €42-59.

I think that the theatre menu is a bargain, and would definitely recommend a visit if you are going to the Carré or the Music Theatre. And I think that the tasting menu would be great for a special occasion too.

Cafe Restaurant Neva

Amstel 51

1018 DR Amsterdam

T: +31 (0)20 5307483

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