A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published June 21st 2014
No Dutch Courage Required
I recently made a return visit to Nieuw Amsterdam, the hottest new restaurant on the Hardware Street (Melbourne CBD) strip. Nieuw Amsterdam is housed in a big old barn of a building; to be more precise, the building was formerly a hardware factory, built in the 1880s. I've since found out that this is why 'Hardware Street' was given its name.
Nieuw Amsterdam is housed in a former hardware factory
I should explain too that the restaurant gets its name from 'New Amsterdam', the 17th-century Dutch settlement at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. So don't go there expecting to get Dutch cuisine; what you'll find is more like a New York eatery.
On my previous visit to Nieuw Amsterdam, we were there with friends who wanted to try it. Unfortunately, no table reservation had been made, and we were advised there would be a two hour wait for a table. I'd happily have moved on - after all, there is certain no shortage of other restaurants in the vicinity - but our friends were determined to stay, and so we waited.
Fortunately, Nieuw Amsterdam has a fantastic bar in the basement. It has a warm, intimate feel, and serves great finger food. And so, it was no hardship to wait for our table. The dining experience, once we got to the first floor restaurant, made the wait worthwhile.
Based on my previous experience, my friend Jo and I had made a reservation, but we needn't have bothered: opting for an early dinner (6pm) on a Monday night, we were the only patrons seated at the tables when we first arrived. By the time we left, however, (around 8pm) things were definitely heating up. There were perhaps only one or two tables free.
A 'big old barn of a place', quiet at 6pm when we arrived.
The service was brisk and efficient. We were quickly offered drinks, and decided to have a glass of Umberto Luigi Domenico Prosecco ($9). Fresh bread followed; this is baked in-house and is complimentary.
Nieuw Amsterdam has an interesting menu. There is a wide range of dishes, many sounding very appealing; it's difficult to choose. On this occasion, I selected the BBQ lamb ribs (cooked with honey spiced rub, rosemary and lemon) ($16). The waiter cautioned me that a) it was a small dish (not to my way of thinking! Five plump ribs were more than ample) and b) that they were fatty. Apparently some patrons have complained about the fattiness. Yes, it's true they are quite fatty, but I'd expect ribs to be that way, unless they'd been slow cooked. The flavours were delicious, and the ribs were meltingly tender.
Lamb ribs - plump and tender
Jo ordered the baked eggplant (with grilled tofu, mushrooms and spiced yogurt) ($18.50). I had this dish the first time I visited Nieuw Amsterdam, and was tempted to have it again. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is 'just' a vegetarian dish. Yes, it IS vegetarian, but with such complex flavours and textures that even a carnivore would not miss the meat! It really is a winner.
Baked eggplant - not 'just' a vegetarian dish
We ordered a side of grilled 'courgettes' (zucchini), which were served with pine nuts, lemon dressing and a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese ($9). This was almost a meal in itself!
The grilled courgettes - almost a meal in themselves
Sometimes I wish I wasn't so health conscience, as the desserts looked divine. If I'd had one, I'd have selected the Peanut Butter Waffle, with salted peanut caramel and raspberry sorbet ($14.50).
As it was, our bill came to $62, and we'd had great food, with excellent service, in a pleasant setting. I think it was a bargain.
Nieuw Amsterdam is open long hours: Sunday to Thursday - 12 noon until 3am, Friday and Saturday - 12 noon until 5am.