Thursday, 30 September 2010
Looking for a nice cafe is almost invariably one of the first things that my husband and I do when we reach a new place. I sometimes think if I could teleport between cities, experiencing coffee and cake in each, I'd be a happy (if chubby) traveller...
So it was that we arrived in Amsterdam and set out, complete with luggage, in search of a nice coffee shop. That is to say, a place where we could have a coffee, not the infamous Amsterdam "coffeeshop" (all one word) specialising in a certain variety of cigarette.
And eventually, just as we were contemplating whether we'd have to turn to Starbucks or McDonalds for our caffeine fix, we found LaPlace.
Even at opening time it was buzzing with activity, but it was also the perfect oasis for contemplating the guidebook (with a little people-watching thrown in).
This isn't really a coffee shop, in any sense of the term. It's much more than that. I suppose "cafeteria" would be the closest term, but that doesn't really do it justice either. Self-service restaurant, perhaps?
Around the edges of the room (and it's a large, somewhat labyrinthine space with many edges) are different areas devoted to different foodstuffs. For instance there's a pizza section, a "grill", a salad bar, a sandwich bar. A coffee area which is where we headed on our first visit, and alongside which is a small patisserie where we were tempted into a slice of delicious apple pie. In the middle there's a large island devoted to fruit: smoothies, juices, and fruit salad.
We came back here four times in two days (though on our second visit, on the Sunday afternoon, it was so packed that we left again without buying anything... which was probably a mistake, but I'm easily overwhelmed by crowds). As well as lots of coffee and cake we had lunch one day: my husband tried a pizza, while I went for the wok option which involved filling a bowl with loads of fresh veggies and getting them fried up with noodles and spices.
What I love about the whole place is that everything is so open. You can see all the ingredients laid out, you can see that the kitchens are clean, and the turnover is so fast that you know it's fresh. All food is cooked to order (except the cakes, and you can see those being prepared through the window of the downstairs kitchen). The portions are huge and the results delicious.
If I ever go back to Amsterdam, I'll be back here in a heartbeat. And if you're ever passing through, I recommend you do likewise.