THE Netherlands is not synonymous with food –not in the way that France is, or Italy. But as far as food is concerned, it’s certainly up there.

I had the pleasure of eating my way around the trendy district of Jordaan in Amsterdam last month and was pleasantly surprised at just how varied the eateries were. From home-made Dutch apple pie with warm chocolate milk to fresh smoked herring with tulip vodka, it tasted good.

We travelled by Ferry from Newcastle, a first for me, and although the majority of our DFDS mini-cruise was spent travelling, I felt like my break began the second I stepped on board. Check-in was a breeze, there were no queues at security and our ship, the King Seaways, was spacious enough to accommodate hundreds of people without ever feeling crowded.

Our room, a small en-suite cabin, featured two single bunk beds, a large sea-view window and a seating area. The beds were comfortable and we slept well, feeling refreshed despite having travelled for almost 19 hours by the time we docked. After a quick show of passports and a short coach ride, we arrived in the middle of Amsterdam.

Picturesque and quirky, I can see why it's popular with tourists. Rows of tall and narrow terraced buildings border a canal that runs through the city. It is slow-flowing and calm, rather like the pace of life there. We saw families shopping for groceries and friends catching up. You can wander casually for hours amongst a crowd who are in no rush to be anywhere. Aside from the cyclists who, be warned, travel at super speed. I was almost wiped out more than once.

We visited the city to take part in a food tour organised by Eating Europe. They provide English-speaking guides on foodie tours in six cities, including London, Florence and Prague.

After a short walk to Jordaan, we were met by a chatty tour guide outside of our first stop, Café Papeneiland. An original 17th century building that serves the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted. Bill Clinton has visited the café and loved the pie so much he wrote the owners a letter. Served with sweet whipped cream and warm chocolate milk, it was a very good start to a very indulgent afternoon.

We meandered through several back streets learning about Jordaan’s history as an area of great poverty. It’s a far cry from the reality of the area today where house prices are not dissimilar from those in London. Our guide pointed out the former home of wartime diarist Anne Frank, which is now a museum. Amsterdam is also home to Museum Van Gogh.

We visited eight eateries all in all. In Zeewater, a fishmongers owned by the same family for generations, I truly embraced Dutch culture and braved cold smoked herring with diced onions and pickles served with 41 per cent proof vodka. Although the herring wasn’t a hit with me, the kibbeling served afterwards certainly was. Melt-in-the-mouth battered cod goujons and lots of them, too.

We stopped off at a local market for some snacks to take home (I swear we weren’t still hungry), before heading back to the coach. It was a lovely introduction to Amsterdam and Dutch food and I’d definitely consider doing a similar tour in another city.

Back on board the ship we took an hour to unwind before meeting for an evening drink and a late supper. There was a Starbucks on board our ship, as well as a cinema and a soft play area. Head chef Dorte Slyngborg took us behind the scenes to see her army of chefs preparing to feed the masses.

There are two dining options on board, the first an all-you-can-eat buffet, and the second, more formal and al-a-carte restaurant. I would recommend trying them both. (Tip: the buffet is much cheaper if booked in advance). We travelled with two vegan friends who highly recommended the massaman curry in the North Bistro restaurant.

We were only in Amsterdam for half a day, but this felt like a full weekend’s break. I'd seen another part of the world, recharged my batteries and eaten my weight in Dutch food. All in a weekend’s work...


A DFDS two-night mini cruise to Amsterdam costs from £84pp based on two people sharing, or £58pp based on four. A DFDS short break is from £159pp for a two-night cruise and one night in Amsterdam. The North Sea Bistro offers two courses for €34.95 or three courses for €41.95. And the Explorer’s Kitchen all-you-can-eat evening buffet costs £19.95 if pre-booked or £26.95 on board. Breakfast costs £8.75 when pre-booked or £14.95 on the day.