In the heart of Amsterdam’s De Pijp, out has popped a gorgeously elegant yet simply designed hotspot named – appropriately – Simpel which means in English, Simple.
Filled every night since it opened, this Mediterranean-themed, well-worth-your-euro eatery and bar swings in a low-key way — hip to a younger public and very cool to a more mature customer.
In establishments such as this it is easy to be skeptical. Once a name, then a number — a customer can easily become a barcode. Yet Simpel keeps on trucking, even after ten years in business, they deliver bang for the buck.
The interior design is eclectic. Cream-coloured canvas is stretched on bamboo poles to cover the ceiling, giving the place a warm, midnight-at-the-oasis feel. Bamboo-trim moulding meets whitewashed cement to evoke Greece and Asia, while shiny, painted silver-grey walls add a minimalist touch of 1940s Hollywood.
Little, square patches of ambient lighting fixtures top off each table in jellybean colours: purple, magenta, orange and lime green. The tables come straight out of a country auction. Rough oak of bleached and blond wood make dining a comforting experience.
The restaurant is run by Tom Nijdam and Femke Beuker (who designed the interior). Tom, who manages the operation, believes: “great customer relations are what make a restaurant turn out high quality year after year. This place is managed like an expensive restaurant even though it is absolutely low in price. We have two turnovers a night and that’s rare for Amsterdam.”
He likes competition and thinks that “in a slump, people will compete so the cream will float to the top.”
Don’t get the wrong impression. Simpel is the farthest thing from snooty. Anyone can enter this 50-seater. Dress up or dress down — it won’t make a difference. A smart businessman like Tom knows that a bar makes a difference to relax those customers whose wait might be upwards of 30 minutes for a table.
Once the kitchen closes down the bar stays open and a club-like atmosphere (without a DJ) pervades. The choice of music is integral to the mood – from Frank Sinatra, Steely Dan, Enya to Buddha Bar. It flows.
Cava Roca I Amat brut from Spain — not champagne — is served for a reasonable EUR 5 a glass or EUR 25 a bottle.
A complement of six reds and six whites make up the wine list ranging in price from EUR 20 to EUR 28. Half of each the red and white selections are served by the glass at a price range of EUR 4.75 to EUR 6.25.
The physical menu is imaginative, containing embossed flowerets on its cover in a thick, industrial off-white plastic.
Starters are affordable. My friend ordered the Pate de Champagne with onion chutney and cornichons.
Smoked bacon out of the fridge — its gleaming white strip of fat clearly too raw for my taste — appealed to my friend. The pate was smooth rather than traditionally rough and chunky for a country-styled pate. It was, however, tasty. For EUR 8.40 you could hardly buy that size portion in a supermarket or deli.
I ordered the sheets of herbed lasagna with butter, Parmesan and peeled tomatoes. The dish was on the bland side — no great shakes, particularly since the tomato was a Tasty Tom and not a Pomodori. I would have been satisfied with a touch of sage. Still, for EUR 9.20 who am I to complain?
Tom recommended the grilled sea bream as a main course. He confided that the fish would be served whole, adding, “in Holland a lot of people aren’t used to eating a fish with its head and tail visible. They don’t know how to cut it but we serve it just like in Spain or elsewhere in the Mediterranean.”
It was mouth-watering in its simplicity. A dash of salt and lemon wedges with a side of fennel and lemon oil puckered me up.
It was a steal at EUR 25.
My girlfriend ordered fresh pasta with Dutch shrimps, chilli pepper and Parmesan cheese. A hefty portion of the miniscule shrimps decorated the plate and the peppers gave a hint of heat. Uncomplicated and good.
All the main courses (except the pasta) come with rosemary potato wedges and a green salad
Because our waitress was not paying too much attention to who ordered what, she put the salad down (forgot the potatoes) near my girlfriend and I assumed it was for her. I never did get to taste the sesame and balsamic vinegar dressing on the rucola. Better luck next time.
Simpel offers three desserts: drained yogurt with mint and mango (very unorthodox Greek), sweet cannelloni with mascarpone, and a chocolate mousse. Prices range from EUR 6.75 to a whopping EUR 9.50. I can’t comment on the desserts since we decided not to try any.
Ferdinand Bolstraat 11
- Pin, cash, MC and Visa accepted.
- Open: Everyday 6pm-1am, Fridays and Saturdays until 3am. Kitchen closes every night at 11pm