While popping out of the office for a quick bite to eat, the AmsterDO team came across one of the best lunchrooms in the city with some of the friendliest staff (something unusual for Amsterdam)Located a few streets parallel to the Damrak, a comfortable distance from the hustle and bustle in the heart of Amsterdam; ‘Singel 101’, aptly named due to its location on a quiet corner at a stones’ throw from the famous ‘Singel’ canal, is in one of Amsterdam’s most clandestine lunchroom’s.
At first glance from across the water, this picturesque setting fits perfectly with what appears to be a rather inconspicuous lunch room; nevertheless, that is the intention! ‘’A minimal approach’’ is what Julia Castro (owner, brains and heart behind ‘Singel 101’) believes in.
When Julia and her sister acquired the premises back in 2007 it had had a rough few years; the previous owners had a pretty bumpy ride trying their luck with a spare rib joint which was unfortunately shut by the ‘gemeente’ (local council). All that was about to change, the whole place was completely renovated and refurbished in their own personal minimal style. Originally the concept was to open an ‘eet-cafe’ which is a sort of simple restaurant, Paris-bistro style, food-focused café. After some issues with licensing/permits the idea was to convert ‘Singel 101’ into a chic amalgamation of a lunch-room, a restaurant/ bar and an eetcafe with a fully laden bar rich in Mediterranean and South American wines.
As Julia so bluntly, yet pertinently puts it:
‘’It’s a lunch-restaurant…….. I can’t call it anything else. There are two different concepts, day and night’’
The whole idea of her lunch-room is that it transforms into a restaurant/bar after about 5 or 6 o’clock. During the day it is a cosy, spacious lunch-room with a semi open-air feel to it, thanks to the open plan entrance. The AmsterDO team enjoyed a simple, yet delightfully satisfying lunch of salmon pasta with capers and a light creamy tomato sauce, followed by a scrumptious waldorfesque salad creation and a fresh salmon and goats cheese ‘broodje’ (sandwich) on fresh brown seeded bread.
All of ‘Singel 101’s produce is fresh and the large majority organic; Julia gets her eggs from the south of Holland and all but the prime Irish beef is local produce.
After dark the transformation is quite striking, it’s as though you’re walking into a Parisienne high class restaurant, the whole atmosphere is electric and made even more authentic by the open kitchen.
Jaime, the Spanish chef, is pottering away in the kitchen as people enjoy their appetizers complimented with a glass of Chile’s finest Cabernet sauvignon.
‘’My favourite dish to cook is by far the main course’’ says Jaime, ‘’although every dish comes straight from the heart’’ His passion is infectious; this without a shadow of a doubt comes from the huge influence and delegation of the Fidel sisters. Most of the creativity and culinary judgement stems from Julia’s sister, who has transformed her simple childhood meals into something really quite special whilst retaining the Latin authenticity surrounding the whole establishment…… delectable quality, home cooked food with that extra somethingminimalism at its best!
With a work force of a maximum of four at any one time, the team at ‘Singel 101’ are hard working and very efficient but still manage to keep a really homely and cosy feel to the place which is endorsed by the continuous return of grinning, beamish customers…..
The AmsterDO guys were inundated with an explosion of subtle flavour and mouth-watering fragrance by the time it came to dinner; the Atlantic wolf fish in white wine sauce with mash potatoes, parsley and crispy capers was complimented beautifully by the very reasonably priced house wine (19€) – the Gabruzzo and the equally xtraordinary tenderloin steak cooked to perfection in red wine sauce with shallots and potato gratin left nothing to be desired, undoubtedly one the best meals we have had in a while!
To keep customers on their toes and to present some innovation, every three months the menu is revamped,Julia tries to keep in touch with seasonal foods thus adapting the menu according to the time of year.
‘Singel 101’ also offer a set menu of your choice for 35€; customers can choose from a starter, a main and a dessert- Julia will even throw in a coffee on top for that price. All in all, a great experience and wonderful day spent with the Fidels. A must see lunch-restaurant that will leave you wanting more, we recommend ‘Singel 101’ to people from all walks of life alike; tourist, ex-pat or local- whoever you are there is something for you at ‘Singel 101’.
On a final note, if this is the place for you and you find yourself as totally immersed, captured and just generally as pleasantly surprised as we were, you will be excited to hear that Julia’s dream of an ‘eet-cafe’ is not completely lost yet….without ruining the surprise, all I will say is keep a sharp ear out for Julia and her team because their presence is definitely beginning to be felt in this wonderful city of ours!