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Cafe Nielsen in Amsterdam

International Brunch Review
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Buenos dias, Bitches! Right now I’m in Buenos Aires, Argentina, wandering the vintage markets of San Telmo, eating Empanadas, catching up with old Argentine friends and dancing the Tango with tall strangers. Not too long ago, I was far away in the snowy streets Amsterdam, where of course I brunched. Here’s the review.

I never had a desire to visit Amsterdam. Why would I want to smoke marijuana and see naked girls in the Red Light District? Pop culture and awful movies like Eurotrip had preemptively negated my desire to visit the Dutch city.

Nonetheless, when an opportunity to visit Amsterdam through my day job arose, I jumped at the opportunity. (Because you don’t say no to Europe.) I’m glad I did, as Amsterdam is one of the most unique and charming cities I’ve encountered in my lifetime of frolics across Europe, the United States and South America.

Despite the bitter cold and grey skies of January, Amsterdam charms and delights. As you wind through the narrow streets and canals wind of the consolidated town you stumble across beautiful brownstones so old they start to lean over the canals below.

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It is an Old World European city, with enormous churches and beautiful palaces and government buildings reaching high into the sky. Below, there are cozy little cafes, print shops, used book stores, and more boutiques than any Bitch could want.

Dutch citizens tend to navigate the narrow canal-side streets on foot or by bicycle. I’ve never seen so many people on bicycles—much less looking so stylish. During rush-hour, hundreds upon hundreds of bicyclists ride by on their way to work and school, rain or snow (and there was snow), and they look impeccably chic despite it all.

As a pedestrian, I was nearly knocked on my tail by a flurry of bicyclists each time I stepped off the sidewalk prior to my adequate dosage of morning espresso. “THINK BIKE!” yelled my co-worker and out came the mom arm. He nearly saved my life upwards of a dozen times and for that I am eternally grateful.

On the Thursday of our trip, it began to snow and, soon enough, the city was covered in a lovely white blanket of powder that remained through the weekend.

Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan city, and so is its cuisine. Traditional Dutch food has German and Dutch influences—lots of sausage, cheese and bread served with mustard alongside wheat beer in rustic cafes. For breakfast, it’s heavenly croissants and cappuccinos. For lunch, you head to a cafe for a sandwich and more coffee. Brunch is harder to differentiate in Amsterdam, as most citizens opt for breakfast, or lunch, not both.

After a morning of shopping, my friend and I decided upon Café Nielsen, selecting the cafe over another brunch spot on the same block that served pancakes and was titled by the same name.

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The staff was friendly and accommodating as we nestled up to the bar to wait for a table. Starving, we opted for croissants and coffees as we waited for brunch. In Europe, the coffee and croissants are always delightful, and at Café Nielsen this statement held true. Unfortunately, the rest of brunch was merely average once we were led to our table.

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The brunch menu at Café Nielsen is simple and affordable—with typical “American-style” egg breakfast plates. My brunch date opted for such a dish—scrambled eggs served with two slices of toast and fruit. It was fine, but nothing to write home about. The eggs could have been creamier, but instead they were dull.

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Also on the table were smoothies, of which we selected both menu options. I slurped down a strawberry banana smoothie made with orange juice that was light and refreshing. My brunch date chose the Black Forest, made with yogurt and berries and far too thick.

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My brunch entrée was a vegetable quiche, which was cheesy and filled with vegetables, but, again, nothing memorable. It was served with a fresh side salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions topped with balsamic vinaigrette.

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While Amsterdam was charming, delightful and memorable, I’m sad to say Café Nielsen was not. I should have opted for the obviously titled Pancakes restaurant down the road, but, luckily, my charming week was hardly affected.

Cafe Nielsen
Berenstraat 19  1016 GG
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Beyond brunch, here are my recommendations for your Amsterdam adventures:

To stay: Hotel Arena
To shop: Shoebaloo and SPRMRKT.
To see: Van Gogh musem, Rijksmuseum and the Royal Palace.
To lunch: Café Noir
To dine: Bond is a less-known, upscale restaurant tucked away in  a residential part of town. De Blauwe Hollander for traditional and satisfying Dutch cuisine.
To drink: Momo, an upscale sushi bar, is perfect for a snazzy night of cocktails.

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  1. Ah, you should have tried Small World in Jordaan (on Haarlemmerstraat) or Buffet Odette on Prinsengracht (near Vijzelstraat), just past the Nines. For excellent espresso and hours of cafe sitting, try Two for Joy (also on Haarlemmerstraat) or Screaming Beans on Haartenstraat. Amsterdam – one of my favorite cities to wander.

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