Now that countries have reopened their borders, it’s time to explore the world again. We take a trip to Amsterdam this fall, embarking on a culinary journey that spans from Asian specialities at Conservatorium to Dutch cheese and baked goods
Amsterdam is one of those picturesque cities that retains its charm year-round. Spring sees tulip fields and cherry blossom trees in full bloom, while in the summer, the city plays host to tourists for music, art and cultural festivals. Imagine buskers in Vondelpark (a sprawling 47-hectare urban park) canals teeming with boats of all sizes, gelato pop-ups on every corner, and children splashing around at just about any water feature they can find. On sunny days, locals hotfoot to the nearest park for picnics or hop on a boat to tour the canals.
Autumn brings about an entirely different experience, especially for those in the Middle East who want to escape for cooler climes. The leaves turn to vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red, while the crisp, cool breeze kisses your cheeks as the sun plays hide and seek.
Amsterdam’s canal belt (recognised as a UNESCO Heritage Site) sees charming canal houses showcasing ornate facades and gables, all of which hark back to centuries ago. Tour the streets lined with fiery foliage by foot, bike, tram, bus, or hop on a boat, and take in the intricate details of these narrow, often tilted, buildings.
It’s no surprise the city attracts history, art and culture buffs, luxury travellers, honeymooners and backpackers alike. Amsterdam offers something for everyone. You can spend hours at the renowned Rijksmuseum, admire art at Van Gogh and Museum het Rembrandthuis, and visit Moco for the Banksy exhibit and contemporary artists including the likes of KAWS, Hirst, Basquiat and Haring. Cultural attractions such as the Anne Frank House and The Concertgebouw are also a must-visit, and on days when you want to unwind, the leafy parks beckon. Or better yet, head to a cheese shop for a taste of Old Amsterdam, Edam and Gouda.
A Home in the City
Sited at the city’s sprawling Museum Square District, also home to prestigious galleries, is the Conservatorium – an architectural masterpiece. The landmark heritage building, originally founded in 1275, was designed by Dutch architect Daniel Knuttel as the Rijkspostspaarbank, after which it became home to the Sweelinck Music Conservatorium school.
Now owned by The Set Hotels, the Conservatorium celebrates its glorious past through architecture, with modern touches evident within the suites. Award-winning Milan-based designer Piero Lissoni guided the renovation of the interiors, embracing the rich historical narrative while adding his personal touch.
As you step through to the hotel’s lobby, you’re greeted with art noveau interiors with remnants from the bank and music school days seen in minor details such as the tiles and certain art pieces. The lobby, flooded with natural light from the glass roof, instantly offers a sense of calm, a feeling you’re met with throughout the hotel. A heavy wooden door by the check-in desks takes you to a gorgeous staircase paving the path to your suite.
The Van Baerle Suite (seen above), nestled at one corner of the hotel, features massive windows offering city views, a contemporary feel with neutral hues that perfectly offset the dark hardwood floors, and high ceilings. The suite opens to the closet area in the foyer – complete with Stutterheim raincoats – leading to the warm travertine stone bathroom with a stunning solid stone oval bathtub. If you’re anything like me, you will want to indulge in a hot soak at the end of the day, while watching your favourite show on the LCD mirror TV right across the tub. The bathroom features a large rainfall shower, lavish Malin + Goetz amenities, Dyson hairdryer, and another LCD mirror TV for those who want to watch the news while doing their morning routine.
The spacious open plan suite features a super king bed with a TV hidden in the console at the foot of the bed, which makes for perfect nighttime viewing as you sink into the sheets under the plush duvet. The suite also includes a work desk and armchairs with refined modern materials and demure fabrics. Lissoni is known for his usage of grey and earthy tones with the occasional bright accents adding a pop of vibrancy to the room. Comfort is at the forefront of this suite, with Italian furnishings and accent pieces making up the contemporary chic space.
A visit to the original Taiko – the second outpost opened in Dubai last year – is a must. With a sommelier, vintage grapes offered exclusively at the venue, and a taste of wasabi grown in Europe, dining here is an impressive experience.
Headed by Chef Schilo van Coevorden, the Asian-inspired menu highlights flavours, aromas and textures in each and every dish. We highly recommend the Softshell crab roll with hints of mango and daikon, adding sweetness and texture, followed by the moreish Wagyu gyoza with a delectable smoked garlic sauce. Crisp on the outside with juicy meat inside, it’s a comforting start, alongside the plump King prawn gyozas with water chestnut. Don’t skip the Hiramasa kingfish sashimi – fresh, soft and a tad bit fatty, it’s the perfect accompaniment to the curated beverage menu brimming with creative Asian-inspired infusions.
Entrées are best shared with your dining partner, especially if you want to try morsels of everything. The Miso black cod pairs perfectly with the eryngii mushrooms on the side, each umami-rich bite brightening up the palate. And if you’re craving a fine piece of meat, look no further than the Grilled Japanese A5 Wagyu entrecote. The highest grade of Wagyu, this buttery, succulent steak melts in your mouth. It’s best eaten with hand-cut fries and the green salad with hazelnut dressing.
The dessert menu offers an extensive array of flavours. One of our favourites was the miso with salted caramel ice cream. We won’t reveal too many details, but it’s one for your list of culinary treats to try.
Before you step out for the day, enjoy breakfast at the Conservatorium Brasserie, sited towards one end of the expansive lobby. With a stunning internal glass courtyard and floor-to-ceiling windows, it’s the ideal spot for your first meal of the day. Begin with coffee, fresh juice or bubbly, before the breakfast tray arrives at your table with yogurt and berries, cheese, deli meats, a bowl of fruit and a basket of fresh bakes including croissants. Made to order dishes include the Egg royal comprising two poached eggs on a bed of smoked salmon and toasted muffin, topped with a silky hollandaise, chives and caviar.
Time to Unwind
Akasha Holistic Wellbeing, voted The Netherlands number one spa, offers 1,000 square metres of pure luxury. An urban retreat, the tranquil zone is home to a 60 ft. lap pool, sauna, jacuzzi, private Hammam, fully equipped gym, yoga studio, and treatment rooms. To beat jet lag, and prep you for days of sightseeing, we highly recommend one of the signature treatments which fuses innovative Western practices with ancient Eastern traditions.
The De-stress treatment is one to opt for, if your body is in dire need of a deeply relaxing massage. Take your pick from the De-Stress Mind or Muscle oil blend and unwind as your masseuse uses long and short strokes to remove every knot in your neck, shoulders and back. As you fall into a state of lull, the range of techniques relieves all aches from your body. Don’t be surprised when the masseuse cracks your wrist with subtle movements, before moving on to other areas of the body, finishing with the scalp.
This treatment is truly one of the best you will experience in the city and ideal for those who want to instantly calm the mind and body.
Need to know
The Van Baerle Suite is available from €1,050 (approximately AED4,540) per night. Visit the website for more information.
Read our Autumn in Amsterdam: Food Guide here.