The story of Guts & Glory’s chefs Guillaume de Beer and his best friend Freek van Noortwijk reads like a book. Guillaume was a gifted chef who had worked for some of the best Michelin starred restaurants in the country and Freek a pure autodidact, who didn’t go to cooking school and was cooking for students. This all changed when Guillaume complained to the owner of his favourite bar in Amsterdam that the food they served was no good, and the response he got was an invitation to run the kitchen himself.
By accepting, the lives of Freek and Guillaume took quite a turn. The bar they now ran the kitchen of was called Daalder, and it soon became one of the most talked about bars/restaurants in Amsterdam. The combination of refined comfort food and the experience of eating it in a bar rather than a Michelin-starred restaurant clearly had an audience.
The limitations of working at Daalder, eventually led the two to set up shop on their own, and they created Guts & Glory. The name says it all: this is a place that does things with a raw energy that strikes you from the moment you walk in. The atmosphere in the minimalist two-story restaurant is warm and inviting. Tables are placed close to one and other, and the warm service, let by Johanneke van Iwaarden makes sure guests feel looked after well.
What really makes Guts & Glory stand out, however, is the cooking. The food is similar to that of Daalder, but Guillaume and Freek limit themselves to one product per menu. That means that the entire menu will feature chicken, beef or pork, depending on the current theme. Each themed menu is served for about 4 months, and makes use of every imaginable part of the respective animal. Chicken gizzards come sandwiched on a steamed bun, and garnished with scallions and pickles. Very much inspired by a Taiwanese gua bao, this is food you don’t often see in the Netherlands. It’s gutsy and bold leaving you wanting more.
The fish themed menu evidences that the kitchen here is also capable of serving supremely refined food. Barely cooked scallops are served in sambai vinegar vinaigrette and paired with raw turnips. This is a lesson in minimalism. The umami-rich sambai vinegar (based on oxtail broth) gives the dish a foundation, whilst the scallops’ sweetness adds a playful element and the turnip some crunch. This is complex food that also is incredibly simple and easy to like.
Guts & Glory shows that Amsterdam is not only about good food served at fine-dining restaurants. It proves that great food can be served with a bit of an attitude and without any pretence. The constantly changing product-based menus make a meal here only more exciting.