Long before the bistronomie movement hit Amsterdam, Kees Elfring’s restaurant Marius did what most adherents to this loosely defined group do: serving strictly market-based menus in a relaxed, unpretentious setting.
Elfring’s experience cooking at Chez Panisse in the 1980s is still reflected in his food today. He understands the importance of producing simple dishes and the potential of vegetables. Given the long time that Marius has been around, the clientele is not necessarily comparable to that of Paris’ hippest bistrots, but seems to attract guests that seem to know their food, and come for nothing else. There is no media hype drawing crowds to the restaurant anymore, and as a result the atmosphere here is relaxed and inviting.
The menu of the day is de rigueur, and features plenty of vegetable-laden dishes, but we like stick to the a la carte classics that are always on the menu. Vitello tonnato is particularly interesting: braised calves blade is cut into a thick cube of meat (like a slice of terrine), which prevents it being dry and lacking flavour. The tuna sauce is not made with canned tuna, but prepared with fresh tuna at the restaurant, resulting in a fresh, vibrant tonnato emulsion. Some pickled capers add contrast and for such a simple dish, the result is an impressively elegant and complex vitello tonnato. Bouillabaisse is served in a similar style: a big bowl generously filled with fish and shellfish that is happily not overcooked. The soup itself is concentrated and moreish, and an excellent rouille spices things up a bit. This is the sort of comfort food that has been carefully prepared, without getting lost in unnecessary detail.
Marius is a special little place, a bit pricy but completely understandable given the amount of labour that goes into the preparation of the food and high quality ingredients used. In summer you can eat in their charming little courtyard, which makes a meal here even more enjoyable.