Despite the absence of media coverage and hipsters, Vermeer always seems packed with guests that know what they come here for: understated and intelligent food that doesn’t try to wow the people with gimmicks or clichés, but dishes up menus with a real sense of dramaturgy; centred on seasonality and nature. Conceptually, meals at Vermeer remind us of kaiseki meals in Japan. The big tasting menu served at Vermeer is called “From the land” and that couldn’t be a more fitting description as the local terroir dominates it. This is one of the few places in The Netherlands that takes sourcing seriously. The restaurant is located in the Barbizon hotel in the centre of Amsterdam, yet the brigade managed to create a small vegetable/herb garden on the roof of the hotel, including some beehives as Chris Naylor is also an apiculturist. Local farmers restaurant grow all the other vegetables. Naylor’s menus frequently feature “forgotten vegetables” such as parsnip, fennel and salsify.
Unlike some New Nordic chefs, Naylor’s food is rarely built around a carrot or potato, but rather utilises vegetables in harmony with first-class fish or meat. A perfect example of his cooking is Oosterschelde lobster with rhubarb, avocado and lobster/rhubarb broth. This strikingly simple dish ends up being captivating with the lobster’s sweet, crunchy meat combining perfectly with the acidic rhubarb. Even more impressive are morels with cauliflower, almonds, and wild garlic. The flavours come together in a harmonious dish that is earthy, sweet, and herbal at the same time. This is not necessarily ostentatious food, but understated, mature cooking. For game fans, Vermeer is also the one place in the Netherlands that serves grouse or woodcock in season. Served as simply and enjoyably as everything else, these birds make it the place to be in autumn.
The last point that makes Vermeer so special are its sommeliers Simon Veldman and Wesley Schipper. Easily some of the best in the country, they conceive masterful wine pairings that even have us pleasantly surprised every time we come here.