Amsterdam-based entrepreneur Serena Weaver was having a hard time finding credible information about which restaurants were worth going to - and why. Following Michelin guides, Google ratings and even Instagram, it seemed to her that fancy dishes, excellent visuals, and general hype were often driving good reviews over anything substantial. This led her to start Table Sage, a rating platform that redefines what makes a restaurant great within ‘conscious dining’ guidelines, helping diners choose accordingly and create a positive impact while they eat.
What are Table Sage’s criteria for rating restaurants?
The first question is always: “Would we genuinely recommend this restaurant to someone we care about?” After that, we break down our reviews into five ‘conscious dining’ categories: Cuisine, Experience, Story, Sustainability and Diversity. These points are essential not only to advise on why a restaurant is recommended (maybe it’s simply for its beautiful location), but they also invite us to make meaningful choices in our everyday lives. Why not also support a restaurant that is working towards being sustainable or that is serving your community? We know by now the power of individual spending; putting your money and time towards people, places, and causes you care about goes a long way.
What has changed in the dining-out scene in Amsterdam over the last few years?
When I moved to Amsterdam in 2014, I remember that it was difficult to find “metropolitan” options for bars and restaurants. Then several significant hotels opened across the city, setting a new standard within the food scene. Seemingly simultaneously, restaurants all over town started offering affordable set menus featuring regionally sourced ingredients that were a true pleasure to try. In the last few years, it feels like Amsterdam has received additional influence from the likes of New York and London and Copenhagen and the Nordics, as chefs push the boundaries of what Dutch food is and what local ingredients can do. Then there was a major surge in creativity with Corona, as chefs worked tirelessly to make their fine-dining menus fun and accessible to transport or cook at home. Almost as quickly as they arose, most of these reinvented takeaway options have been retracted in favour of in-person dining.
Who is the most exciting chef working in the city right now?
There are many exciting people and places in Amsterdam to follow— from small pop-ups to starred chefs in established spaces - all doing wonderful things. Leave Your Sword in Noord is experimenting with fermentation and dessert bar concepts, whilst Oficina near Erasmuspark is exploring general cooking and brand creation. I’d name Joris Bijdendijk of Rijks and Wils as a continuous joy to follow, as much for his leadership in advancing important food causes as for his perfected menus.
Who have you met with the most interesting backstory?
Recently I had the opportunity to meet and interview Sam Kingue, the founder of Labyrinth - a cocktail bar, soul food joint, and hub for spoken word nights. Born in West Africa and with a background in both mixology and poetry, I was blown away by the depth of meaning and intention that went into the creation of his business. The scope of Labyrinth is conceptual, tactile, and a very special addition to the city. Table Sage is looking forward to working on a video project with him this summer in conjunction with the Rotterdam-based start-up, Afrii.
What makes Amsterdam’s food and drink scene unique?
Historically, Amsterdam has had many cultural influences (Indonesian, Surinamese, Moroccan, Turkish, French, and Nordic, to name a few) that are evident in its urban food fabric. The city is also comparably small, which means that you can be in an industrial bar on the outskirts of town one minute and a fine dining establishment on the canals the next. As Amsterdam is based on a coastline with a major airport, it will always be a destination for foreigners who come and go, leaving and taking inspiration with their stays.
What is your favourite bar in Amsterdam?
For funky, natural wines with a bohemian vibe, I’ve always loved GlouGlou in De Pijp. For an excellent gin and tonic (and a large selection to choose from), Taiko Bar of the Conservatorium Hotel is definitely the best. In the winter, it’s nice to go to Pulitzer Bar or Hiding in Plain Sight for strong drinks in a sophisticated atmosphere. In the summer? Keeping it simple with a beer from somewhere like Oedipus or Hannekes Boom is always lovely. This summer, Table Sage will also start including great places for drinks within its platform, so I’m looking forward to testing and providing more recommendations soon!
What is your favourite foodie hotspot outside of Amsterdam?
I’d highly recommend a quick jaunt down to Lindenhoff. This consortium of farms is one of the major suppliers of local foods to Amsterdam restaurants, and there’s also a top-notch store and café on site.
Do you have a favourite neighbourhood or street in Amsterdam?
Wandering the canals never gets old!