Vyne & Envy

It was a cold and damp midweek evening when we made our way for a drink and dinner at two Amsterdam institutions.

Walking down the Prinsengracht, rain drizzling overhead, we were in much need of a good glass of something to drink and a delicious dinner after what had been a few very busy weeks.

As we entered Vyne wine bar, we were surprised to see it very quiet. Maybe it was the weather or the upcoming festive season that people of 'waiting' for all the parties. The buzzing atmosphere we missed of people enjoying a drink was more than made up for by the friendly and charming Charlene.

We browsed through the extensive wine list, around 350 wines to be exact, while she poured us each a glass of Colmei Valdobbiadene Prosecco. You'll find a good selection of G&T's on the menu and their new wine cocktails. If you find it hard to chose a particular wine, you can always order a wine flight (red or white) put together by their sommelier.

And while you're having a drink, there is also a little bites menu with tapas style offerings, cheese platters and shrimp croquettes.

We then made our way a few meters up the road to Envy. This is a restaurant that serves what they call delicatessen dishes. In a nut shell, it's small dishes designed for sharing. Diners can either order a la carte, or can be surprised by the Chef's Menu.

The restaurant has two types of seating, high tables for those wanting a quick bite and low tables for those diner who want a leisurely evening it. A great concept and idea, we think.

The friendly restaurant manager gave us a warm welcome and we were immediately greeted with glass of Cava and a charcuterie platter comprising lavender Brandt & Levie sausage paired with Dijon mustard, heavenly Iberico ham and Spanish salame Ventricina. Nice bread and olive oil completed the scene.

Our first course comprised 3 different dishes - oyster ceviche, cucumber, burnt onion, dill and yoghurt pastilles. Fantastically clean and refreshing with sweet and sour notes from the cucumber and pickling liquid. This is a great way of eating oysters. The next dish was seared squid with chiparones (baby squid), olive cake, aioli and squid ink pasta. The seared squid was beautifully cooked, firm but tender. The chiparones were almost raw, just have seen the pan and the olive cake was sweet and light (made with an almond base) adding an interesting contrast to the dish. Thirdly we were served langoustines with Hollandaise, curry oil, curry crumble and enoki mushrooms. A stunning combination of sweet langoustines, rich Hollandaise and with a perfume of curry. The sweet crumble with curry was a nice idea, while the roasted enoki gave the dish a savoury note. With so many different ingredients and flavours, you would imagine that it would be a nightmare to pair with one wine, but this was done well with a Gruner Veltliner.

The following set a dishes comprised a steak tartare with potato mousseline, herring caviar, grilled leeks and a 60 C cooked farmhouse egg yolk. The steak tartare was well seasoned and tender counter-balanced with the soft mousseline and salty bursts from the herring caviar. The 60 C egg yolk was both firm and soft, adding a richness to the dish.

The next dish was grilled fillet of plaice young garlic foam, sweet and sour fennel, roasted onion cream, ciabatta toast and rocket cream. Despite the many bold flavours being used, the dish was light and fresh. The plaice was perfectly cooked and the delicous rocket cream added some pepperiness to the dish.

These dishes were paired with a Portugese Valporeria, a white wine made using 5 different grape varietys. The wine was powerful enough for the steak tartare, but smooth and elegant as well to pair with the fish.

We next moved on to an intriguing and super-delicious combination of foie gras with raspberry and hazelnut. Baring in mind what we had already eaten, it too wasn't as simple as it sounds. Grilled foie gras was, raspberry meringue, fresh raspberries, raspberry gel, a 'bon bon'of foie gras, hazelnut creme and shiso purple. The plate looked liked a dessert, too pretty to eat, but we attacked the plate. Who would have thought that fresh, sharp raspberry was so good with foie gras? Throw in some hazelnut and sweet meringue and it's a marriage made in heaven.

We just about had space left for dessert and an espresso. Coffee Bay then arrived at our table - the chefs interpretation of coffee and Bailey's. A caramel tuile, cold Bailey's granite, chocolate crumble, creamy Bailey's bon bons,deep-flavoured coffee meringues, stroop waffels, chocolate mousse, hazelnut crumble and finished off with grated tonka beans. This dish balanced sweet and bitter flavours with cold textures and crunch. A good ending to the meal.

The service was impeccable. Our waiter was friendly, enthusiastic and very knowledgable. There is a relaxed vibe in the restaurant where both locals and visitors will feel comfortable. The food is delicious, imaginitive and well executed. The chefs put everything on a plate for a reason. As there are so many small components to each dish, we feel that sharing plates are not always ideal for allowing the diner to taste all the components and get the full effect intended.

Envy should without doubt be on your restaurant list, whether you're looking for a leisurely night out or a quick bite with great food.

For more information, please visit Vyne.

For more information, please visit Envy.