24 January 2012
My favourite bar in the world is a small bar just off the Damrak in Amsterdam called In de Wildeman. It is small, just two rooms: in the days before the Eurocrats ruled otherwise, one was a smoking the other non, although the wafting Sumatran tobacco smells would as often as not reach the non-side. It is the very epitome of that wonderful Dutch word gezellig, a word almost totally untranslatable, but essentially welcoming, comfy, cosy, but much more than the sum of these parts.
Were it only thus, it would be one of my favourite bars in Amsterdam, which has a fine line in these types of bar. There are two things that set it apart: firstly, the food. Proper bar snack: hunks of cheese and salami, accompanied by a couple of tooth picks for the ladies to use and a smudge of mustard to dip your chosen fare in. Then there is the beer. Always at least 20 beers on tap and somewhere near 300 more in bottles, each different, each paired with a specific glass.
I mention this as Craft reminds me of the Wildeman: it isn’t, to be fair, a gezellig place. No; come a Friday evening, the throng in the street is matched only by the five deep at the bar trying to get served, although a half-an-hour wait does give you time to work out which of the myriad beers you are going to try next. I mention the wait not as an undue criticism (the bar staff are many and do their best, but the throng is even greater), but merely a warning.
No, it is the bar. A proper bar; long and with no room for anything on it other than the 30 odd pumps. Don’t fancy a draft? Then try one of the 200 bottles. And the bar snacks: scotch eggs and pork pies. What more could you want from a bar?
Great beer, great bar food and the whole just let down from being truly great by a lack of atmosphere and a half-hour wait to get served on a Friday night. My advice would be to go other than a Friday night when it is less heaving, take your time and work your way down the hand pumps. Maybe not all in one sitting mind.