After EatFIFA began its 208-chapter campaign with a suitably classy affair at Spanish representative Laxeiro, we faced our first real challenge. The Dutch, second in the latest FIFA rankings, boast many a tradition but their cuisine is lost in a clichéd haze of clogs, coffee shops and (sigh) Total Football.
The search for the quintessential Dutch eating experience in London began, as most of the other 207 attempts will, with a simple Google search. Tantalising whispers of a Dutch café in Waterloo came to nought, and we faced having to challenge one of our stated rules. My Old Dutch is a chain of pancake houses but, with only three sites, a friendly Twitter account and over half a century of history to its name, we relaxed our stance and booked ourselves (plus a few friends) into the Holborn branch.
A swift pint of organic wheat beer amongst the bustling, nook-and-cranny glory of The Princess Louise, and we headed across the road to the welcoming sight of My Old Dutch.
We’d booked ahead but needn’t have done. The ground floor was sparsely populated with a few rather grim-faced couples, while the basement was deserted. We waited patiently as the distinctly un-Dutch waitress found my name in a comically blank reservations book, before taking out seats in anticipation of some reportedly huge pancakes.
The lager-swillers among the group naively agreed to a round of Boon Kriek, a sweet cherry beer brewed in the famous Dutch region of, erm, Belgium. To take the edge off the sourness we ordered an appetiser of bitterballen, possibly the only fully authentic Dutch element of the evening, along with a generous portion of passable frites. These meatballs met with scorn from the group, mainly due to their low meat content. Still, they were an adequate accompaniment to the allegedly rather lukewarm beer and we ordered our giant pancakes in earnest. With every imaginable topping on offer, the already flimsy Dutch theme wilted as one order was taken for the ambitious-sounding Chicken Curry pancake (see gallery above).
Having seen several orders pass us by, we’d noted the sheer size of these pancakes and felt sure we’d leave with sated appetites. Larger, but considerably lighter, than your average pizza, our pancakes arrived promptly and we began to slice through them with little hesitation. The ever-optimistic selector of the Chicken Curry pancake remarked that the filling was similar to that on offer in Wetherspoons. The almost apologetic offering of rice alongside it seemed to shrug its shoulders in defeat, but we give credit to My Old Dutch for providing not one, but TWO Indian-themed dips for him to choose from.
The less adventurous FIFAEaters opted for the headline pancake, the My Old Dutch, featuring smoked bacon, chicken and ham underneath all the melted cheese. Murmurs of approval could be heard. In fact, I could have saved myself (and you, reader) a bit of time and simply uploaded an mp3 of us murmuring our approval in place of this review. Meanwhile, my Hot Dutch pancake was – in a dramatic twist to the evening – too spicy and required me to remove a few chillies early doors. The salty pepperoni and chorizo then dominated proceedings and I finished my pancake comfortably.
Acting in the interests of pure completism, I was the only one to order dessert – the magnificently named Chocolate Glory. Alas – despite the pleasant texture and taste – I felt short-changed in the pudding authenticity department, much as I had a month ago on that historic opening night on Columbia Road.
Our six-strong party swiftly delivered our percentage-based verdicts in the EatFIFA categories. The results were thus:
Value for Money: 31.5
The filling and pleasant pancakes, along with the swift and friendly service, were offset by the warm beer and the alarming twist in the tail of the £150 bill, especially after we belatedly spied a promotional poster offering two courses and a drink for £10. We felt it was Ruud of them not to point this out earlier, as we shelled out over Twente pounds each, but there wasn’t too much Groningen about it. Some half-hearted Christmas decorations, the faint background pumping of Europop and a smattering of orange balloons lifted the mood and edged My Old Dutch into the top half of the scoring scale.
We have, and probably will, eat better during our long project, but we’ve ticked another box and FIFA is now officially 0.96% eaten.
Dank je wel,