Tips from a local: Mathieu in Oud-West

mathieu garnier

Mathieu Garnier is a French lad living in the Oud West neighbourhood together with his German fiancée Talke and their two young daughters Dita and Hila. Mathieu is the co-founder of Holiday Sitters, a brand new company which provides (traveling) families in Amsterdam with babysitting services in the family’s native language. I’m so excited to share his tips of this lively and family friendly part of Amsterdam!

 1. Best date night restaurant: Spagetteria. It’s hard to beat a good pasta. This place does just that. No reservations. Dead simple menu. Great pasta.
Next to the perfect pasta they also have a couple of staples not to be missed: Sgroppino’s are delicious icy lemony cocktails made on demand. (Word of warning: They are dangerous. One Sgroppino can become five Sgroppini if you’re not careful.) Their Tiramisu is HUGE. Always served with two spoons as no human being no matter how hungry could finish one on their own.

2. Favourite family-friendly dinner spot: Restaurant with kids haven’t been a big thing for us as our 3 year old is so damn fussy about food. She just started to get into pizza. Forno is just around the corner and became a weekly staple. (Yes we love our gluten.) They have small pizzette for lunch and no nonsense pizzas. Dita loves their margherita with fresh mozzarella on top. Nom nom. (Also got a super sunny make-shift terrace in the warmer months which for some reason doesn’t get too busy.)

3. Cosiest local cafe (or best place to grab a take-away!): Trakteren. So lucky to have this café in my hood. It’s not cosy, it’s not hip and it offers no gimmicks. They just make the best cup of coffee in Amsterdam. Fact. The owners finished 3rd in the aeropress world championship. I have no idea what that means but I sure know the coffee is outstanding.

4. Trusted children’s shop: Big and Belg without a doubt. My fiancée drops 85% of my salary on this store every month (jk… sort of). Loads of stuff (maybe too much of it…) but they’re working on narrowing down their inventory as I write these words so that should be even more tightly curated in the days to come. Great selection on latest kids fashion, from Mini Rodini to Bobo Choses, TinyCottons and many many more. Great place to find really cool birthday presents too, small but great collection of kids books from local and international authors in both Dutch and English. Add to that a well curated selection of mostly wooden toy brands and you got a winner. Get in early on sale days as the store get ridiculously busy.

5. Favourite men’s shop: Afura. Pricey but outstanding selection of quality menswear. Each piece is worth every Eurocent (do people say eurocent… i did). Len, the shop owner, is passionate about ever piece and brand he carries in the store and offers outstanding service. And that says tones in a city where service is mostly non-existent.
They carry a wide variety of brands focusses on minimal design, quality & craft made including but not limited to Côte et Ciel, Han Kjobenhaven, Clarks Originals, Norse projects. They will be carrying womenswear very soon which makes my fiancée very happy as she doesn’t have a fashion shop she really likes in the area.

6. Coolest local playground: Cremerplein. Got to love the place. It’s huge yet tucked away enough that it’s got this “secret local spot vibe.” Got tones of stuff for kids of all age and sizes from swings, water pump, huge sandpit, 5-a-side football pitch, basketball hoop, monkey castle and probably a few other structures I can’t think of at the moment. During the week a community-centre puts toys, footballs and tricycles at the kids’ disposal. When the weather gets warm enough they fill up the paddling pool and kids go bananas.

7. Favourite food shop: My fiancée and I got into vegetarian cooking over the last 4 years. We’re now converts to Ottolenghi and Anna Jones. Their books are amazing and will change the way you eat in the best way possible. It opens a world of flavour and creativity in food you had no idea existed. The problem we faced when first getting into it is all the exotic ingredients we had no idea about and where to find them. With a bit of work and research we found out that our neighbourhood is dotted with exotic grocers carrying everything we needed to nail those recipes.
Here are our 3 essential local grocers:
– Olgun Groente and Fruithandel. Fresh, great quality fruits, veggies and herbs. Plus good selection of spices.You’ll find anything you need to prepare dishes with mediterranean influences stretching from Morocco to Israel.
– Hong Kong Superstore. Find everything you need for all things asian here. Miso, soft or firm tofu, huge cheap bags of quality rice, all kinds of asian veggies, they have EVERYTHING to nail a delicious asian dish.
– De Volkskruidentuin. This is THE place for exotic spices, nuts, seeds. If you can’t find a super exotic ingredient that will make or break your dish in the two shops above these guys will have it.

8. Best shop for homewares, fun finds, or special gifts: I have a soft spot for Dolores Del Dia Vintage Design for quirky vintage finds. This is all about luck. On a good day you could find a million delightful things in there. The best strategy is to walk past regularly, to stretch your luck and look inside. Who knows? Maybe Dolores has a life-size porcelain greyhound that day or a copper stork or a mid century Pastoe rocking chair tucked away in a corner waiting for you to find it.

9. Local activity center or museum: De filmhallen. Netflix and my pursuit for convenience over everything else has killed my relationship to films. Lately, they’ve become background noise to me and my fiancée brainlessly scrolling feeds of unimportant information on our phones. Going on date-nights to see movies is so so so important to us. That’s why having a good and well programmed theatre like De Filmhallen is essential. Just put your phone away and let the big screen take you for a ride. After the film, stick around at the bar for a drink or two and fall in love with films again.

10. Favourite park or outdoor space: Vondelpark. It’s a treasure trove of playgrounds. You can hang loose at the Melkhuis, let them embrace their inner primate at Vondelpark Canopywalk or spot playgrounds designed by renown architect Aldo Van Eyck. They also have a huge area with a paddle pool which transforms into a human beehive on hot summer days. (If it gets too intense you can always head back to Cremerplein. I know i do.)


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