Amsterdam Pub Guide (Part Seven)
Amsterdam West

Practical Stuff
Where do I find Pubs?
Dutch breweries (large)
Dutch breweries (small)
Belgian breweries
Amsterdam breweries
Bockbier Tasting 2004
Amsterdam Beer Tours

Amsterdam Pubs
Nieuwezijd (Dam)
Oudezijd (Nieuwmarkt)
De Jordaan
De Pijp
Amsterdam East
Amsterdam South
Amsterdam West
Amsterdam West
The West has a much worse name, especially within Amsterdam, than it deserves. I lived there for seven years and, if I'm honest, some of the descriptions in the local media of Mercatorplein and environs appear to be describing a parallel, far more threatening, universe rather than the one I inhabit.

I won't pretend it has anything like the same concentration of unspoilt pubs as the city centre. But where does? (Antwerp, maybe.) Where you live, probably doesn't. Contextualisation is the (bullshit) word for what I'm doing now. The West has a few pubs I really like and usually visit in when I'm the area. But don't expect whole streets of them.

Pub Index

To the left you can see a real rarity - a pub still branded as Watneys, complete with a red barrel (though look closely and you'll spot it's from Amstel). Any guesses when they last painted the outside?

I've been intending to photograph it for years. So many, in fact, I'm amazed it hasn't been restyled in the meantime. I can now go to my grave with a clear conscience. Apart from the 7,832 other things I really have to do.

In 't Vierde Baarsje is a restaurant, not a pub, on Surinamestraat, just past Ter Brugge, should you be interested in this relic of an era most would prefer to forget.

More general information on Amsterdam, its pubs and ther beers they sell . . .

For more about Dutch breweries & beers:
Dutch breweries
Every Dutch breweries and all their beers.
Dutch beer tasting notes
Detailed tasting notes of many Dutch beers.

Amsterdam Pub Guide (Part Seven)
Amsterdam West

Sound Garden
Marnixstraat 164-166,
1016 TG Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-620 2853
Opening hours: Mon - Thur 16:00-02:00
Fri - Sat 16:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 5
Number of bottled beers: +-15
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
Soungarden is made up of two houses knocked through to make a fairly large pub. Being right next door to the fire station, it's pretty easy to find. The décor is very spartan, a bit as if they started with the idea of doing a complete makeover, but then ran out of money and enthusiasm half way through the job. The basic, slightly anarchic look goes well with the music and customers, both a mix of 70s and 80s punk/grunge/hard rock styles. Unpretentious and not at all threatening.

At the back there's a split-level "garden", which contains fewer plants than a multi storey car park, but which does have a good view of a canal. There's a dartboard, which looks like a bit of a pain to play on as as people are continually elbowing their way past on the way to the garden.

They have three permanent draught beers plus a changing selection of guests, which include some quite unusual and interesting Belgian ones. Cheap, sometimes very cheap and occasionally unbelievably so (they had Poperings Hommelbier for HFL 3,75 - not bad for an imported beer of 7.5%). The bottled beers include Schneider Weizen (at a very sociable price on my last visit) and Budels Parel.
Rating: ***
Public transport: Tram 13, 14, 17

Café Westers
Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat 35,
1054 CT Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-612 1691
Opening hours: Mon - Thu 15:00-01:00
Fri 15:00-02:00
Sat 11:00-02:00
Sun 11:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 6
Number of bottled beers: +-15
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks 3-6, meals 7-15, beer (La Chouffe) 3.20.
Although not more than a 5-minute walk away from the Leidse Plein, Café Westers is mostly undisturbed by the hordes of revellers (I'm being particularly careful in what I say here) and tourists to be found there. Which isn't to say that it's totally dead, as this little corner of Amsterdam has a surprising number of trendy cafés and attracts plenty of customers.

Westers itself is large for an Amsterdam pub, having been recently extended behind the bar to give it an unusual U-shape. It has an elegant 30's-style look, with most of the fittings made from dark wood and a couple of groovy leaded glass details in the windows.

The quiet, calm atmosphere makes it the perfect spot to read your newspaper with a good glass of beer or to have a chat with a few friends. There are times when I agree with Kinky Friedman about the sound of a human voice singing. And I have never (you can be absolutely certain of this) toured in a country band. A couple of years living in Amsterdam and drinking in bars was more than enough for me. Which do I prefer, crap music or silence? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . (in the glorious days when I started this joke, I didn't bother to consider how I could portray an absence of sound} . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The beer selection is excellent and not rivalled by many pubs outside the city centre. It tends to vary slightly with the season, but is mostly based around products of the Brand brewery. Seeing as it produces some of the best commercial Dutch beers (despite being owned by Heineken), that is no bad thing. In Autumn, expect to see the excellent Brand Dubbelbock (7.5%), the only example of the German doppelbock style brewed in Holland. In the Winter, Brand Sylvester (7.5%) is, very unusually, available on draught. One tap offers a changing selection of beers. The only complaint about the beers, is that they do seem to be served with a little too much top pressure, giving them all the same sherbert aroma.
Rating: *** Public transport: Tram 1, 3, 7, 12

Café Ebeling
Overtoom 50
1054 HK Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-689 1218

Opening hours: Sun - Thu 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 11:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: +-10
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
It's surprising how many pubs, such as this one, have been converted from former bank buildings. This gives it a rather more space inside than is usual in Amsterdam and a very solid looking facade on the outside. In a charming touch, the former vault has been retained and now does service as the Gents' toilets, the first I've ever seen to include a wall safe. I suppose it makes a change from a condom machine. The toilets here are one of my top Amsterdam tips. No, I don't have a very exciting life.

Back upstairs, there are two distinct areas at different levels. Up top is the bar, a pool table and a couple of tables. Down below,  various bits and bobs of old furniture are strewn about, including one table covered in magazines and newspapers. Providing papers for the use of customers, as most pubs do, is one of Holland's more civilised customs. After all, it does save the cheapskates amongst us that euro to buy one ourselves.

Quite comfortable and a little arty, in a unpretentious way. There are a some of those gaudy Indian posters, which could leave you wondering what someone had been slipping in your beer after a few pints. Coupled with statues of Indian gods where the sculptor has miscounted the limbs, the whole place has a mystical eastern feel. Quite a change from its old banking days.

The large size of this establishment makes it one of the few Amsterdam cafés to be able to offer live music The beers selection may not look too thrilling, but the Palm is swapped for La Chouffe every now and then. In bottles, is an adequate, if rather standard choice.
Rating: ***** Public transport: Tram 1, 7

Jacob van Lennepstraat 39,
1053 HB Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-612 1959
Opening hours: Sun - Thu 12:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 12:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: +-10
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
As soon as you walk through the door you'll understand (if you have a smattering of French) the origin of this pub's name. The top halves of the walls are engulfed in multiple layers of concert, theatre and film posters that bulge out over the panelling of the lower section. A subtle touch is a miniscule "Défense d'afficher" sign amongst the shelves behind the bar. As this is the only area of wall poster-free, the admonition has obviously been successful. I also liked the "Festival of Unlistenable Songs" poster on the door of the ladies. Are they trying to tell us something here?

I suppose that you could call this a "themed" pub, but that would be strecthing the point. It's a very simply arranged brown café with half a dozen tables, bare floors and a few barstools. When the weather is good, you can take advantage of the very pleasant setting on the corner of a quiet street and a canal and sit on one of tjhe benches outside. Round about is an odd little backwater of peaceful old streets tucked in between the town centre and the Kinkerstraat. One of the few unspoiled parts of 19th century Amsterdam.
Rating: *** Public transport:

Café Alverna
Bijlderdijkstraat 104/106,
1053 KX Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-612 4455
Opening hours: Sun - Thu 11:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 5
Number of bottled beers: +-12
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
Prices: Beer 2-2.75, snacks 3-7, meals 10-13.
In Holland this airy, spacious type of pub is usually referred to as a "grand café". A slightly pretentious tag, not always (as in this case) actually claimed by the establishment itself. (If you were to use the charming establishments around the Leidseplein as the basis of your definition, "grandcafé" would mean a big, overpriced pub full of drunks who look like they're just about to start turning nasty)

The Alverna has a cool tiled floor and a combination of wicker, wooden and bolted-down metal-framed furniture. I have to admit, not a furniture combination I have ever seriously considered for my front room. A lighter hand than mine has combined these elements and created an impression of light and space. (I suppose those huge windows don't do the light bit any harm.) The mixture works very well, creating a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere. (It sounds as if you should expect rows of hippies in the lotus position, meditating for all their might.) It's one of several examples in Amsterdam of modern not meaning cheap, shoddy, poorly thought-out and crap (which is how I see the word being used in the UK). The large seating area outside is pleasantly framed by espalliered trees.

It attracts a pretty diverse clientele, reflecting the ethnic and social mix of the area in which it's situated.

This area of Amsterdam isn't overly filled with good places to drink and the Alverna was a very pleasant addition to the pub stock. It opened half a dozen years ago, replacing a rather dull French restaurant. Pub designers from the UK could learn a lot from a visit here.

The presence of lots of Brand beers and Wieckse Witte lets you know that there's some sort of tie to Heineken. But at least they do permanently offer the delicious - and dangerously strong - Columbus from Amsterdam's oldest micro brewery, 't Ij.
Rating: *** Public transport: Tram 3, 12 to Bijlderdijkstraat

Ter Brugge
Overtoom 578,
1054 LN Amsterdam.

Tel. 020-612 9983
Opening hours: Sun - Thu 10:00-01:00
Fri - Sat 10:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: +-5
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
Prices: draught beer 1.70-2.20, snacks 3-7, meals 10-13.
Follow the Overtoom heading out of town right to the end and, just opposite one of Amsterdam's ugliest buildings, you'll find Ter Brugge. As its name implies (it means "By the Bridge"), it lies adjacent to a fine bridge, the work of the architect Kramer (who, coincidentally, designed the block of flats where I live).

I would definitely recommend facing in the direction of the bridge if by a window or at one of the many tables outside. You can admire the excellent Amsterdamse School buildings around the Surinameplein whilst turning your back on the brutalist pile of manure (hearing it had been inspired by Le Corbusier's crackpot and pernicious "principles" has only made me hate it more) on the Overtoom.

Inside, you'll find a pleasant mid-brown (you should be getting used to these terms by now) café. The confined space and awkwardly placed pillars make things a little cramped, but it's warm and cosy with lots of natural wood. Placing the bar away from the obstructions (contrast Schuim) certainly benefits personal interaction at the staff/customer interface.

If I say that it seems a bit studenty here, I'm not being nasty or derogatory. There is a slight studenty air to the place, but the customers are a pretty mixed bunch with a good spread of age groups. (I'm usually, but not always the oldest person in the bar. Is it the half-term holidays already?) Friendly bar staff and very reasonable prices are an unbeatable combination for me. I can't help feeling that, just like the Dutch commentator during the Portugal - Holland World Cup Qualifier, I'm tempting fate when I say that it's about the last pub not to have increased its prices since we got the euro.

The beer range is pretty limited and there is an obvious Interbrew tie. The bottled beers include enough decent ones - Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel, Duvel - which, though not particularly exciting, do offer something worth the trouble of drinking (especially at the price).
Rating: *** Public transport: Tram 1, 7 to Overtoomsesluis

The Amsterdam Pub Guide Continues:
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part One Dam Square - Leidseplein
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Two Zeedijk/Nieuwmarkt
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Three De Jordaan
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Four De Pijp
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Five Amsterdam East
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Six Amsterdam South
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Seven Amsterdam West
Amsterdam Pub Guide Part Eight Utrechtsestraat

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