Be it for lack of motivation brought on by a dearth of activity or just the simple fact that we have to be more practical with our money, my social and prandial adventures have been significantly limited these last several weeks. After our excursions in the U.K. and California last October, we took a step back and realized we had already done a lot this year – too much even – and if our hope of improving our lot in the near future were to ever become reality we needed to slow down and take stock.
As luck would have it though, my team at work decided it was time for our quarterly social and for me even luckier as it was at a place that’s been on my radar for a long time. We were in the Jordaan district last night, for a quick trip to the Basque country.
La Oliva is likely the best place for pintxos in Amsterdam, at least based on word of mouth and almighty Google. It’s also in the Jordaan area, which means it’s in one of the most popular districts of the city and therefore eternally busy and practically unreachable as a last minute option. Yesterday being a Monday, however, and having booked ahead, our team was able to sit down comfortably to an ostensibly authentic Basque meal, and along with an early round of Secret Santa made up for a night of good, honest team-building.
The first round of pintxos plates turned out well, albeit maybe a little iffy. I came way too early – an hour early – for our 6:30 pm seating and waited at the bar face-to-face with a yards-long display of pintxos waiting to be consumed. The entire time I sat there nursing my gin tonic, no one came to take nor replace any of the breaded wonders, meaning they’d been sitting there an hour, at least. The next round of plates though – pulpo, pata negra, basque sausage, among others – were quite good and gone in no time. And the service, perhaps expectedly, was typically Dutch – slow, unempathetic, and even brusque. As I initially sat down by the bar, the Dutch lady-proprietor practically ordered me to sit elsewhere so as not to block the view of the pintxos from anyone passing by outside. Oh well, that’s Amsterdam.
While the Jordaan and yearnings for pintxos in Amsterdam can now take a back seat for now, if the songs on the radio and the window decor in the stores are any indication, it’s the onset, maybe even the mindset, of my favorite time of year, which means it’s going to be busy again for the following weeks or so visiting Christmas markets and making the most of the yule season. Our austerity measures, which luckily I’ve gotten used to with little damage, may have to take a breather for a few weeks.