The Dylan itself was Amsterdams first theatre back in the 18th century and Im told Vivaldi once conducted his orchestra there. Today the big names still flock to the hotel, with Brad Pitt and George Clooney among the list of previous guests says Emily Rookwood
I recently took the short 45 minute hop over the North Sea to spend a long weekend in Amsterdam with my big sister. We were, rather obviously, not the usual raucous group of young chaps off to Amsterdam for a weekend of debauchery, with our smart leather weekend bags and custom-made jewellery. This was a trip arranged with the specific intention of ignoring the red light districts and the over-trendy side of the city.
We were staying in the beautiful Dylan Hotel on Keizersgracht, the widest of the three major canals in the city. Flanked on either side by the equally impressive Prinsengracht and Herengracht the location is beautifully peaceful and hugely photogenic.
The Dylan itself was Amsterdam’s first theatre back in the 18th century and I’m told Vivaldi once conducted his orchestra there. Today the big names still flock to the hotel, with Brad Pitt and George Clooney among the list of previous guests.
It isn’t hard to imagine why it might be at the top of many a wish list: the beautifully crafted interiors blend chic statement pieces, high quality linens and tasteful artwork with historical remnants including the old bakers’ ovens in the Michelin-starred restaurant, Vinkeles.
From the moment we walked in to the blissfully air-conditioned reception, The Dylan became our little haven. The weather was an unusually hot 34 degrees and the cold sangria that greeted us was most welcome. We were put in the Dylan Thomas suite, one of the hotels recently redesigned ‘Loxura’ rooms and its signature suite.
A vast space, we had no fewer than five windows overlooking the courtyard garden. The centrepiece of the room is the drinks cabinet, lined with silver leaf and finished with mother of pearl handles. Alongside your favourite tipples, there was also a beautiful Illy coffee machine, so you could indulge in ‘proper coffee’ at any time of day or night.
The best part, though, was the secret staircase that led directly to the hotel’s bar. With such easy access to all things alcoholic there is little wonder why this is the Dylan Thomas suite.
AS HARD AS it was to drag ourselves out of the room, we ventured out on the Saturday evening to join the growing crowds on the neighboring Prinsengracht. We were there as the Grachtenfestival was reaching its climax with a huge open-air concert in the middle of the canal.
Hundreds of small boats had packed the canal so densely that you couldn’t see even an inch of water as locals lined the streets with their picnics. With local delicacies of cured ham and stroopwaffles (wafers filled with buttery caramel) filling our bags, we settled in for a little of the concert before taking a late night stroll around the peaceful outer canals.
With boutique design shops, artisanal cafes and tiny candlelit bars, the Nine Streets and Jordaan are areas too often overlooked in favour of cheap thrills. They are the St Germain and Marais equivalents – a stylish blend of boutique and beautiful, a little shabby but terribly chic. We walked around until the wee hours, undisturbed by red lights or worse-for-wear young chaps and chapettes.
AFTER A RESTORATIVE sleep we trundled down our staircase, through the bar and on to the breakfast buffet. Set up in the same space as Vinkeles (pictured below) it was plentiful and all very well made, from fresh fruit and yoghurt to lovely pastries, breads and charcuterie.
The buffet breakfast also included two eggs cooked as chosen. The poached eggs arrived atop a perfect little disk of dense brown bread, lightly toasted with a tied chive stalk balancing delicately on top of the near-spherical eggs. Everything was exquisitely cooked and precisely presented. The buffet also included the mandatory Dutch chocolate sprinkles.
Through the windows of Vinkeles you can see out to the courtyard filled with tables for the Dylan’s newest culinary venture – Brasserie Occo. Opened in May 2012 it is a relaxed space dotted with trees, wicker tables and chairs and smart locals.
Brasserie Occo have a little lunch plate on their menu, which consists of four small dishes changing on a daily basis. Three savory and one sweet, the idea is that you can have a little bit of everything in any order you would like.
We had a beautifully dressed Caesar salad with prawns, the dressing rich and creamy, the prawns just cooked through with a golden crust; gnocchi with spinach foam, ricotta and sundried tomatoes; a pearl barely risotto with carefully poached lobster and a rich bisque-like foam with a few delicate leaves of rocket; and a little poached apricot, sat on a thin spiced cake, with apricot puree, vanilla mascarpone and goji berries.
The lunch plate is more relaxed and accessible than the very fine dining offered by Vinkeles, which is priced to match the quality of the food. (High – €200 for the tasting menu including wine.)
IF YOU DO have a few euros knocking about and don’t want to eat in the restaurant, you can take the hotel’s private boat, complete with Captain Nico, out for a very special dinner on the water.
Cruising around in a renovated 19th century boat, the chef prepares your dinner right in front of you. It seems a rather fitting way to explore Amsterdam, though won’t beat the hilarity of the brilliant party boat full of merry forty-somethings that cruised past us at four in the afternoon blaring out Abba at full volume. (I wanted to be on that boat.)
At €925 for the boat and skipper, and €185 per person for the seven course menu with champagne, it is probably the most expensive boat ride on offer in this little city. Is it worth it? I don’t know. I was saving up my remaining coppers for salty salmiak lollies and more sprinkles.
We left after lunch, sprinkles in pockets, smiles on faces, luggage kindly guarded by the concierge. The staff at The Dylan are warm, helpful and courteous, attentive but not intrusive. The rooms are beautiful, the location unbeatable and the food fantastic. There is really nothing more you could ask for, except, perhaps, bumping into George Clooney in the lobby.
Stay at The Dylan in a double room from €325 (£269) per room per night excluding 5 per cent city tax and breakfast. Breakfast costs €28 per person. Rates for the Dylan Thomas Suite range from €800-€1,650 (excluding city tax and breakfast).
For bookings visit dylanamsterdam.com or call +31 (0)20 530 2010