On our latest jaunt to Amsterdam, my husband Mark and I travelled with four friends. One friend in particular, Renee, really wanted to eat at the Upstairs Pannenkoekenhuis, aka the Upstairs Pancake House.
Anthony Bourdain ate here on an episode of The Layover, which was enough of an endorsement for all of us. So Renee took the responsibility of arranging a reservation for the six of us before we left for Amsterdam.
It was a good thing that Renee did make a reservation, too. I don’t think we would have been able to get a table otherwise. The restaurant only has four tables. It’s positively wee inside. There isn’t even room for chairs with backs: they have to use stools. (This probably also has the added benefit of keeping patrons from lingering too long).
The house that the pancake house occupies was originally built in 1539. Not only is it tiny, but the stairs leading up to the restaurant are so narrow and steep that you feel like you’re climbing a ship’s ladder. It’s definitely not wheelchair accessible!
The restaurant itself opened in 1962, and the owners use traditional Dutch pancake recipes. The menu was surprisingly extensive, considering that this is known as the smallest restaurant in Europe. They have both sweet and savoury options:
Once we were seated, our waiter directed us to the menu specials:
He explained that the lambada strawberries were very special. They’re ready early in the season, and are known for naturally being very sweet. Well, that made my choice easy, although I would have happily ordered the pancakes with cherries as well.
We all put in our orders and admired the decor while we waited. The walls are covered in framed pictures of the Dutch Royal Family. And overhead, there are over 100 teapots hanging from little hooks!
When our waiter returned about ten-to-fifteen minutes later, he placed the first two plates down on the table. “Eat them while they’re hot,” he instructed us. “We can only make two at a time, so these will get cold if you wait for the rest.”
He didn’t have to tell us twice! I was quite happy to see that the pancake was more like a crepe; nice and thin. I’m not usually a big eater, and I was worried that the portions would be too big to handle. But the amount was just right:
The lambada strawberries were spectacular. They were so sweet and flavourful that you’d almost think they’d been dipped in a sugar syrup coating. The pancakes themselves were hot and delicious. I was sad when I looked down at my plate a few minutes later and realized it was already empty. I practically inhaled this thing.
While the staff didn’t make us feel rushed to finish and pay, the constant line-up of people on the stairs hoping for a seat was enough to make us wrap up our meal quickly.
So, was the experience worth it? In a word: YES. We found ourselves still talking about the meal well into the next day. The Upstairs Pancake House is quaint, quirky, and homey, while the food is fresh, comforting and satisfying. If you decide to add the Upstairs Pancake House to your Amsterdam Itinerary, here are a few tips to make the most of it:
- Make a reservation about a week in advance to guarantee a spot.
- Since they only have 4 tables, they will only hold your reservation for 10 minutes, then they’ll give your table away. Show up promptly for your reservation, otherwise you will lose it!
- They aren’t open for breakfast. Opening hours are: Wednesday-Saturday 12:00-6:00 pm, Sunday 12:00-5:00 pm. They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
- They don’t have a pin machine, so it is a cash-only establishment.
Enjoy! I know we’ll be back!