Vermeer in Amsterdam, Netherlands was strong in concept and cuisine but errant in service. Its touristic location and rambunctious ambience further detracted from the dining experience.
Rise Rating: 53%
The Obsidian Rise diagram above provides a visual for the rating explained in writing, below. From left to right—
Story (2/3): Vermeer’s initial strength is its website: well designed and purposefully reminiscent of the work of its namesake Dutch artist. Further, the restaurant’s menu has a non-traditional layout of just ingredients shaped into a form upon a page. The idea of honoring a man whose paintings often exalt daily happenings, when coupled with the very simple highlighting of food items, portrays a clear message that is simultaneously contemporary and rooted in history. Chef Chris Naylor’s culinary style of removing pretense from his plates is also in line with the above. The eatery has one Michelin star.
Sustainability (1/3): Vermeer meets the minimum threshold for a one sector (of the three available) rating for this element. The restaurant is transparent about its intent to work with Dutch farmers and to incorporate local and seasonal ingredients into its menu where possible, but does not appear to go beyond these efforts.
Experience (1/3): First impressions are important. In the case of the Vermeer Experience, it was immediately taken down a notch by the hostess’ unwillingness to seat guests until all in our party had arrived. For a starred restaurant, this kind of hospitality is out of context, especially when the table is empty, clean and waiting for the reservation. This aside, the interior of the eatery was more or less as depicted online, although its many boisterous parties gave the dining rooms the sensation of a typical evening out after work over the feeling of having arrived to a special occasion. (Though in many cases this sort of ease would be welcome or even in line with the establishment’s philosophy, in that of Vermeer it felt out of hand and unintentional. “Is this really a starred restaurant?,” we asked ourselves, incredulously.) Moreover, our table service was initially led by two disheveled looking staff members who hurried through explanations and generally ignored the status of our table (Glasses empty? Crumbs abundant?) over the course of the meal. Sommelier Simon Veldman, however, was wonderful. His service and demeanor were a warm reprieve but unfortunately only came towards the end. Overall, our feeling was that Vermeer’s concept and chef’s talents had been wasted by poor management in their delivery.
Cuisine (2/3): As aforementioned, the menu at Vermeer is shown as a smattering of ingredients. Meals are created from the selection of four, five, or six dishes. While it is possible to relay a preference for or an aversion to some of the items listed, the plates are otherwise brought out as a surprise and according to the kitchen’s idea of what works best. In theory, this fresh take on presentation is nice; in reality, it took two or three courses to realize that dishes weren’t coming out in the order of printing or with the ingredients that are listed next to one another. And although staff graciously allowed for an order change/ specification halfway through the meal, this sort of confusion could have been averted with a thorough explanation of the menu when we were seated. Logistics aside, the food was delicious and well presented, with attention to detail but also the lack of pretense promised.
Diversity (2/3): The Diversity at Vermeer was a welcome surprise, as it is one of the few Michelin starred restaurants that has wait staff of varying types: male and female, younger and older, and of different ethnicities. Although the leadership team (chef, sommelier and manager) are again of the older caucasian male variety, the diverse waiters are definitely a start. As described above, the cuisine was also refreshing and did not focus on any one ingredient in particular, allowing easy going guests to sample a bit of everything or more specific ones to develop a meal according to taste.
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