If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may remember me mentioning Bel Ami several times. We discovered the restaurant last year and have regularly returned to enjoy an experience which I can honestly describe as faultless.
Entering Bel Ami, situated in Bussum in the Dutch province of North Holland, feels like coming home. As soon as I sit down, I know that for the next few hours life will be good, and that I will not merely pay and leave the restaurant, but float away — smiling and looking forward to my next visit.
Where should I start? Their service is outstanding. From the way the waiters look and their professionalism, to the way they serve the food and are attentive to everything without ever being pushy or arrogant. Something which I detest. Not too long ago I visited a very fancy restaurant in Amsterdam where the staff was staring and looking over our shoulder the whole time — ready to attack with a wine refill before the glass was even empty. I’m not a big fan of being asked if ‘everything’s OK’ every five minutes either. I go to a restaurant to delight in the pleasures of great food and great company, not to be harrassed by overly attentive waiters. At Bel Ami, you are left alone, yet any desire is quickly fulfilled.
The place looks like a dream, too. Hardwood floors decorated with classically beautiful stone tiles, soft ligthing in the form of elegant chandeliers, and my personal favorite — a collection of stunning artwork interspersed throughout the establishment.
I’ve eaten so many wonderfully prepared meals. There’s the perfect steak tartare, exquisitely cut and served with golden shoestring fries and a well-dressed salad. And speaking of salad, their ‘Salade Riche’ is pure sensuality with seafood delicacies and, if desired, duck liver curls. Every season the menu is updated with new selections. I’ve had mustard soup with trout, the best tarte tatin with cinnamon ice cream ever, spaghetti alle vongole which moved me to tears, and yesterday a creamy truffle risotto with mushrooms and a poached egg that was every bit as fabulous as it sounds. You want French classics? They’re there. Sole à la Meunière, escargots, boeuf bourguignon, crème brûlée, Gillardeau oysters… A great wine list, too and house wines that are quite a joy to drink.
Four stars for the admirable accomplishment of serving consistently superb food without ever being pretentious — plus one extra for never failing to put me in a state of culinary ecstasy.