Pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, were virtually unheard of in Amsterdam until La Oliva arrived. Every day, the bar bristles with pintxos pierced (pinchar - hence the name) with wooden skewers.
The pintxos at La Oliva can range from seafood and meat to roasted vegetables, mini quiches and tortillas. The selection isn’t fixed, though, so instead of ordering from a menu, you choose whatever you want from the items laid out on the bar.
As I looked, dithered and pointed, I was reminded of the pick and mix bins in my local corner shop in the UK. As a kid, I usually had to do something to earn my pocket money or convince my parents that I really needed it. It wasn’t supposed to be spent on sweets, of course, so I’d have to sneak into the shop with my 50p. Most sweets cost 1 or 2p, so I could get a good sugar rush for that amount.
Unfortunately, 50p (or the euro equivalent) would barely buy you a roasted cherry tomato in La Oliva. For around €40, we selected a meatball (on bread), deep-fried cod (on bread), a fried egg with paper-thin pata negra (on bread), a shrimp puff pastry and a fig stuffed with melted Cabrales.
The sweet fig with pungent Cabrales was the standout pintxos on the plate. There was nothing specifically wrong with the others but they fell a little flat, as if the chefs viewed the addition of bread with almost everything as an excuse not to worry about seasoning.
Service was distracted and the wines we tasted – a Verdejo (€4.55) and Tempranillo (€5) – pricey for the quality.
An effort has been made to recreate Spain in Amsterdam. Hams and sausages hang from the ceiling and the wall behind the dark wooden bar is lined with liquor and wine bottles. On the narrow pavement outside, there is just enough space for a handful of tables to be wedged between the building and Amsterdammertje bollards.
La Oliva is an ideal spot to watch Amsterdam life go by, and it's the reason I'd go back. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the pintxos or vinos.
Mon-Wed and Sun midday-22.00; Thur-Sat midday-23.00. Bar open until 01.00
Telephone: 020 320 4316
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