The once stuffy De Hogesluis has been scrubbed down and is now Bar Lempicka, whose name and beautiful Art Deco interior are inspired by Roaring Twenties artist Tamara de Lempicka.
Located between the five-star Amstel Hotel and Carré Theatre, Bar Lempicka still attracts elegant, older patrons. Since reopening, though, the bar has also become popular with a younger crowd, drawn by the 2-for-1 cocktail nights, live jazz (or DJs at weekends) and free WiFi.
I visited on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The bar's wine list is compact, with only three whites and three reds available by the glass, plus a couple of rosés and sparkling wines (a total of around 20 wines are available by the bottle).
It was too warm for red wine, so I started with a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. A good start, but as it turned out the best I was going to get. It was followed by a warm Italian Chardonnay, and a warm Pinot Grigio. The latter was described on the menu as having a 'delicate taste and aroma', but had no taste or aroma at all. If it hadn’t been pale yellow in colour, I could have been drinking overpriced water.
The snack menu is relatively expensive but looked like it might offer more than the wine menu had: bread with home-made dips, including hummus, tapenade and romesco (a Catalonian dip made from roasted peppers and thickened with nuts), plenty of deep-fried things, such as goat’s cheese croquettes with truffle mayonnaise, and piadine (unleavened Italian flatbread) sandwiches.
I ordered cheese straws with sweet chilli sauce, shrimp croquettes served with dill mayonnaise and bread with that lovely sounding romesco dip. After a very long wait - the bar was busy, but the abundant staff seemed to mill aimlessly between tables rather than deliver orders - soggy, undercooked cheese straws and croquettes with dill-less mayo appeared. The bread and romesco never arrived.
I couldn't finish either the Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, but was too disgruntled by this point to complain and demand refills. After another long wait, the waitress brought the bill (I had to ask for the bread and dip to be removed from it) and cleared the table without asking why the wine had barely been touched.
Bar Lempicka has location, interior and concept in its favour, but is squandering them all on poor menu choices and sloppy execution. If it hadn't been Sunday (damn those Amsterdam Sunday opening hours!), I would have walked round the corner to Sagra Dell'Uva wine shop, bought a bottle of something good and drowned my disappointment at home.
daily 09.00-01.00; Fri-Sat until 03.00
Telephone: 020 622 0209
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