Dutch cuisine tends to get a lot of a flak for being bland, boring, lacking spices… (I mean this is a nation that was trading spices for centuries! Did they not put some aside for their own use?). There are, however, two redeeming factors about the food here: one is the huge variety of international cuisines such as Indonesian (probably the best in the world, outside Indonesia), Surinamese, Vietnamese, Scandinavian … the list could go on and on. The other are the Dutch bar snacks that every decent bar, bruincafe, pub, restaurant, and so on across the country sells.
There is a great variety of different deep-fried snacks here: the bitterballen in which the ingredients of the filling are usually unknown (or better left unknown), and are best served with mustard; the frikandel, a kind of minced meat hot dog (again, no idea what animal gave up their life for it); the kaasstengels, a spring-roll like snack with cheese inside that gets oh-so-gooey when you bite into them (gotta dip ’em in some sweet chilli sauce); the vlammetjes, a spicy little snacks which will leave your fingers greasy but your belly happy, and other less exciting sounding but equally lekker bites such as the meatballs and krokets, the latter very similar to its Spanish ‘relative’ (though differing in ingredients). These nibbles are best devoured while having a drink or two (or three, or four…or…) and trust me your body will be grateful for them.
Needless to say there are more than enough places across the country that sell these snacks and there are plenty of snack bars that solely ‘specialize’ in these nibbles. The quality of the food is mostly hit-or-miss at these places however no one actually questions them when they are after five biertjes.
However, there is a snackbar in Rotterdam called Tante Nel that stands out from the crowd, for more than a few reasons. First of all they have a license to sell alcohol which means that their menu is packed with cool Gin & Tonic combinations (besides the usual beers on tap) – they even managed to convert me, an anti-G&T gal with their lovely, girly Gin & Rose Lemonade. For these adult beverages they collaborate with Barrelproof Boutique the “world’s smallest cocktail boutique,” a few blocks away from them.
No snack bar could do without French fries and the guys at Tante Nel work together with farmers in the vicinity of Rotterdam for the potatoes. They have their special way of frying them, which gets them extra crispy and crunchy.
The frikandels, meatballs, bitterballen, the meat for the stew steaming over the fries (gulp!) are also from local butchers hence while they won’t help you with that diet you’ve been doing for the past few weeks the snacks here are amazingly juicy, flavourful, and definitely more-ish.
Tante Nel is only a stone’s throw away from the Markthal, in a seemingly residential area packed with a number of different bars and restaurants. The place has an outdoor seating area, which is a jackpot during the mild spring, summer, and autumn days. There are deals every Friday: with every G&T you get a snack for free (a different one every week)!
I’ve been told that the name of the bar refers to the fact that pretty much every Dutch family in Rotterdam has a ‘Tante (Auntie) Nel’ and this familiarity definitely comes across in the vibe of the place: service is quick and friendly and the owner of the joint, Kevin, seems to know all of his guests and makes sure they’re having a gezellig time.
Kevin opened the snack bar one year ago and to show how he appreciates the fans of Tante Nel they threw a 1st birthday party BBQ for the place – he told me he is planning to make this a tradition in the years to come. I’m definitely crossing my fingers for this auntie!
What You Need to Know
Address: Pannekoekstraat 53, 3011 LC Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Telephone: +31 (0)108-460-265
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday, 12-10pm; Sunday, 12-9pm; closed on Mondays
During her visit, Noémi Nagy was a guest of Tante Nel.