Timo de Beurs is a man who loves dough. No bread, not necessarily sweets. But the savory work: pasta dough, puff pastry, pie dough. And above all: pâté en croûte. At Slagerij de Beurs you can go for a real classic pâté in a dough jacket. Beautiful pink pork with pastel green pistachios, coarse but tender and juicy. In a perfectly tender, greasy, flaky dough. Beautiful golden brown and brittle on the outside. Light and well cooked inside. And most importantly, no soggy bottom.
Nothing exciting, no twist. Just, exactly as it should be. The dough recipe he uses is from Yohan Lastre – ‘champion du monde de pâté en croûte 2012’ (the French wouldn’t be the French if they didn’t have an official, very important pâté competition). Timo de Beurs bought his book years ago and deciphered it with Google Translate, he says honestly. The trick: vinegar and a little cornstarch. The latter contains no gluten at all and the vinegar ensures that the gluten in the flour does not work – so you can still work, knead and shape it considerably, without it losing that delicious flakyness. He never deviated from that recipe after that.
From the croûte it was a small step to the short crusts and puff pastry. And then the viennoiserie (luxury French breakfast and coffee rolls). Now he is the chef of his own restaurant and on any given evening there are five different doughs on the menu.
With “butcher’s shop” in its name and known for pies and pâtés, you’d think it’s mostly about meat. Trust me, you’re in the right place if you like meat (I once ate a very sexy zampone, stuffed and fried pork leg). But the big surprise lies in the vegetarian dishes. The absolute highlight is the puntarelle.
Puff pastry is a ‘toasted’ dough. That is, it is rolled out many times, covered with a layer of butter, folded and rolled out again.
And then hundreds of layers of dough on top of each other. Because steam is created between the layers during baking, puff pastry acquires that loose, airy, brittle structure, like a croissant.
A faster, less laborious way is to mix the butter directly into the dough in small flakes. We call that an accelerated puff, or a rough puff the English way.
Puntarelle is an Italian vegetable similar to endive, but more delicate and somewhat finer in taste. And above all: much more bitter. The mix of raw, candied and baked puntarelle lies on a semi-beaten, lobed unsweetened cream with lots of white pepper and solid shavings of old farmhouse cheese on top. I can imagine that it can sometimes lead to some surprised looks at the table. It really is staggeringly bitter. The cold cooling, full-fat cream with the undisguised spice of the white pepper and the congealed creaminess and crunchy umami of the matured cheese is just as instant. But it works. It’s a gourmet combination, stripped down to the rock-hard, raw essence. Magnificent.
Kale – barbecued and blanched – with chestnut puree and beurre noisette and black truffle is also one hell of a vegan starter. Sparkling sweet carrots with egg yolk and breadcrumbs are welcome. Buttery thin slices of sole with an earthy trout mayo is a playful ‘vitello tonato 2.0’. The red gurnard is nicely grilled hard on the skin – cooked, but not dry. The madras-beurre blanc and the onion chutney draw the dish towards India without being out of place. Just good all.
Back to the dough. There are two pies on the menu, one with steak and Guinness, a vegetarian one with a celeriac dauphinoise. The dough is again tender, greasy and flaky, golden brown and cooked through. The steak filling is nice and wintery, warm and sweet from the brown beer. The tuber auphinoise is wonderfully creamy and sweet, but does not rise above the level of a side dish. What is striking is that they are both surprisingly light to eat: the portion size, the thickness of the dough and the consistency of the filling are just nicely balanced. Not a brick to the stomach. Dough three is a sausage roll of ‘accelerated puff pastry’ with the pheasant. A nice piece of game, good cuisson, the sausage filling is generous and quite loose on its own – nothing the whiskey sauce with heavily peated Laphroaig can’t fix.
Doughs four and five are sweet, in the form of a kouign-amann (a Breton cake, a kind of round caramelised croissant) and a Paris-Brest (a ring of choux pastry filled with praline cream). It is clear that love is more in the heart at De Beurs. The desserts are a bit clumsy and therefore lag a bit behind the rest.
The wine pairing immediately starts out strong, with a slightly oxidative chenin (raisins with chanterelles) and an old-fashioned gassy white Italian (lots of overripe fruit). Heavy fare, right at the start. There are also more adventurous bottles, such as the extremely tasty quinone from Les Clos Guillot, a strong vegetarian of the cabernet franc, but full of juice and fruit – and such a pleasantly exciting edge: is it poop or mushrooms?
All good, so. One thing remains: the elephant in the room.
Slagerij de Beurs is located in the Amstelstraat in Amsterdam, in the building that used to house Brasserie Flo, an old-fashioned French franchise formula with a fruits-de-mer bar, waiters with suspenders, an ugly suspended ceiling and lots of dark oak partitions. The young restorers immediately sanded down all the wood when they moved into the building, to make things a bit lighter. But let’s be honest, it still feels like you’re sitting in the Radisson’s hotel bar in any medium-sized city. That lack of atmosphere is fortunately more than compensated for by the enthusiasm of the trio of cheerful, great men in the service, who visibly take pleasure in keeping the glass well filled. It is good to be at De Beurs. Cheers.
Butcher’s shop de Bourse, Amsterdam
Price (2 persons): from 180 euros (2 pers.)
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A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 20 November 2021 A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of 20 November 2021