How to Find Fine Dining (on a Budget)

By Marcie Asplin
Tulip Talk Editor

Who doesn’t appreciate the finer things in life? Although they often come with a hefty price tag, but they don’t have to. Fine dining is one of those categories. Yes, it’s January, and you might be starting New Year’s resolutions or detoxing, so just file this info away for the next significant birthday, anniversary celebration, or whenever you may need it. 

Despite its small size, The Netherlands has an abundance of fine dining. In 2019, there were 110 Michelin-starred restaurants in the country. There are three 3-star restaurants, 18 2-star restaurants and 89 1-star restaurants. (For comparison, a combined Belgium and Luxembourg have 139 starred restaurants, and there are 189 starred restaurants in the UK.)

Typically, to find these options, you would look at Michelin's list of Dutch restaurants. If you are looking for deals, however, then you need to make friends with a few other websites. DiningCity and Heerlijk regularly have restaurant deals and offer at least 30% off food (some restaurants have “all-in” arrangements, including wine as well) at Michelin-starred restaurants. Heerlijk also has some combined restaurant and hotel deals on its “Eten & Slapen” page, which are great if you are looking for an exceptional experience. Both websites offer “Restaurant Week” deals a few times a year. Dining City has a “Dining with the Stars” week. Deals start at €52.50 for a multiple-course meal. You can sign up for their newsletter at the bottom of their home page by entering your email in the “Stay informed” box. Heerlijk calls its offers the “10Daagse,” and the “Winners Edition” begins on Jan. 17 (three-course meals start at €28.50). If you sign up for their newsletters, you receive advance notice when those restaurant weeks are coming up, and you can plan your bookings. 

Groupon is another website that you most likely know already. They have food and drink offers around the Netherlands, too, and also have fine dining deals throughout the year. Amstelveen has its own “Restaurant Week” deals through Amstelveenz.nl. In 2019, Restaurant Week ran between 24 October-3 November. My husband’s birthday happened to be during that time, and we celebrated with a two-star, four-course lunch at Aan de Poel for €47.50 per person, excluding drinks.

“Forget fine dining,” you say. “I just want to know the best place to eat ____ (insert favorite food here) in Amsterdam (or Haarlem, or Den Haag or the Dutch city you are exploring next).” When we moved to Amsterdam way back in 2003, we had to rely on a little black book of top restaurants published by IENS to find the best the city had to offer. IENS eventually started a website, which has since been taken over by The Fork. The Fork also has an app now, which is excellent if you find yourself in an unfamiliar Dutch city and are looking for recommendations or a particular type of restaurant. In just a few clicks, you will find that their “popular selection” turns up 834 restaurants in Amsterdam, 255 in Rotterdam, 235 in Den Haag, and 140 in Utrecht. Many of these restaurants offer 30-50 percent off your food bill by booking on The Fork. Dining City has a smaller selection of restaurants (319 in Amsterdam), but they are wide-ranging and include highly-rated places like HappyHappyJoyJoy, Angolo Italiano and Mamouche.

Don’t forget, AWCA has regular events for our foodies, too. Dining Divas explores Amsterdam’s thriving restaurant scene each month. Cheap-N-Cheerful looks for meals around €20, and sometimes partners can come too. There’s also Cooking Club, hosted each month at a different member’s home with diverse world cuisines on the menus. Any AWCA member can organize an event, so perhaps the next time a fine-dining deal comes around, you’ll see it on the AWCA calendar or featured activities list — or you’ll propose adding it! 

What are your favorite restaurants? Let us know your favorites, from local places to fine dining, and we can compile some lists for you. Eet smakelijk!