Conveniently located along the Keizsergracht canal, The Dylan Amsterdam is accessed through an impressive stone archway that is all that remains of the first stone building that stood on the site, a theatre that once played host to a string of illustrious names and productions. This theatre was predated by a wooden one, which was constructed five years after the excavation of the canal began. If you travel to Amsterdam this year, 2013, it will be difficult for you not to notice events and decorations to mark 400 years since the canals were built but, having had a building on the site for almost exactly the same time, the Dylan are also celebrating (and a visit to their website or their Facebook account will allow you to see what’s on).
Charlotte and I arrived after a smooth journey across the city from The Okura Hotel. The properties could not be more different – the Dylan has an altogether more romantic and personal feel. The grand hallway is small but perfectly formed of gleaming white stone. It leads through to the reception, bar and, with the sudden warmth of deep colours and dark wood panelling, into the lounge, where plush seating is arranged beside tall windows and a roaring fire. After checking in, we had a very enjoyable conversation with Audry van der Merwe, the Dylan’s Director of Sales and Marketing, who explained to us about the hotel’s background and design, as well as informing us that we had reservations for High Wine a little later that afternoon. Charlotte and I had been quite taken with our previous cycling experience in Amsterdam so we asked the hotel if we might borrow some bikes and took a little tour of some of the pretty streets and bridges nearby to work up an appetite before our High Wine.
Our room was tucked away at the back of the hotel and it was necessary to make mental notes of the winding route; through the OCCO Brasserie, behind which lies the Michelin starred Vinkeles restaurant, up in a lift, along a corridor, down steps… The Dylan opened as a boutique hotel in 1999, with 40 rooms and suites, all of which have their own distinctive character, not only because they are decorated in different, bold styles but because they have been arranged around a small courtyard in the tall, narrow style that is typical of properties within the rings of the Amsterdam canals. This gives the building a wonderfully quirky atmosphere and it immediately felt homely and comfortable.
We stayed in a twin room in the Loxura style, overlooking the courtyard but still flooded with light. The Loxura style features earthy green and blue colours as well as copper fittings and decoration, inspired by the Loxura butterfly. The hotel’s signature suite the ‘Dylan Thomas Suite’ is also in this style, providing an eclectic yet perfectly complementary collection of furnishings that make you feel as though the room is as loved as a home. The bathrooms are spacious, with beige perlato marble surfaces and plenty of mirror space for two! We made quick use of these facilities and, although difficult to tear ourselves away from the thundering rain shower, the curiosity of High Wine lured us back downstairs.
The Dylan’s High Wine concept is similar to that of the British ‘high tea’ but with a rather splendid continental twist that pairs four treat-sized, savoury courses with four different wines. It was served in the lounge area and, lying back on the deep cushions while our first course was prepared, we were instantly persuaded that wine was rather a good substitute for tea! The courses were, as one would expect, tasting size but the real emphasis is placed on the wine and assistant sommelier Maarten was able to talk us through each pairing.
The first wine was a light, citrusy, German Kalkgestein 2009 Weissburgunder, paired with smoked albacore tuna with green asparagus and poached farmhouse egg with a pink peppercorn dressing. The pairing was inspired, each component enlivening the flavour of the other and the fish was perfectly juicy and fresh. With typical Dutch keenness for seafood, the second course was also fish, sautéed cod with lentils, celeriac and carrot with creamy roasted garlic sauce. The lentils retained some firmness, which was a nice contrast to the soft fish, and, the garlic was intense but not overpowering. The second wine was an Austrian Weisse Reben 2011 Chardonnay from Pittnauer, buttery with vanilla notes and produced using biodynamic methods.
The ‘main’ dish, although similarly sized, was duck breast with dried cherries, king oyster, sugar snaps and walnut in Madeira sauce. This was quite a sweet dish, with the duck succulent and the cherries a little sharp, but it was – again – well matched with a ruby red Wairau River Pinot Noir 2011 from New Zealand that had an almost port-like smell. We finished with a light dessert of hazelnut mousse with vanilla and dried apricots that had a crunchy biscuit layer. The wine was a delicious lightly fortified wine, a Boudau Grenache Noir 2011 from Riversaltes, France, which had had the alcohol added halfway through its production.
It was learning little snippets such as this about each wine, from trained sommeliers, that makes the High Wine so interesting for budding oenophiles. For Charlotte and I, it was interesting to hear how the dishes had evolved with the intention of complementing the wine rather than, as is conventional, the other way around. I expect there will be a surge of copycats, not just with different High Wines but related concepts such as High Tequila (sign me up!) – just remember, the Dylan was there first!
When we retired to our room later that evening, we found the beds to be irresistible comfortable. It was our last night in Amsterdam and, with the prospect of flying home the following day, we drifted off to pleasant dreams of this beautiful city. A delicious breakfast was served in the Vinkeles restaurant but afterwards, having awoken rather later than expected, hurriedly packed our luggage and with a whole day’s travelling ahead, we were aware that the dream was coming to an end. Although leaving The Netherlands was a sad moment, staying in the Dylan’s beautiful, luxurious accommodation and experiencing the innovative High Wine will not swiftly be forgotten.
The Dylan Amsterdam
1016 GB Amsterdam