Eat like a local in Rotterdam
You’re never too far from your next snack in Rotterdam, whether it’s a slice of Dudok’s world-class apple pie or cheeky bitterballen with your beer. Make sure at least one of the city’s indoor markets features in your plans: the central Markthal, sleek Foodhallen or homespun Fenix Food Factory. All offer hot food, and are ideal for a culture-hopping lunch, which might start with Turkish flatbreads and end with fluffy Dutch poffertjes (pancakes). It’s this port city’s mix of different influences that spices up its food scene, creating something truly unique – like kapsalon, the local take on the kebab.
Five essential local eats in Rotterdam
BitterballenKoninginnenhoofd 1, 3072 AD
The best nights out are fuelled by bitterballen. Arguably the world’s greatest bar snack, they’re bite-sized, crunch-crumbed spheres, filled with meat and creamy roux. Aficionados agree that the best in town can be found at the Hotel New York, set in the stately former HQ of the Holland-America Line. Perch at the bar and order up a portion, served with a side of spicy mustard.
HerringDe Markthal, Dominee Jan Scharpstraat 298, 3011 GM
Brine-cured haring is a Dutch delicacy, and far more delicious than it sounds. It’s generally served with bread, and sometimes a simple garnish (a little chopped onion is acceptable, but pickles are a no-no for purists). The finest are the Hollandse Nieuwe, caught between May and July and traditionally eaten whole. Get your hit at Andalus Fish, in the Markthal.
KapsalonWitte de Withstraat 44, 3012 BR
This calorific late-night staple was born in 2003, when a Rotterdam barber asked his favourite kebab shop for something special. The result? The mighty, multi-layered kapsalon: fries, followed by shawarma meat, melted gouda and iceberg lettuce, liberally soused with garlic sauce and fiery sambal chili paste. Appreciate its fragrant charms at Jaffa Shoarma, on bar-lined Witte de Withstraat.
Patatje OorlogBinnenwegplein 24, 3012 KA
When it comes to saucing up their cone of friets, locals don’t believe in less is more. Sure, you could just plump for ketchup or mayo, but that won’t win you any kudos. Instead, be bold: go for the peanutty pindasaus or, better still, patatje oorlog (‘war chips’). Order a portion at Bram Ladage, and surrender to the strangely moreish mix of satay sauce, mayo and raw onion.
PoffertjesZuidplein 617, 3083 BH
Just think of these uber-traditional Dutch treats as a smaller, cuter pancake, made with buckwheat flour and yeast. Cooked in a special dimpled pan until they puff up, they’re generally served with a generous slab of butter and snowdrift of icing sugar. They’re perfect for a quick mid-morning pick-me-up: divvy up a portion at Churros & Sweets, in the Markthal.
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Image credits: © Bram Ladage; © Bram Ladage; © Hotel New York; © Andalus Fish; © Alamy; © Bram Ladage; © Stockfood; © Shutterstock; © Zeezout; © Rotterdam Marketing