It's one of the hottest tickets in town, dinner at Vuurtoreneiland. People stalk their website for months before getting a reservation. And at the end of the day, it's totally worth the effort. Set on a tiny island guarded by a lighthouse and dotted with baby goats in spring, Vuurtoreneiland is truly a special place. We chatted with Vuurtoreneiland's mastermind, Brian Boswijk, to find out all about it.
gloobles: Hi Brian! Thanks for chatting with us today. We have to say, Vuurtoreneiland is one of the most magical places in Amsterdam. What was the idea behind it?
Brian: We have been allowed to manage Vuurtoreneiland for 30 years for Staatsbosbeheer. The idea was to share this place with the public through our restaurant and to use the income to maintain the special monuments on the island. Vuurtoreneiland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site & nature reserve. The restaurant aims to connect to the experience of the island: fire, light, silence, air & space. We also call it "eating in & from nature". We use local & mainly vegetable products and work with them using traditional techniques & fire, transforming them into a refined multi-course dinner. The restaurant is deliberately small so that you can still experience nature with a certain degree of intimacy and to ensure nature isn't harmed by the restaurant. Our goal is to give visitors a mini vacation, far enough away to really escape the hustle & bustle of the city but close enough to be accessible (one hour by boat). We want them to experience space, nature & the special history of the place. It is very special that you can feel like you've entered a completely different world so close to the city.
gloobles: It's otherworldly in the best way possible. Have you always been into food?
Brian: Yes, of course. We always had good food at home. We've also done all kinds of other projects in the hospitality sector & at special locations like the nomadic restaurant Interdit, 11, AS & Trouw.
gloobles: You're so lucky to have had a good grounding in food from a young age. How would you describe Vuurtoreneiland to someone who'd never been?
Brian: An adventurous dining & island experience under the smoke of the city.
gloobles: Well put! What do you think sets Vuurtoreneiland apart from other places in Amsterdam?
Brian: Its location & character is, of course, completely decisive, both in a positive sense & in a negative sense. Visitors are always impressed by the atmosphere, romance & space of the island. On the other hand, we are of course very isolated; we have no water supply, cooking is done entirely on real fire & every bottle of wine has to be brought to the island by boat & wheelbarrow - no matter the weather.
gloobles: We love the image of our wine arriving by wheelbarrow. Totally romantic! What do you think of the food scene in Amsterdam in general?
Brian: It has grown enormously in the past few years; it's fantastic that you can eat very nice food at all levels at many places in the city.
gloobles: Very true. It's ever-evolving and ever-improving. If you're not dining at Vuurtoreneiland, where do you like to eat in Amsterdam?
Brian: There are too many nice places to mention, and unlike 10 years ago, many places that maintain a certain quality standard. We love all kinds of places from BAK & Bambino to Cafe Bern to Roti at the Albert Cuypmarkt - this diversity is true wealth for the city.
gloobles: You mentioned most of your ingredients are local and that you have a very vegetable-forward menu. How do you source your ingredients?
Brian: We maintain close contact with a group of suppliers & farmers. Finding the right suppliers, farmers & products is the biggest challenge in our profession.
gloobles: It's key for excellent food. What's your favourite restaurant in the world?
Brian: Last year we were at NOMA because two old colleagues work there, and it was very impressive. But I can enjoy tapas bar in San Sebastian or fish & chips in an English harbour just as much after a sailing trip. If you follow your nose & intuition to sincere people instead of searching for styled interiors, you can have the best experiences
gloobles: That's exactly how we like to dine. No rules. No preconceived notions. Just good food. What's on your travel bucket list?
Brian: Stedsans in the woods.
gloobles: Wow! Looks incredible. Where do you see Vuurtoreneiland in 10 years?
Brian: No idea. We live from day to day and try to keep it small. The island has been there for 300 years; I suspect it will still be around 10 years from now.
gloobles: Ok, last one. If you could dine with anyone in the world at Vuurtoreneiland, who would it be and why?
Brian: At the end of each summer season, we eat as a family in the summer restaurant. Finishing the season nicely is always a special moment to share with family & the team.