Restaurants come, and restaurants go. But every once in a while you come across a place you know has real staying power, a place you can tell will become a weekly go-to for neighbours and a special occasion spot for many. Not too long ago, we encountered one of these special places: Restaurant Watergang. We can think of few other places like it in the world. It's intimate, it's warm, it's everything we love. Naturally, we had all kinds of questions for Watergang's team, so we had a chat with Tim & Mo to find out how they came to create such a magical spot.
You might have heard the good news: we're having a baby! Well, a book baby, that is. After years of bringing you the best of the best of travel tips on the web, we decided to take pen (or printing press) to page & bring you an amazing, practical, beautiful guidebook to the city that is nearest & dearest to our heart. Which city is that, you ask? Why, Amsterdam of course! So now it's time for the countdown to begin.
As our publishing date grows ever closer, we want to give you some sneak peeks into what's to come to get you as excited as we are. Our book is nothing without the incredible shops, restaurants, bars & businesses we love, so it's important to us that you get to know them a bit as well. That's why, until the launch of our book, we are going to be bringing you interviews with the inspiring founders of some of our very favourite spots.
gloobles: Hi guys! Thanks for chatting with us. Let's start at the beginning. Has food always been something that captivated you?
Tim: Ever since I was a young boy, I knew that I wanted to be a chef. Cooking was a big part of my childhood, and my parents were always in the kitchen.
Mo: For me, most definitely. I’ve worked in restaurants and have done catering since I was 17 years old. But even before that, I loved cooking. I loved spending the money I earned babysitting & catering on good coffee, lunches & dinners.
- gloobles: Food always on the brain. We know that feeling. So how did you guys meet?
Mo: I met Tim at Xampaniera Centra, one of our third partner's restaurants, Hotmamahot. Tim was the chef, and I was the manager.
Tim: Mattijs & I met through Joris Bijdendijk. Mattijs was working for him at Bridges, andI’ve known Joris since high school. Then Mattijs & I worked together at Bord’eau's patisserie. When Mo & I started talking about a restaurant, I knew from the start that I wanted Mattijs as my sous-chef
- gloobles: Now we know how you guys met, can you tell us about the journey you went through to open Watergang?
Tim: When I was 18 years old, I went to the Hotel School in Amsterdam. It was a 4-year course with several internships. My final internship was at Hotel de L'Europe. I fell in love with the industry in that kitchen.
Mo: After my second master's degree, I realised I didn't want to be a journalist and my hunger for hospitality & management had grown. So I talked to Hotmamahot about opening a restaurant with them, but I was still quite young. That's when I started as manager at Centra and met Tim. At drinks after work, we both started talking about our dream of opening a restaurant. But neither of us were in a rush: Tim’s partner was pregnant and I was starting my job at Rijsel. But then our partner saw that La Cacerola was going to close… we knew we had to embrace this opportunity with open arms.
- gloobles: Sounds like it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Are each of you in charge of something different at the restaurant?
Tim: I’m in charge of the kitchen & the menu development.
Mo: I’m in charge of the front of house, meaning the reservations & the guests, as well as social media & marketing. And, of course, the wine, which I love to do.
gloobles: A job for everyone. That way you don't end up with too many cooks in the kitchen hahah. We used to go to La Cacerola all the time! It’s so difficult to maintain the spirit of a place that was so beloved while still carving out your own space in people’s hearts, but you guys have done a smashing job. How did you do that? Why did you choose the location?
Mo: We fell in love with the space the first time we saw it. We also knew that with a restaurant that has so much history, we needed to keep all the original elements. So we repainted the place to make a bit lighter and more like us. We built a bar and added some wood elements. But we kept the original tile tableaus, the floor & other details. So people who visited La Cacerola often will still feel at home. Also the original owner of La Cacerola lives next door; she's about 90 years old now. We gave back to her because she has the most memories of us all.
- gloobles: We really love that you kept some of the original elements but made them your own. It's like evolution. Why do you think Watergang is so special?
Tim: You really feel our love for the restaurant.
Mo: I think that the building is so special, with lots of history. It's so cosy. I think because both of our hearts are in this place, it’s super personal. It's like a living room with good food.
gloobles: Wow, that's actually a perfect way to describe it. Can you tell us about the name?
Tim: Watergang means Wetering, and we are located on the Weteringstraat.
Mo: It was one of the first names we came up with. I think our partner Thomas found it. We kind of forgot about it, but after thinking of the craziest names, we all wanted to go back to the basics, & that is when we voted for Watergang.
- gloobles: Sometimes simplest really is best. Who or what inspires you?
Tim: My parents, as well as chefs all over the world. I also get inspiration every day from my girlfriend & my one-year- old son Benjamin.
Mo: All the women working at the Amsterdam horeca. Like Odette who started Buffet of Odette as a young woman and made it into one of the most popular spots in the city. Also Milene Hoving who owns Restaurant Amsterdam & four other restaurants and teaches many young Amsterdammers to be good waiters. But also many men, of course. Many friends & old colleagues who opened their own restaurants or followed their dreams to become wine suppliers or makers.
- gloobles: There's inspiration everywhere, if you just take the time to look for it. Do you have a favourite dish on the menu?
Tim: I try to make every month better than the last month, so for me, it is the second course on the current menu: a simple but delicious onion soup.
Mo: We change monthly, but I always love the dessert on every menu. And we had this pulpo dish with sauce bordelaise; it was delicious.
- gloobles: We're suckers for dessert too. How would you describe the food at Watergang to someone who’d never been?
Tim: Comfort food 2.0.
- gloobles: Everything on the menu feels very carefully sourced. What's your strategy?
Tim: I have a few suppliers that I've been working with for a while. But I'm always looking for new & interesting suppliers.
Mo: When we started, I contacted a few wine suppliers I knew from the other restaurants where I had worked. They all had a country as their speciality. My favourites: Italy, Germany & France. I go to a lot of tastings, and suppliers often come to our restaurant with new bottles. We’ve added lots of natural wine recently, but we like to combine it with the more classical style as well.
- gloobles: Totally. It's good to mix things up. That way you can really curate a super special list. When you’re not eating at Watergang, where do you like to eat in Amsterdam?
Tim: Pianetta Terra is a Italian restaurant on the Beulingstraat; the owners are friends of mine, and the food & wine are always spot on. For a more special event, I like to go to restaurant RIJKS.
Mo: I love Rijsel because of the amazing comfort food they offer, the incredible wine list & the great staff. Also, I like to drink wine at Entrepot's & Scheepskameel's bars. Both have incredible wine lists. The restaurant I have visited most often since I was a baby is Café Restaurant Amsterdam. It's in an amazing building, has young but good staff and serves good brasserie-style food. I also love to read the weekend papers there with a good salad or shrimp croquettes.
- gloobles: All great choices. Do you guys have a favourite restaurant in the world?
Tim: That would be Restaurant Halvemaan. Unfortunately, the restaurant is closed now, but I had the best dining experience in my life there. My father took me there when I graduated from the Hotel School. It was the first time I ate sweatbreads with foie gras sauce... it was so good!
Mo: Wow, that’s difficult. It might be the restaurant at the beach in Italy near my parents' place. We always go there to eat pasta vongole. It is not the best restaurant, but I have the best memories.
gloobles: It's funny how that happens. You love a place for the memories & not just the food. Though of course it doesn't hurt if the food is terrific too. If you could share a meal with anyone in the world at Watergang, who would it be and why?
Tim: Miles Davis because he is a genius.
Mo: My business partners. They’re the best crowd to have an amazing night with. We went to Paris together for 3 days, & I’ve never drank, eaten or laughed as much as I did then.