Restaurants in hotels. If you’d asked me a few years ago I would have run a mile – hotel restaurants tended to fall into two categories, the fussy formality and michelin aspirations at the top end and mass catering and congealed scrambled egg at the other. But with the advent of relaxed boutique hotels like the Hoxton, a new style of hotel dining has come to town and suddenly things are not what they used to be.
And so let me introduce you to Celia. Celia bills itself as California sunshine in the heart of Amsterdam. The restaurant is based in the Kimpton De Witt hotel – a boutique hotel housed in a mashup of an 80’s building and two 17th century houses. But don’t let this architectural frankenstein put you off, the Kimpton’s interior is modern, cool and characterful which is more than can be said about the location, which although central (indeed right by Centraal Station) is one of the most touristy and least attractive parts of Amsterdam centre – think tourist tat and coffee shops rather than the canalscape of dreams.
Enter Celia – via its own entrance which makes it feel a little more like a standalone restaurant although it is also accessible through the hotel. Celia is a new concept at the Kimpton radiating sunshine yellows and a relaxed vibe. Post-Covid they are building up slowly (no doubt due to a combination of staffing challenges and diminished tourists. Not that you would have believed that on a Saturday in mid-October). So Celia is currently open for dinner on Thursday to Sunday, and brunch on the weekend. I suspect this will rapidly increase.
We booked for brunch, not least because they offer that rare Amsterdam unicorn, a children’s menu – with things my children actually eat. Something that is pretty much unheard of in cool Amsterdam restaurants.
Establishing what time brunch actually starts was slightly confusing. After trying to book on the website, emailing and making calls I seemed to end up with three bookings ranging from 12.00 to 12.45. As it turned out, when we showed up, the staff were still cleaning up breakfast but they were hugely accommodating and ushered us into the lobby where we were plied with mimosas (me) and alco-free mimosas-alike for the kids. All on the house.
One lovely champagne cocktail later, we were shown into the dining room which was definitely the brightest spot on the Nieuwendijk. Complete with ambient DJ, it felt informal and friendly and the staff were at pains to ensure we had everything we needed.
My minis opted for the fish and chips served, of course, with mayonnaise as well as ketchup. I chose the fish tacos which were excellent – the perfect escape from the drizzly tourist grunge outside.
The restaurant filled up quickly with a mix of locals and expats. It had a great vibe and was just the kind of place we like – suitable for our fussy tweens but more than grown up enough for us.
I’d definitely consider adding Celia to your dining list, especially if you want to avoid standard Italian restaurants but have youngsters in tow who are longing for fresh pizza, pasta or fish and chips whilst you fancy something a little more grown up.
It would be stretch to suggest it felt like California on an October Saturday in Amsterdam but it did deliver the dose of sunshine we were after.