Opening a restaurant can be a huge gamble, especially a large high-concept eatery that relies on being full every night for both atmosphere and revenue. Anything you can do beforehand to garner exposure, social excitement and buzz is critical. And so it was with MaMa Kelly Amsterdam.
It all began with MaMa Kelly in The Hague which proved hugely popular. There, the founders run a slick operation based in a stunning industrial-themed room, with a menu of chicken and lobster.
But breaking into Amsterdam’s thriving restaurant scene is a whole different story, and so for the launch of the Amsterdam operation they threw everything they had at it:
- Stunning venue. This time finding a home in Amsterdam’s historic Olympic Stadium, a landmark venue just looking for the right occupant.
- Instagram-ready. For the Amsterdam branch, MaMa Kelly started with a blank sheet of paper. And they went pink. Very pink. With just a touch of gold. Everything about this place screams Instagram and if you arrive here without getting your phone out for a selfie in the first 5 minutes, they’ve basically failed.
- Food. That tried and tested formula is back. Think French farm-bred rotisserie chicken, Canadian lobster, flammkuchen, steak tartare (prepared table-side)….its a crowd-pleasing formula that they know they can rely on.
- Social hype – from Instagram and Facebook teasers to blogger launches and booking windows, these guys turned the social dial to the max, hyping the launch within an inch of its life.
So when we went a few weeks after the opening I really, REALLY wanted to love it. After all, they’d tried so hard; and it had definitely got Amsterdam’s bloggers in a frenzy and….well, it’s pink.
But as you might have guessed by now, I just didn’t love it that much.
So why write it up at all? After all, there are heaps of places we’ve been to that don’t make the blog because we wouldn’t recommend them.
Well, let me explain – specifically why our disappointment might very well have been more about us than them, and why it might still be the perfect place for your big night out:
Marc and I went on a Saturday night a few weeks before Christmas. I was the one who really wanted to go – mostly to see what all the noise was about. He however, is an unpretentious kinda guy, he’s not into a big scene and tends to prefer cosy places packed with ‘gezelligheid’.
Thrust into an overwhelming palace of pink it was quickly apparent that the clientele was almost entirely female. Anyone interested in the relationship between gender and colour should study this place. I find it hard to think of any other reason why women outnumbered men here by at least 10 to 1, maybe even 20 or 30 to 1. On our floor (there are at least four) there was only one other table that wasn’t exclusively female (and it was pretty clear the guy sitting there with a couple of girls wasn’t there on a date if you know what I mean!).
Whilst its not a hen night scene – though don’t rule it out if you’re looking for one – this was a definitely a place for gaggles of leggy lovelies to come and share filthy gossip whilst knocking back a few cocktails. I know because we could overhear quite a lot of it.
And therein lies my second problem. Sadly the cocktails were AWFUL. Now I love a good cocktail – park me on a bar stool at Hawksmoor in London and I could sip my way through their entire menu of stunners, but that evening at MaMa Kelly was the first time I’ve ever had to send a cocktail back. Something that sounded fruity and frothy on the menu, tasted like I’d gargled with 90%-proof cough medicine. I explained to the waitress that I just couldn’t drink it and to be fair she was lovely and brought me a different one. The bad news is that it was just as medicinal. Maybe there was a first timer on the bar, maybe they were finding their feet, but if you’re going to offer a page of pink cocktails, you need to make sure they taste as good as they sound.
It’s beginning to sound like I’ve got it in for MaMa Kelly.
I really don’t.
I just definitely wouldn’t recommend it for date night. However, if you’re heading out with a group of girls you might very well love it (assuming the bar ups it’s game), and here’s why:
First and foremost the food. My steak tartare was superb. The chicken and lobster is also bang-on and the flammkuchen was delicious. Seriously, the food is better than all right, and let’s face it, that’s got to be the most important thing for any restaurant.
Secondly, the venue – as mentioned earlier, MaMa Kelly is spread across a number of floors, each with its own quirky take on the pink theme and each with a slightly different vibe. If I was heading there with a group of besties my preference would be the booths on the ground floor. With the DJ spinning next to me, a live singer grooving on Saturday nights, Amsterdam’s beautiful crowd hanging round the circular bar and the total overdose of pink, you definitely feel like you hit one of the city’s hotspots.
Yup, right now this is the place. Will it last? Who knows? But if you’re heading to Amsterdam and looking for somewhere to gossip, drink, eat some decent food and laugh till you cry with a bunch of your favourite people I definitely wouldn’t rule it out. Just don’t go there on date night – with someone who’s not a fan of pink.