food writing

Ejo #98 – Drunk In….. Colombo

Last week David and I popped over to Sri Lanka for three days.  Yup.  We popped over.   I know, I know – don’t hate.  Look, Emirates Airline was having an amazing sale, so it was cheap to get there.  I’m talking dirt cheap.  And in terms of flight time, it’s not much further than flying from Melbourne to Cairns.  So why wouldn’t we go?  Sadly we didn’t have enough time to explore the amazing beaches and mountains of the country (which just means we’ll have to go back another time).   But we did manage to do a lotta eatin’ and a lotta drinkin’.  Coz you know that’s our specialty!


So when we travel somewhere, we want to eat the food of that particular place. For instance, I would never go to Japan and eat Italian. That just doesn’t make sense to me, especially when there is so much amazing local stuff on offer. So the first station on our whistle-stop tour of Colombo was a traditional Sri Lankan restaurant called Nuga Gama at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Actually Nuga Gama was the second stop. The first was the Lagoon bar at the hotel, where we hydrated with a Seabreeze (for David) and a Salty Dog (for me).

A Salty Dog for a salty lady, at Lagoon Bar.

Ready for dinner, we headed to Nuga Gama, where we were greeted by staff dressed in traditional village outfits who just went ahead and painted ceremonial red dots on our foreheads. Turns out they were having a Jaffna Festival!! How lucky are we!?

So, Jaffna is a city in the northern provinces of Sri Lanka, known for its traditional Tamil cuisine.  And let me tell you, it’s bloody delicious.  We felt so incredibly fortunate to experience this amazing celebration of a region we’d never even heard of before that night.  We ate egg hoppers (check out the slideshow below of how a hopper is made), we ate curries, we ate breads, we ate traditional seafood soup (called Jaffna Kool), we ate ten different types of sambol (mmmmm, sambol).  And of course we drank.  We were offered two typical Jaffna choices – a sickly sweet, viscous rosé wine or arrack, which is a spirit distilled from the sap of the palmyrha palm tree (think coconut flavour, without the sweetness).  We went with the arrack.  It’s 60 proof, and it goes down easy, so the choice was a total no-brainer.  The rest of the night went by in a swirl of food, arrack and trippy dance performances.  It was a total blast and a wonderful introduction to Colombo, and Sri Lanka.

Getting into the Jaffna spirit!  In more ways than one.  😉


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We were offered cutlery, but chose to eat the traditional way, with our fingers.  It’s the only way to go kids.


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I’d like to say we finished this whole bottle of arrack in one night, but alas we did not.  We must be getting old, or wise, or something.


Jaffna Kool – an amazing soup made with seafood and palmyrha flour.


Ceremonial Jaffna dance (either that or someone slipped us a mickey!!)

77 Galle Road, Colombo 03
+94 112 437 437
Lunch: 1200-1430
Dinner: 1900-2230



Ministry Of Crab does what it says on the box.  Crabs.  And lots of them.  In all sorts of different sizes, and all sorts of different cooking methods and sauces.  And they’re super fresh and super delicious!!!  Even better, they are sustainably fished so you can enjoy them totally guilt-free.  We arrived about ten minutes early for our reservation so we went across the street to the Taphouse for a couple of ice-cold local Lion beers.  Perfect start to the meal.

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Pre-lunch local beers at The Taphouse, right next door to Ministry of Crab.  


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David ordered the specialty Sri Lankan pepper crab.  So much peppery goodness. 


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I went with butter sauce on the side.  My doctor would probably not be very happy with that choice, but my tastebuds surely were!


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Thank god for bibs!!  Crabs are messy bastards to eat.  But totally worth the stains.  

No 04, Old Dutch Hospital, Colombo 01
+94 112 342 722
Lunch: 1130-1530
Dinner: 1700-2300



We don’t normally do tours when we travel.  Of any sort.  But since we had such a short time in the city, and since we wanted to eat as much local food as possible, and since the tour was called “Eat, Eat, Repeat” we figured it’d be worth a shot.  And it totally was.  Unfortunately, because I was constantly stuffing food in my mouth my fingers were always smeared with delicious food, so I didn’t really get a chance to take too many photos.  But trust me, if you want to sample Colombo’s finest street foods then you should definitely do this three hour walking tour of the city.  We ate fried pastries, nuts, pickles, lentil cakes with prawns, porridge, ginger tea, hoppers, paratha and kottu roti (a delightful blend of veggies and chopped up roti bread).  We also got the chance to walk through Pettah vegetable market which was a wonderfully riotous attack on all the senses.

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IMG_4434 - CopyINFO:
+94 76 831 6000



While the Eat, Eat, Repeat tour introduced us to many of Colombo’s yummy treats, most street vendors in Colombo are Muslim, and so there was no alcohol involved (just one cheeky beer, dodgily wrapped in a white paper bag at the end of the tour).  So once we were done, David and I went off in search of cocktails.  Thanks to Google Maps we found The Mango Tree and The Berlin Sky Lounge close by.  The Cosmopolitans were huge, strong and very tasty!

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In our tireless search for quintessential Sri Lankan food, we booked lunch at Upali’s, a very popular restaurant in town.  We were taken to our table by the owner, who picked up on our Australian accents and asked us if we’d been to the sister restaurant in Melbourne, which as it turns out, is about a two minute drive from my Mum’s house!  It’s a small world, people!  We’ll definitely have to try it next time we’re in Melbourne and see if the quality of food is as good as the Colombo branch.  Lamentably, as seems to be the case in a lot of yummy eateries in the city, Upali’s doesn’t serve booze – the Melbourne restaurant bloody better!!  😉

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In the absence of beer, a crisp ice-coffee hit the spot while we waited for our food.  Sparkling water sufficed for the rest of the meal.  


We ordered a crab pancake, paratha with chicken curry, fried rice and fish head soup.  Mmmmmmm, all the flavours were amazing.  My mouth is watering just looking at that fish head!!!  

65 C.W.W. Kannangara Mawatha, Colombo 07
+94 112 695 812
Mon-Thur: 1130-2230
Fri-Sat: 1130-2330



Colombo was hot.  Stinky, sweaty hot.  And when it’s hot, and I can’t find a beer to save my life, I turn to ice-cream.





263, Galle Road, Colombo – 03
+94 11 5 346139
Hours: 1000-0000



So, as I’ve already implied, we would never EAT at a French café in Sri Lanka.  But nothing’s going to stop us from DRINKING there.  We turned up to this French bistro at about 1.56pm and asked if they were serving drinks.  The two barmen looked at each other, then they looked at their watches, and then they looked at each other again and said, “Of course, take a seat at the bar – but we have to stop serving at 2pm”.  Legends!!  Turns out there’s a law prohibiting the sale of alcohol between the hours of 2pm to 5pm.  We snuck in a couple of Negronis, tipped the barmen handsomely, and then walked home for a lovely afternoon nap.  Coz that’s just how we roll.

48 Park St, Colombo 07
+94 114 502 602
Tue-Sun: 1000-0000



OK, so, I have to admit I don’t like eating or drinking at fancy places anymore.  I like to keep things real.  I like to keep things authentic.  Genuine.  Down and dirty, even.  But sometimes, keeping it real means embracing history.  And Colombo’s history is steeped in colonialism.  There’s no getting away from that.  The Portuguese, the Dutch, and most recently the British have all put their stamp on Colombo and, despite how I might feel about that, it has become an indelible part of the city and its history.  And so, it was that we found ourselves at Galle Face Hotel on the last night of our trip, having sundowners at Traveller’s Bar.  And, check this out!  At sunset, a Sri Lankan man with lovely legs wearing a rather short kilt played bagpipes while another dude lowered the flag out the front of the hotel.  Talk about a flamboyant (and not a little bit ostentatious) mixing of the cultures.


Cocktail Round #1 (the one in front was made with my new favourite booze – arrack!!!)


Cocktail Round #2 – A sangria thingy and a minty thingy.  


IMG_4488Cocktail Round #3 – a couple of pink grapefruit numbers.  David had the negroni and I had the margarita.  Most refreshing.  


We had initially just planned to go to the hotel for drinks but we were lured by Seaspray restaurant advertising “a traditional Sri Lankan seafood experience, crafted entirely from fresh seasonal Island produce and coastal seafood”.  Hard to say no to that.  So we had drinks and dinner (and then drinks again) at the hotel.  It was pretty nice.  I’d recommend it.

The menu at Seaspray.  You can mix and match, but their recommendations of cooking style and sauce with the featured seafood is pretty spot on.  And the seafood itself?  Super fresh goodness.  I don’t know how, but we managed to score a table right on the beach, and we literally got misted with seaspray.  It was pretty fucking romantic. 


Whitebait with fresh lime and chilli salt (and the ubiquitous and delicious curry leaves).


The most tender salt and pepper cuttlefish you’ve ever eaten in your life.




The pièce de résistance, local fresh rock lobster.  YUM!

2 Galle Road,Colombo 3
+94 11 254 1010
Lunch: 1130-1430
Drinks: 1700-2230
Dinner: 1900-2230


Ejo #94 – Drunk In….. Lisbon

Sometimes the inspiration to write a “Drunk In…..” post hits me long after the fact, when it dawns on me that I’ve got heaps of photos of us being drunken fools in some foreign city.  Other times I just know that a city is going to be excellent “Drunk In…..” material before we even set foot in it.  Lisboans are renowned for their love of eating, drinking and staying up way past their bedtimes.  As you know kids, that’s my kinda town.



So, we got to town, dropped off our bags and hit the street.  No point dilly dallying.  We were staying right around the corner from the Mercado da Ribeira (officially known as the Time Out Market…. blech!).  The market is known as a world-class food hall but we had a fancy dinner booked that night and didn’t want to ruin our appetites.  We were, however, looking for a drink (natch!) and we also just wanted to scope the place.  It was buzzing on a Monday afternoon which is always a good sign.  We grabbed a couple of large glasses of white sangria to ease into the spirit of things and figure out our next move.


A food hall is a great way to eat a quick bite of really good food.  Time Out Market only includes vendors that rate four or five in their reviews, ensuring the quality stays high.



White sangria is the shizzle!!  Delicious and refreshing and alcoholic.

481 Av. 24 de Julho
Sun-Wed: 1000-0000
Thurs-Sat: 1000-0200



Unsurprisingly, our next move was a quick recon to find the best pastéis de nata in our ‘hood, Cais do Sodré.  You might recognise these little delights as Portuguese tarts, but don’t you dare call them that in Portugal.  You call them pastéis de nata or you just go home right now.  I have a feeling that some of you might think you know what these things taste like.  I’mma stop you right there.  You don’t know, you just think you know.  Don’t worry about it, we thought we knew, and we didn’t know.  That first bite totally blew our minds.  How on earth could something taste so good?  I’m talking next level.  I won’t tell you how many of these we had during our four days in Lisbon.  Not because I’m embarrassed.  I just lost count.  Let’s say a ludicrously large number.


Look for this sign to enter pastry heaven.






O.  M.  F.  G.

Rua do Loreto 2,
+351 21 347 1492



Pensão Amor was one of those perfectly serendipitous discoveries that totally begets a “Drunk In…..” post.  We’d been walking around for hours and were in need of a refreshing libation (and also a toilet), when lo and behold there it was, in all its quirky glory.  A lot of cocktail bars don’t open until evening, but the great thing about Pensão Amor is that they appreciate the merits of daytime drinking and, thoughtfully, fling open their doors at 2pm. David ordered cocktails while I went in search of the loo, which ended up being a very small, candle-lit, graffiti-splattered cubicle with a very curious, but delightful, display of Barbie dolls doing unspeakable things to each other to entertain you while you do your business (I did say quirky, right?).


David’s Pisco Punch (kinda like a Hawaiian Pisco sour – which actually really works) and my Hemingway (yeah, sometimes I can be a classy bitch).



The bar has several rooms – this one is the Wild West saloon style room with a projector showing silent black and white movies of circus freak shows from the 1920s.   Quirky. 

Rua Alecrim 19
Sun-Wed: 1400-0300
Thur-Sat: 1400-0400
+351 21 314 3399



A Cevicheria is a very fashionable, very well-reviewed ceviche restaurant that doesn’t take reservations (booooo!).  What makes this place so great is that, since they’re making people wait on the street, they’ve opened up a little window on the side from which they serve delicious Pisco sours.  Yay, Pisco sours!!  And you don’t even need to be waiting for a table to get them.  You just roll on up and drink them in the street before carrying on with your business.  Have you ever heard of anything so civilised????


The shop front, with the Pisco Bar on the right hand side. 



Gotta have limes if you’re making Pisco Sours. 



We’re drinking Piscos, and you’re not. 

R. Dom Pedro V 129
+351 21 803 8815



Fado is a style of Portuguese music expressive of all the melancholy and malaise the Portuguese have experienced since… well, forever.  The country may now be enjoying an upswing in fortunes and, paradoxically, so is the popularity of this mournful music.  It’s definitely a must-do if you visit Lisbon, and the best place to see it is Alfama.  This neighbourhood is all small, narrow streets and cobblestoned, winding alleys.  Ramshackle houses, cracked and peeling, tumbling onto each other, but somehow still standing.  It’s historic, it’s sorrowful and it’s beautiful.  Just like fado itself.

We’d been told by a local that we “had to go” to Clube de Fado but sadly we arrived too late on a Saturday night (and without a reservation – rookie mistake).  We walked around looking for another reputable fado joint, but they were all full.  Determined, we followed the strains of soulful crooning emanating from an outdoor tasca and made a beeline for it, scoring a table for dinner.  Unlike Clube de Fado, where only professional singers perform, tascas are more an open-mic affair, and during the course of dinner we heard two great performances and one average one.  Next time we’re in Lisbon we’ll make a point of booking a table at Clube de Fado.

Despite missing out on a professional fado performance, we were all smiles.  Lisbon can do that to you.  Also… wine. 



Even average seafood in Lisbon is good seafood.  But it wasn’t good enough to rave about.  This “Drunk In…..” gig isn’t all unicorns and rainbows, friends.  Sometimes it’s a little hit and miss, but we put in the hard yards – just for you.  You’re welcome.




Good coffee is an absolute necessity for “Drunk In…..” shenanigans.  It’s always such a pleasure when we find the perfect coffee place on our travels.  And in Lisbon, that place was Fabrica.  Consistently great coffee with always friendly, smiling service.  Exactly what you need when you’re recovering from a night of revelry.




Absolutely perfect flat whites – every time. 

Rua das Flores 63
+351 21 139 29 48



There was one reservation that we’d made in Lisbon that I absolutely didn’t want to miss, and being such eager beavers we turned up half an hour before they even opened.  What to do???  Tsk tsk, if you don’t know by now, you’ll never know.  Obviously we went in search of refreshments, and found them across the street at Tiles Bar in the form of our favourite Portuguese drink, white sangria.  Unfortunately it took them 25 minutes to serve, but they did make it from scratch, and it was yummy, so we couldn’t get too mad.


The sangria you have when you’re thirty minutes early for your lunch reservation.

R. Palma 312
Mon-Thur: 0900-0000
Fri: 0900-0200
Sat: 1100-0200
Sun: 1100-0000
+351 21 138 4724



After knocking back our sangria, we walked across the road to Cervejaria Ramiro, which by now had a throng of people waiting outside.  We were unsure if we should wait in line or push our way to the front, so we pushed our way to the front and hailed down a waiter to tell him we had a reservation.  Thanks to google we already knew which dishes we just had to have.  Clams Bulhão Pato, tiger prawns, lobster and red river shrimp.  We also knew to leave room for their specialty dessert of prego, otherwise known as a steak sandwich.  Yup, I said steak sandwich for dessert.  Do you see now, why we had to eat here.

During the course of the meal, we became progressively drunker and fell progressively more in love with our wonderful waiter who was everything a waiter should be.  Should I ever find myself in the predicament of having to order a “final meal”, I’d ask for a long, boozy lunch at Cervejaria Ramiro with João serving me seafood until it runs out.


This is what they bring to the table right after you sit down.  DO NOT EAT THE BREAD!!!  It’s a trap!!!!  Save it for soaking up all the crustacean juices later on.  Trust me. 



Why not beer AND wine?



Clams, glorious clams.  This particular style is called Bulhão Pato, after the 19th century Portuguese poet António de Bulhão Pato who was particularly fond of his shellfish cooked in garlic, white wine and coriander.  I also, am particularly fond of my shellfish cooked that way.  These are exceptionally tasty and my mouth is watering just thinking about them!!!!






We asked for more lemon.  We got a large, hot serving dish of magnificent bubbling oil, chilli, lemon and garlic.  HOW DID THEY KNOW?????!!!!




A steak sandwich?  For dessert??  Oh hell, yes!!!!



When you both fall in love with your waiter, it’s only polite to ask what his name is.  His name was João.



Marry us João!!  

Av. Almirante Reis nº1 – H
1200-0030 (Closed on Mondays)
+351 21 885 1024



After such a phenomenal meal, it only makes sense to wrap things up with a wee digestif.  And what better digestif than local delicacy ginjinha, a very tasty liqueur made from Morello cherries, brandy, sugar and cinnamon.  And what better place to get it than the iconic A Ginjinha, which has been serving this liquid deliciousness from a hole in the wall since 1840.  I am in no way ashamed to say we came here for some fortifying ginja several times a day during our visit.  Let me tell you, there’s nothing like joining all the old dudes in flat caps supping cherry liqueur in the middle of the street at 9 o’clock in the morning to make you feel like a local.  There’s usually a bit of a line but they serve very quickly and the only thing you need to tell them is whether you want it with or without the soused cherries.  Hint: get the cherries.


Look for this sign.  Also, be prepared to wait as there is usually a line.  Luckily for you they pour pretty, pretty, pretty damn quickly – as you can see from the video below.  




Cheers!  Oh, and you MUST get it with the cherries.  They pack an extra little punch, if you know what I mean.  



We walked 1km carrying two little cups of ginjinha to the pastry shop just so we could see how good they tasted together.  Surprise, surprise!  If ever there was a more perfect combination than Pastéis de Nata and Ginjinha, I am yet to discover it.  

Largo São Domingos 8
+351 21 814 5374



Did you know that food in a tin is a thing now?  I’m talking about tinned seafood in particular.  Oh, it’s a thing.  Look it up.  No longer the domain of camping cuisine, seafood in a can has been elevated to gourmet status.  Naturally, the hipster restaurants followed.  And so we went to the nautically themed Sol e Pesca to check out for ourselves exactly how this new wave of preserved seafood might differ from what John West has been offering for years.  The answer is: completely different league.  The menu is brought to you attached to a fishing rod (I mentioned the hipsters, right?) and is broken up into different sections: octopus, sardines, tuna, cavala (mackerel – yum!!!), herring etc.  And then within those sections you have all the different available flavours.  Pick the ones you want (with a bit of help from the gorgeous staff, as there is no English menu) and order a jug of white sangria to pass the time while the waiter opens up your cans and presents everything nicely on a plate.  Salut!


The menu.  



The white sangria. 



The tins. 



The octopus (with lemon and parsley). 



The sardines (with garlic and oregano).



The mackerel (with chilli and thyme). 

R. Nova do Carvalho 44
Mon-Wed: 1200-0200
Thur-Sat: 1200-0400
(Closed on Sundays)
+351 21 346 7203



Across the Tagus River in Cacilhas, a little known area of Lisbon, lie a number of abandoned buildings, home to numerous cats and probably a fair share of squatters.  Also in Cacilhas is the wonderfully simple, but excellent restaurant Ponto Final.  This place serves good, honest, home-style cooking.  The menu consists of mostly seafood, as you’d expect, and that’s what we came for.  We were not disappointed.  Make a reservation, or come early like we did and grab a table with a view of the water and of the city of Lisbon shimmering on the other side.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a sunny afternoon.


The view of Lisbon from Cacilhas.



When you’re offered an aperitif in Portugal, you’d better get Madeira.



A feast for the eyes, the stomach and the soul.  For real.   The simplicity of this food is actually nurturing, comforting.  The wine is pretty nurturing too.

R. do Ginjal 72, Almada
1200-2300 (Closed on Tuesdays)
+351 21 276 0743


Ejo #75 – Drunk In….. Amsterdam 

Being my favourite place in the world, and one of my most frequently visited, I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I’ve often found myself drunk* in this beautiful, vibrant, culturally stimulating, inviting and fun city. I guess the reason I haven’t written about it before in this series is that I have kind of wanted to keep these hidden gems private. But, in the spirit of sharing and an effort at magnanimity, behold as I lay bare just a few of our favourite corners of Amsterdam (surely you don’t expect me to give up ALL my secrets) places to get tipsy and places best experienced tipsy.

The Seafood Bar

For the last couple of years it’s become a tradition that the first meal we have after arriving in Amsterdam is at The Seafood Bar, located right next to Vondelpark. I can’t remember why or how that happened, but now I simply can’t imagine eating anywhere else on that first day. It’s become one of those things that gets me excited about an upcoming trip.


To me, The Seafood Bar = Amsterdam.


Bright and lively, it’s a place where you can get some fresh seafood cooked perfectly and served to you by attractive young waitstaff with a smile and a quip. For some reason we always get the same thing. A plate of 16 mixed oysters, fish and chips and a bottle of Ruinart champagne. Any time we’ve tried to stray from that formula we usually spend about 45 minutes trying to pick something else from the menu and then end up ordering the same thing anyway. And it’s not for lack of enticing options. Everything sounds (and looks) delicious. Maybe one of you could try something else from the menu and tell me about it.


I don’t eat much bread but I eat this bread. You would too.


Invariably, the best oysters are the local Tara’s. Fucking delicious.


Light and crisp batter is the signature. Delicious tartar a bonus.


Restaurant P. King

One of our favourite places to get a morning-after fry-up is P. King. It’s a pretty ordinary looking café that serves a pretty damn good version of Dutch brekky – ham and fried eggs smothered in melted cheese. We usually get the heart-starter version with added bacon because we’re on holiday and because we’re little piggies. We also like to get a morning after beer (because: see reasons already mentioned).


My concession to healthy eating? No bread.

Foam Gallery

I always like to inject a little culture into our drunken trips and on this occasion we visited the edgy Foam Gallery to check out an exhibition on the artist Francesca Woodman who killed herself at the tender young age of 22. Photographs weren’t allowed but I managed to sneak a couple in for you.

She was doing nude self-portraits from the age of thirteen.


An exhibition so captivating I wanted to take it home with me..


I have a theory that any city worth living in has a a foodmarket, a collection of eateries and drinkeries all under one roof where you can spend an entire afternoon grazing and nibbling and sipping and slurping your way through all the stores before stumbling home for a well earned nap. Amsterdam’s version is located just outside the four canal belt but well worth the “trek”. Just like the city itself it is small but perfectly formed and worth exploring every nook and cranny. Below are some of the highlights.


Bitterballen are a Dutch staple.


More incredible oysters, with Champagne.


Spanish style gintonics. Each gin is served with different aromatics.


The most delicious cheese toasti in existence. Cheese, onion, leek, spring onion. Perfection.


So unnecessary and yet so necessary. Zabaglione canoli.

Screaming Beans

Best coffee in Amsterdam. That is all.




Best espresso I’ve ever had.


Cosy café to bunker down in when you get hit by a sudden hailstorm.

Pazzi Slow Food Pizza

It’s all in the name here. You WILL have to wait for a table (there’s only seating for about ten) but it’s well worth it. When you’re seated in the little alcove, bumping shoulders with strangers as you reach for your last slice of pizza and take a sip of your Tuscan red, you’ll feel like you’ve somehow been transported to Italy. Delizioso.


Amsterdam is littered with old-fashioned pub style drinking holes called bruine cafés, or brown cafés. They are warm, cosy, friendly and usually serve a great variety of beers. They’re not trendy places (nor are they trying to be) and the bar is as likely to be propped up by a small group of elderly gentlemen sharing a joke as it is by a younger couple playing checkers. A brown bar isn’t a place for drunken revelry but more for quiet enjoyment and if that’s what you’re after you are more than welcomed to join in. My favourite is Laurierboom in the Jordaan. We always try to drop in for a game of backgammon and a beer.

A very serious game of backgammon.


An even more serious game of chess.


* Drunk in this instance suggests to say joyfully inebriated. I don’t really advocate or enjoy the kind of drunk that is sometimes associated with Amsterdam.