Rotterdam’s food culture reflects this beautifully. Below is a selection of (the many) ‘friendly’ restaurants in Rotterdam, started by ambitious and passionate entrepreneurs. Give them a try and discover how rewarding it is to eat innovatively and responsibly!
10 x local and innovative dining in Rotterdam
In Rotterdam, residents and businesses alike seize a challenge with both hands. Rotterdam wears the title ‘reconstruction city’ proudly, and during crises, the focus is always on what is possible. A lack of space? Let’s use the rooftops and the water! A parking garage roof was transformed into a roof park, the Dakpark, a green oasis in M4H. And the Floating Farm illustrates how thinking (and acting) out of the box can work for you. We are facing challenges worldwide. Challenges and questions that have Rotterdam entrepreneurs looking for answers, driven by the desire to make a constructive contribution by striving for a better balance between people and nature, for example. Rotterdam is and will remain a city of change, and flexibility is second nature to the people of Rotterdam. If there is a need, they will adapt!
1. Rotonde: circular culinary
Rotonde founders Roy, Birk and Jord wanted to create a place with good food and without a negative impact on people, animals or the planet. Their progressive restaurant responds to various food issues – from origin to waste management – and is as circular as the name, which means roundabout, suggests. Cooking is done with local vegetables, grains, legumes, fruit, mushrooms and more. Preferably as pure as possible, but certainly not boring. ‘We hope to amaze you with unique combinations, vegetables that you may never have heard of and a glass of thought-provoking natural wine,’ the gentlemen explain on the website. Decide for yourself whether they have succeeded.
2. Old Scuola: Neapolitan meets Rotterdam
In Het Industriegebouw (HIG), on the Achterklooster, you can taste Neapolitan-style pizza at Old Scuola: with a light crust and thin base. But these pizzas are made with local produce which makes them Rotterdam-style too. The oyster mushrooms from Rotterzwam – grown on coffee grounds in Rotterdam’s Schiehaven – make a delicious oyster mushroom pizza. A Dutch farmer supplies the ‘Italian’ cheeses – buffalo mozzarella, burrata and fior di latte – following Old Scuola recipes. It was such a success that a second branch was opened in the charming Little C neighbourhood in Coolhaven. Drop by!
3. Aloha: (A)low waste dining
Aloha’s mission is to work in a radically different way and produce as little waste as possible. Without compromising on taste, of course. The restaurant serves dishes that change every four weeks, depending on the season and local supply. The unprocessed products come from farmers in the immediate vicinity. The entire product is processed in the kitchen and residual waste is minimised. The result is surprising creations such as ice cream from fig leaves, miso from pumpkin seeds, home-brewed beer from sea buckthorn, espresso mayonnaise and natural wines. All of them are low-waste products where quality always wins from quantity. Check out their fabulous terrace on the Nieuwe Maas!
4. Gare du Nord: organic bistro
Talking about sustainability: even the premises of organic vegan bistro Gare du Nord are reused! In a characteristic German railway carriage from 1982, you can enjoy pure, plant-based cuisine made from organic ingredients. The dishes are classic with a vegan twist: from a vegan Wellington to parsnip soup, chilli tempeh sandwich, carrot cheesecake or pear clafoutis. They serve organic beers here too: after a few, you’ll feel that train move.
5. Backyard: the ever-charming back garden
This plant-based, vegan-friendly restaurant in the heart of Rotterdam has an urban yet cosy vibe. Backyard’s smoothies alone are worth a visit: the Hulk (spinach, avocado, apple, broccoli, mango and more) or Purple Rain (acai, black, blue and blueberry, banana, apple, raspberry) guarantee a healthy start to your day. The menu is mainly vegan, surprising and friendly. No chicken died for the ‘Pulled No Chicken’, as it is made with oyster mushrooms and caramelised onion on a spelt bun, with sweet potato fries on the side. The ‘Backyard Healthy Kapsalon’ is made with sweet potato fries, (vegan) Shwarma, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion, sriracha mayonnaise and aioli. It may be a healthy alternative to the Rotterdam classic, but you’ll still stink! Don’t let that stop you though: go for it!
6. Obst & Gemüse: gemütlich dining, take-aways and cooking
Obst & Gemüse is the go-to for organic, vegetarian and vegan meals and organic wines and beers. Owner John van Leeuwen also likes to treat his guests to gemütlichkeit. He discovered for himself that cosiness and togetherness are just as healthy as the vegetable dishes he serves! His own ‘living room restaurant’ had been a dream for years and originated in Berlin. ‘Shortly after the fall of the Wall, I visited an old vegetable shop there that had been transformed into a lunchroom. Its name, Obst & Gemüse, stayed with me.’ As well as devouring an evening buffet, you can also get take-aways and attend cooking workshops. Learn to ferment or cook with tofu and tempeh. Gans gesund!
7. Spirit: 100% vegetarian
You are invited to ‘come and enjoy a 100% organic and veggie meal at Spirit,’ perhaps the very first vegetarian restaurant in Rotterdam. The buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner have been a success for years, with 50 different dishes to choose from all day long. You can also take them to go. For other responsible products, visit the Groene Passage, the organic supermarket next door. Tip: do your shopping after lunch at Spirit, otherwise you’re sure to buy too much.
8. The Harvest: a good yield for farmers and visitors
Try the Farmers Bowl from The Harvest: a plate full of quinoa salad, caramelised parsnips, beetroot salad and creamy leek soup. This restaurant and catering company buys its products from farmers, thus helping to build a sustainable food system packed with fresh produce. The bowls are pure, healthy and seasonal, with seventeen dishes to choose from. Eating healthy is not a problem here, choosing is!
9. PLSTK: Eco cafe with a focus on origins
Head to PLSTK in the dunes of Hoek van Holland (aka ‘Rotterdam Beach’). Founders Robin, Charlotte and Maxim are avid water sports enthusiasts. This is not only reflected in PLSTK’s location right on the water, but also its mission. They not only work on a charming place with good food but also on actively reducing unnecessary (disposable) plastic in the environment and on reducing their ecological footprint. You will only eat products of known origins delivered without unnecessary packaging. Just knowing that makes the homemade falafel or banana pancake taste even better.
10. Fermin: fermentation at its best
Remco and Sjanne work creatively and ambitiously with local and seasonal produce at this small restaurant on Noordplein. This ‘limitation’ is creatively challenging, with artisanal cooking techniques dominating and waste kept to a minimum. The name Fermin refers to the craft of fermentation that they frequently use. You can taste the results in the ever-changing 4, 5, or 6-course chef’s menu, preferably accompanied by a surprising natural wine.
Try it yourself!
Rotterdam is and will always be a city of change, and flexibility is second nature to the people of Rotterdam. If there is a need, they will adapt! Rotterdam’s food culture reflects this beautifully. Try it yourself! Visit these nine original restaurants and discover how rewarding it is to eat innovatively and responsibly!