Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

A night in the cells and a ping-pong dinner

This week’s travels have been full of surprises: not only did a visit to a snowbound Amsterdam result in two nights in the cells but, after the annoyance of Eurostar’s failure to provide a single vegetarian meal, a disused car showroom proved the unlikely venue for not only a top-notch meal, but also an international table tennis and pool competition between the courses.

Admittedly the Lloyd Hotel hasn’t been a prison for some years, but it’s hard to forget its past when you know you’re sleeping in a room that was occupied by the Gestapo during the Second World War. In its favour is the extraordinary quadrant dining room, with angled views through to the sixth floor ceiling, a policy of incorporating art installations throughout the guest space, and the most fantastic views across the river Amstel from my attic room. Plus the engaging staff and innovative policy of combining rooms graded 1 to 5 star under one roof, providing for an eclectic guest list.

I was in town for a European Union FP7 smart city project and so time for exploring the city was limited to a one hour guided tour, but the Arup team had hoped to profit from the music tip from a fellow passenger on the Brussels-Amsterdam TGV. In the event, a pilgramage to the Paradiso to see the new Dutch Dylan (apparently) fell victim to the inspired restaurant choice of our wonderful hosts in the Amsterdam planning department.

The car showroom quarter would normally be on my no-go list, but sandwiched between a Volkswagen and a Kia car dealership in the harbour district is restaurant Goudfazant (which I am reliably informed means ‘Golden Pheasant’). Not only is it a top notch eaterie but admist the 1970s office furniture of an all-concrete interior there lurks a decent table-tennis table, suggesting that the ping-pong revival is now breaking out of Shoreditch. The substantial gaps between courses are no doubt designed to encourage guests to build up an appetite between courses, and there is also a pool table hidden on a mezzanie floor for those of a less athletic disposition.

We managed to fit in a Wales/England vs Germany/Italy contest of dubious quality and bespoke rules, but plenty of effort between starters and mains. It would be churlish to record which pairing emerged victorious, but not everyone was trained in the art of the forehand loop at the elite Hill Street TT Academy in Burton..

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