I am often disappointed after visits to what has been described as a ‘leuk restaurantje’ – a nice little restaurant – that people found ‘gezellig’ – a cozy sort of fun. ‘Leuk’ and ‘gezellig’ are superficial and indiscriminate words  – and often the restaurants are likewise, not worth a foodie’s time.

restaurant la oliva amsterdam - design with wine, ham and cheeseLa Oliva, a new Pintxos y Vinos bar on Egelantiersstraat is like that. It’s beautifully designed and heavily frequented. The food is average and high priced and the service unfriendly, inattentive and ignorant.

La Oliva is located in the heart of the Jordaan in the space formerly occupied by organic food cafe De Vrije Vork. It’s one of those locations where no restaurant ever seems to survive for a long time…

We were out and about the Jordaan, checking out the contemporary galleries, having a great time deciphering the works of the Sauerkids at gallery KOCHXBOS. We wanted a glass of wine to warm up and relive the experience, remembered the new wine bar and decided to try it out.

restaurant la oliva amsterdam - pintxos buffet on barIt looks beautiful – a dark colored but fresh design very much centered around Mediterranean food. There are large shelves stocked with wine bottles, hams hanging from the ceiling, a glass counter top full of cheese and an enormous buffet of pintxos, Basque style tapas.

It was all downhill from there.

Upon entering, the waiter gestured us to sit at the bar next to the pintxos where there were was space for one and a half guests at best. We did manage to sit elsewhere but then it took forever and two unanswered requests to be handed a wine list. The wine list is limited, about 10 Spanish wines, half of them available by the glass. I quite like red wines from Priorat and saw one was available only by the bottle. When asking if they might be able to serve a glass I was silenced by a stern note that the menu clearly stated that it was by the glass only. We ordered two other red wines, which the waiter mixed up. When we pointed this out it turned out that he had no idea about wine at all.

The wines, a 2006 Bodegas Olivares Jumilla Panarroz and a Valdepeñas house wine were ok. We were quite enjoying ourselves until a large group entered La Oliva. They were regulars and personally greeted. And within minutes they claimed the table we and another couple were sitting at entirely, pushing us to the end with the help of the waiting staff who didn’t even bother asking if we minded moving.

La Oliva is ok for a drink and some people watching when you’re hanging out in the Jordaan. But don’t go out of your way for a visit and be prepared to look after yourself when ordering wine and food and to protect your space…