For years, Bel Ami, meaning ‘good friend’, has been one our favorite French restaurants. Located in the Dutch city of Bussum, it offers classics as well as seasonal selections.

Every Saturday, my husband and I have a lunch date (and a dinner date, too). It is something we look forward to all week and a great opportunity for some quality time. Although we love visiting new places, Bel Ami has been at the top of our list of favorites for a while now. Not only because they serve French cuisine and excellent wines, but also because the service is impeccable. Indeed, returning to Bel Ami always feels like meeting up with a ‘good friend’.

The history of the restaurant goes back to the middle of the 18th century. In 1748, the building was purchased by Jan Teunissen Post, who turned it into an inn which he named ‘De Oranjeboom’ (The Orange Tree). Later, it would also serve as a location for events, a hotel and even as an emergency hospital during the war years. As of 1971, it housed a restaurant, offices and a boutique.
Though many original elements remained hidden for years, fine details (including beautiful stained glass window) were restored when it became home to Bel Ami. Today eye-catchers in the interior also include hardwood floors with decorative stone tiles in black, turquoise blue and white and a marvelous collection of stunning artwork interspersed throughout the establishment. We have spent many cozy winter afternoons inside, but when the weather is good, as it was when we last visited in late September, the terrace is also lovely.

The menu changes periodically and features a variety of French bistro dishes. There are classics such as steak-tartare (one of my favorites), garlicky escargots, Gillardeau oysters and tournedos. For lunch, choices include crisp shrimp croquettes, croque monsieur, eggs benedict and salads. If you happen to love seafood as much as I do, the ‘salade riche’, with cooked and cold fish and shellfish, is a wonderful indulgence, especially with a glass of champagne. Recently, I had their salade Niçoise (pictured below) which was sublime: the tuna was perfectly seared and the vegetables bright and crisp. Can’t make up your mind or want to see what the chef has up his sleeve? The seasonal ‘menu du marché’ is well-balanced and never disappoints. Add to that a varied wine list with plenty of choices by-the-glass, and you have all the elements of a restaurant that’s definitely worth checking out.

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