“A couple of years ago, when you biked through Kruisplein at 9 p.m. on a Monday night, the streets would be deserted. Along the train tracks in the morning where Biergarten now stands, you’d be likely to step on discarded heroin needles. And there used to be a night shop here where the drug runners would gather and cause trouble.”
Nikki van Dijk sits here now with her eleven-week-old daughter on her lap. ‘Here’ is Ayla, a Mediterranean restaurant for ‘lunch, brunch, bites and dinner’ at Kruisplein. “I’m still on maternity leave,” tells Nikki laughing, because: can you ever really take time off when you’re running three businesses? Together with her associates Roeland Flierman and Tijmen Meijer, Nikki manages Biergarten, The Suicide Club and Ayla. All three located in Rotterdam Central District. So, why did they choose this particular area to do business?
“It was a combination of momentum and our desire to start a place with international allure,” Nikki explains. “The area around Rotterdam Central Station was developing very quickly. We could feel the energy here, and the possibilities. As if it was a blank canvas. At the time, we were already catering there with Mess, at the corner of the Schieblock.”
“When we heard about the plans for the Luchtsingel, we grabbed our chance to launch Biergarten. The plan for Ayla had already been worked out, but we weren’t yet able to make use of the entire building. Then, we decided to use one section to open the Ontbijtbar as a pop-up business and, meanwhile, we’ve set up The Suicide Club on the rooftop of the Groot Handelsgebouw.”
This article is published in STRICT magazine. You can read the full story online: https://rotterdam-centraldistrict.nl/strict/