Here’s an idea. Why not turn Fontein, the restaurant on top of Hofplein 19, into a scenic viewpoint? Ascend to see Rotterdam Central District (RCD) at your feet, then grab a bite to eat in the rooftop restaurant where Chef Ronald Koolmees serves up his creative creations.
This is a good segue into something I’d like to say about the importance of cafés, restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs in RCD. More to the point, about how important they are – with stars or without – for keeping a city alive. Alongside cultural venues, drinking and dining establishments are the pulse of a place and what make any urban centre appealing. If that pulse stops, it goes dead and barren.
I can still see and feel Roeland Flierman of Mess Group, in the spring of 2020, gazing sadly across the fences and barbed wire blocking access to Biergarten. In the depths of the pandemic, I regularly walked through RCD. Everything was shuttered, dead, deserted. Above all, there was deafening silence. Biergarten – that pioneer of serendipitous encounters between suited and booted office workers and longboard-toting creatives – sat abandoned. Normally, the sun-drenched wooden staircase is the place to meet. Now, it wasn’t.
A wispy cloud veils the sun as Ron de Jong and I stare down towards the Weena café-bar from the terrace of his rooftop restaurant. De Jong, like Flierman, is a restaurateur in RCD. From his rooftop restaurant, Fontein, he gazes towards Weena, his other establishment in RCD. He sees and feels that, in spite of all the uncertainties, the pulse is stuttering back to life. In fits and starts, Holland is gradually unlocking.
The next day, I see, feel and taste the pulse that De Jong was talking about. Wilfried de Jong, Benjamin Herman and Cathelijne Beijn, better known as DJ Rita Lynn, are standing behind a DJ mixer, spinning sizzling new and old jazz out in front of the Bird jazz stage. Rotterdam is jazz – jazz is Rotterdam. But right at this moment, jazz is the AED of RCD. As dusk falls, Hofplein 19 and Hofplein 20, aka Hofpoort, rise up, and Andre, my server, pours an excellent Perrin Luberon. Later, walking across Biergarten, I see more signs of life. Slowly but steadily, our pulse is returning.
Let’s show our local hotspots some heart; they’re the ones putting the jazz into our daily lives.