Nothing chic too, just french fries

Brasserie Bardenburg in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. Current owner Gijs Numan: ‘Herman den Blijker wanted to make it sort of Rotterdam on Amstel. Things did not go well.Jacob van Fleet statue

Brasserie Bardenburg, the famous restaurant in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, is 375 years old. The exact date of this anniversary is unknown, and there is also a lot of uncertainty about the year itself.

1647 is painted on the facade. At least, that’s how former owner Dick Hooft (86) found it when he bought Bardenberg in the mid-1970s. No idea where that year came from. Images of Bardenburg from before 1968 still have “anno 1702” written on the front.

The current owner, Gijs Numan (42), does not want to turn it into a historical rhetoric, he is a businessman enough for that. It’s written on the front 1647, so it’s 1647 – and celebrated this year. It offers a slightly cheaper three-course menu (€37.50) in October and November.


Anyway, let’s talk about early history. The location of Bardenburg was excellently chosen at the time. The distance between Amsterdam and Oderkerk was exactly the distance a horse-drawn carriage could handle, and Bardenburg was used to switch horses. The owner at that time had about three hundred horses interchanged in his stable (hence Bardenburg), and the wealthy class exchanged their horse here, to continue the journey new. There are gas stations for that these days.

Or, if they were there, they stayed in Bardenburg for a drink and a drink, or an overnight. This was also a regular stop for sandals and sandals. Then quickly talk about a Rasstat, Such parking on the highway, from days gone by.

It is difficult to say exactly how many owners over the centuries. One thing is for sure: some got rich, others went bankrupt. Bardenburg went through periods of heyday and poverty, of fine French cuisine and cut-up ribs.

We zoomed in in 1976, the year Hooft took over the Bardenburg position. Business immediately went very well. In those decades, Bardenberg was famous for being “poepie chic”. A famous saying from years ago: If you go to Bardenburg, you must have saved.

And then I got some, too.

Anyone who has had their wedding in Bardenburg received a figurine of horses made of glazed porcelain (Hooft: “Not to be thrown, right?”), and anyone who booked a reception, party, or dinner could choose: A Journey from City Hall to Bardenburg in a Rolls-Royce Van Hooft from 1936, or a wooden boat tour that was owned by Juliana.

Celebrating in the greenhouse

In 1977, Hooft brought French Paul Bocuse – the world’s most famous chef at the time – to Bardenberg to cook for three days. Bocuse brought his crew and components. Hooft paid him 10,000 guilders, but he actually got that money back with all the attention on TV for this stunt.

Hooft: “I’ve made a big mistake in my career. I said to Paul Bocuse, ‘You are the cheapest chef I’ve ever had.’ French chefs don’t know that humour.”

Hoft made another big mistake, but it ended better. At the auction he raised his hand at the wrong time. He wanted to buy a horse stable for his wife, but he accidentally bought a glass pyramid measuring ten meters by ten meters.

The greenhouse, “for all your unique celebrations and parties,” became a Bardenburg success. The downside was: it was very cold in the winter, very hot in the summer, and the noise didn’t stop the huge glass either.

Nauman: “Nowadays, every church has been converted into a party center, but it did not exist at that time, such a unique location for three hundred people. To this day people ask me: “Where is the greenhouse?”

It was dismantled by the next owner. The greenhouse turned out to be a problem on the site, certainly when more and more careful measures were taken against noise pollution.


The peak years were in the mid-1990s. At that time, Ajax’s board of directors, who is also in prime time, came to dine with the opposing team’s board before every European match. Johan Cruyff was a regular customer.

It also gets out of hand at times. The annual Beaujolais tasting is traditionally decorated with hay, horses, and guns. Only, the beaujolais can be tricky, and a number of guests began walking around with those guns, including through a room where the bridal dinner was in progress. They were dumbfounded when all of this noise suddenly appeared.

A new free dinner was offered to the newlyweds and their guests. The annual Beaujolais party has been cancelled.

Hoft: “I’ve only known the golden times.”

Less favorable was the fact that at a certain point the tax authorities put a cap on depreciation costs for representation: companies were only allowed to declare a maximum of 50 guilders per guest. Hoft: “It caused a setback for a while.”

Rotterdam on the Amstel River

In the early years after 2000, Hooft thought he was being cute. He really wanted a vacation, but he received an offer from real estate broker Jan-Dirk Paarlberg that he could not refuse. In 2001, Barlberg bought Bardenberg with big plans.

To turn the tide, Rotterdam chef Hermann den Bleecker, the most famous TV chef at the time, took over the kitchen a few years later. Paardenburg has been completely revamped, which was taped into a six-part TV series on RTL4, angel and horse.

The adventure lasted two years, but it was not successful. Naumann: “Hermann wanted to make it chic in Rotterdam, sort of Rotterdam on Amstel. Things didn’t go so well. He also had a few businesses in Rotterdam. I think he underestimated how much trouble.”

Hooft: “Paardenburg is too big to be remotely managed, you always have to show your face. People want to know you’re there.”

Then came the turn of the HME Group, with chef Ron Blau as culinary director, who, in addition to Bardenburg, became big on the market, classics like Brasserie Keyzer and Brasserie ‘t Amsterdammertje. Hoft: “It goes like Hermann. Remote managers won’t make money.”

Eleven years later, the HME group gave up and Naaman saw his opportunity. For some time he wanted a restaurant with a room for rent on the water, and he began a major renovation. Numan: “The case collapsed.”


Naaman poured half a million euros into the redesign of Bardenburg, which he reopened in 2019. He saw business flourish, and big weddings were booked again. Then: Corona.

To make things even more interesting: there was a fire in his house in Valeriusplein, and he had to move with his family to the attic of Paardenburg. Live upstairs, great renovation downstairs.

Numan: “It’s been four and a half years of fighting and building. But now we’re where we wanted to be.”

Rooms in the backyard, one complete with a theatrical stage, indoor rooms for dinner and meetings, a tour through the wine cellar, and otherwise just a snack in the conservatory, perhaps in conjunction with a boat trip.

Only, he’s still striving for one thing. Numan: “The image of elegance still haunts me. How do you get out of that? Look, I love the luxurious look, I love the linen on the table and silver cutlery. But you can also come and have a salad lunch. People want french fries. Well, we have french fries ” .

In Hoft’s time, the fixed list was the least. Now Bardenburg also has an a la carte menu. Numan: For my part, you take half a chicken. You’ll be out again for a few bucks.”

A lot has changed in 375 years, but not much.

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