Detailed history from 1870 to 1920
In 1868 the Hulscher brothers came to an agreement with Mr. G.A. Heineken, owner of beer brewery 'De Hooiberg', a traditionally brewed beer already mentioned in the annals of 1675. Under the name 'Gebroeders Hulscher' they opened a beer house on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, situated behind the brewery. Therefore the two neighbour storehouses had to be rebuild.
With this rebuilding an old tablet was found in a wall. On this tablet was a representation of several buildings in the Old-Neurenberg style, with the inscription: 'Die Port van Cleve'. The Hulscher brothers decided to name the new beer house after this tablet. The name referred to a middle age fortified city.
On 5 September 1870 the beer house was officially opened and from the first moment on it was crowded every night. In this beer house only beer brewed in the brewery 'De Hooiberg' was served, which had an excellent quality. A location as large as Die Port van Cleve was a new understanding in Amsterdam.
The beer house was well visited. The good name of 'De Poort', spread quickly through Holland. All over the country beer- and coffeehouses were opened copying the name 'Die Port van Cleve'. In August 1872 the Hulscher brothers announced in an advertisement that other companies with this name had nothing to do with their product in Amsterdam. They believed the success of Die Port van Cleve was carrying a bad product that way.
At the same time another point was proven. Not only locals loved to visit 'De Poort', but it was also very appealing to all visitors of Amsterdam. Even provincials felt very comfortable and spread the word throughout the country, as a place of interest in the capital city. 'Die Port van Cleve' received great recognition, without real organized advertisement. On special occasions they got attention by organizing extraordinary activities.
In May 1874, while celebrating the 25th reign of King William III, the whole façade was covered with a huge wooden fence, decorated with 7500 lamps. These lamps resembled the original building 'Die Port van Cleve' as shown on the old tablet.
In the meantime an eating-house was added to 'Die Port van Cleve'. The world-famous steaks made their appearance and even shaded partly over the 'Hooiberg' beer's fame. During the party in May 1874 the place was crowded and the demand for steaks and chop was enormous. Still the place was closed at seven, because all hands were necessary for illuminating the candle lights.
Eventually the 'Hooiberg' brewery was relocated to the 'Buitensingel' in Amsterdam, now known as the 'Stadhouderskade', where the present 'Heineken' brewery arose. As the canals were filled up and therefore transport was impossible, moving became necessary.
In 1876-1877 the backside of the building was completely renovated. This renovation offered space for a much larger kitchen, its necessary departments and facilities.
In January 1879 big parties were planned for the entry of King William and his spouse Queen Emma. The Hulscher brothers designed a great project for this occasion. Even though the party was cancelled, the project came through. The first week of February 'Die Port van Cleve' was electrically lit every night. The people in those days already heard a lot about electrical lighting, however they never saw it being used in such an establishment before then. Therefore this project attracted a great amount of people from everywhere.
From then on 'De Poort' was literally attacked. One had to have a beer and food under the bright electrical lightning. The mayor and his aldermen showed up to be aware of this novelty, noticed by the whole community. All over Holland manufacturers and owners of big companies travelled to Amsterdam, to see this famous light. It was an expensive project, but that could not scare the Hulscher brothers. With this they proved their progressive (business) spirit.
At the end of the 19th century it wasn't custom for ladies to enter coffeehouses, it was even indecent. 'Die Port van Cleve' changed this; behind the building, surrounded by high houses a courtyard was hidden. This court was named 'Het Tuintje', the little garden. During the summer months this little garden was filled with people. The call of joy even made the loyal visitors bring their wives and children to this garden. Even distinguished ladies from the city came to take a look. Unfortunately the little garden was indefinitely closed on 1 September 1885. It had to be sacrificed to offer better use of space for the company.
In 1888 in- and external changes were accomplished. The façade was completely renovated in the Dutch neo-renaissance style, with sand stone, brick and high windows. This architectural design came from Amsterdam architect Isaac Gosschalk. Gosschalk was also famous for the design of the Westergas fabriek and the Central Station of Groningen.
Big changes were also made in the kitchen and restaurant departments. Apart from the extra light from the big windows, the main dinner room did not change much and still made the loyal visitors feel at home.
A new building was purchased by the Hulscher brothers, the building next to 'De Poort', Bodega 'De Blauwe Parade', which was opened on 3 July 1880. A great tile freeze was designed by the director of the 'Rijksmuseum'. The freeze was produced in 1887, by Joost 't Hooft & Labouchere and A. Le Comte, from 'Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles' in Delft.
The freeze shows a parade of children, simulating the historical triumphs from the Golden Century in honour of the emperor Maximilian. The emperor is recognized by its crown and the three crosses on his chest. These days the crosses are still visible in the Amsterdam city sign. They stand for heroism, determination and mercifulness. In the Bodega delicious Mediterranean wines, stored in the wine cellar, were served.
Not only did 'De Poort' have wines in storage for own use, the company also owned a wide winery. 'De Poort' had a direct connection with famous wine houses in Oporto, Cadix en Jerez de la Frontera for different port wines and sherry wines.
After many changes in the first period 'De Poort' stayed the same for many years. Until in 1910, around the 40th anniversary, a big change was made subjected to the new time and to them who appreciated their comfort. The upper floor was changed into a modern restaurant, according to the latest demands and with its own kitchen. There was no need for climbing stairs, as an elevator was installed to the French restaurant. The interior decoration was very elegant, with carpets, white table linen and modern heating. The atmosphere was very relaxed. Even the waiters made sure the guests would not be disturbed, they moved noiselessly with polite gestures and spoke in a special French kitchen language.
The eat house 'De Poort' system, meant to serve the best possible food as fast as possible. The speed of the order was very important. After ordering, the waiter shouted this as loud as possible. The waiter behind the buffet echoed the order to the kitchen, repeating it without missing a word. After the preparation in the kitchen, the whole order was echoed back to the restaurant.
Imagine..., a room full of people waiting to order. All those orders, shouted through the room by waiters and echoed into the kitchen, before quickly being prepared and served. One might get an impression, of the noise and cozy rumor caused by all this. In this vibrant room, sophisticated stockbrokers and merchants, were eating together with locals, farmers and provincials. Everybody was equal; there were no differences in ranks. In those days people did not rush. However every time a person had finished, his place was soon occupied within the next person again. On rush hours a table could be used four times. Nowhere but in 'De Poort' the original German custom was used: everybody was placed next to each other. Without asking strangers sat besides one another, both men and women.
Many guests repeatedly had the same table and wanted to be served by their own waiter. He knew what they liked. They didn't even have to order anymore. From toothpick, aperitif to a certain newspaper, the waiter knew and remembered. Everybody enjoyed the place and the fabulous steaks with potatoes and eggs.
The secret of these special steaks lies in the fact that they were prepared on peat fire. In 'De Poort' they followed the art rules of preparing, served straight from the frying pan.
The most important element in 'De Poort' is not to be forgotten: the waiter. This man was in direct contact with the guests and fulfilled an important role. He treated his guests confidentially and knew them all by heart. Still he never became to familiar with them. The waiter worked eagerly and rapidly, as custom in 'De Poort'. None of these waiters works here anymore, but the spirit and tradition is still alive.
There were not only rush hours in 'De Poort'. For a short period of time it was crowded, after that it became relatively silent. Especially during coffee time and in the late afternoon it was quiet.
Unfortunately there was a period, which didn't leave many pleasant memories. During the years of war, 1914-1918, Die Port van Cleve endured a less flourishable time. Especially during the time of distribution it went from bad to worse. 'De Poort' without steaks was no longer De Poort. This period endured 5 months. There was also no butter, but as long as it was possible, the chef in De Poort continued to bake, only with their own ration. Still everyday, but only until lunchtime.
As surrogates for the steak, all kinds of fish were delivered and what was officially called offal, amongst which tongues, liver and fish. In the kitchens the chefs accomplished miracles and developed new dishes continuously. Examples were fried eggs with kidneys and kidney dishes. In stead of real meat, corned beef and other canned food was served.
In many different ways they accomplished to keep the company running as well as possible.
Regular visitors were however regularly disappointed when confronted with these unusual dishes. Curiously enough many foods were developed during this time, which are nowadays considered to be delicacies.
When you visit Die Port van Cleve nowadays, you still taste the atmosphere of historical times. Within this historical frame the developments have continued. Modern facilities and elements are integrated tastefully in the historical architecture of the building. The combination of history, hospitality and personal service continues to live on in Hotel Die Port van Cleve and assures each guest an extraordinary stay in the bustling city of Amsterdam.