Skip to main content

Brown Café

A café bedecked in all things dark brown umber. Sounds depressing? Sometimes it can be. It is a uniquely Dutch phenomenon. The colour of brown is adopted in the Netherlands as old Protestants once adorned themselves in black. Practical, reverent and clerical. By comparison the warmth of the reddish tone is almost indulgent.

I think back to childhood days in my fathers pub, where dark hues suited well the sticky mess of spilled Guinness and billowed nicotine. In Holland the Brown Café is an art form, each premises carefully replicating a non-existing time and place somewhere in the past. Today's commercial interior designer can choose any type of fitting and carpentry from weighty catalogues to meet the wishes of his 'food and drink' retail client. The Dutch are in no need of such catalogues. Once their houses looked the same, but today people are more likely to put Ikea in there living rooms with the wooden patina being left behind at the café on the corner.

Over the last decade many proprietors choose a modern Milano look, rarely it works, the stark white clean lines that begin crisp and fresh start to look cheap and tacky after a couple of years. Some smart thinkers choose to combine the two looks often resulting in charming eclectic interiors that serve leafed mint tea and squeezed orange juice.

I often get asked, "Do I go to Irish Pubs in Amsterdam?". Yes, I do. But I much prefer the Brown Cafés, they to me are the equivalent. I sometimes say to clients, "it's all about authenticity, be what you are, walk your talk". These places, although merely constructed in theme, have authenticity. It is the people who go there that make it so. The subject is worthy of a lengthy thesis, but put simply, going to a brown café is like returning to your mothers womb and who amongst us at sometime in our life has not wanted to just crawl back in.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

R.I.P

Some of you may notice that I have deleted a few posts. These in general where some of my more contentious writings with regard to my frustrations being a 'outsider' in the Netherlands. As with most things in life one needs to review and reassess at various stages. Some of these postings generated a healthy amount of comment, but this perhaps is just indicative of how people can more easily relate to critical editorial. The world press is full of such editorial writings. We read such articles on global politics whilst nodding internally in agreement, confirming our belief that we some how understand the complexities of human suffering better than those who actually live in such situations on a daily and all too real bases.

I've decided that should I post a critical comment, then I should always accompany it with a positive one because in reality that is how things are.

In addition, as a man who has worked in advertising for many years I'm all too aware of my 'brand…

What to do on Sunday's

Fr. Leo Nedersticht, now that's a good Dutch name. Whilst busy with preparations for my marriage some ten years ago, I hastily called around looking for a Catholic priest to give a blessing at my civil ceremony. This was met with distain by my first contact, promptly being told by the cleric, "we don't do that sort of thing". An alternative phone number was privided and I was informed, "you need to call Fr. Leo".

"That's the man for me", I thought. A priest with a reputation, I liked him even before we'd met in person. And, he lived up to his reputation. It was a fantastic ceremony with blessings given by both himself and a Buddhist friend, with an equally charismatic civil servant putting on a crowd cheering performance as if not to be outdone by the traditionalists.

We lost contact over the years, as happens, but returned home from vacation to hear his warm voice on the answer machine. He came for lunch a couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed…

Surveillance

A picture paints a 'probably' Dutch lady of Moroccan decent rounding a corner on the left, camera in hand, cautious eyes with olive skinned beauty - bright in the sun. On the opposite side a Dutch couple of whiter decent stroll down a lane. He, with mobile in hand, glances intently through the café window. It beacons cosyness or gezelligheid. Constantly searching for that gezelligheid is the great pursuit.

Look upwards and you will catch a CCTV camera dangling from a lamp post, forever filming the tourists and skinny junkies that wander by. In Holland caution is a frequented manner of greeting, people should first be scanned. In conversation, eye contact is minimal but surveillance is practical. That's what I see.