04 Jan Kaai 13. A dream come true
Last week I visited Kaai 13, a freshly opened restaurant located on one of the cosy quays of the Bierkade, in the centre of The Hague.
I arrived a rainy Friday afternoon soaking wet after biking there in the rain. When in Rome…
Jerry, the owner, was sitting at a table by the window tasting some wine with Mia, his girlfriend, and the rest of the staff.
Elena: Oh! I arrive in a good moment (laughs)
Jerry: Yes you do! Would you like to try some wine?
Elena: How can I refuse?
And while Jerry was serving me a superb glass of Appassilento I removed my coat and sat down in front of them.
Elena: This wine is delicious. I don’t want to sound too cocky but, you know, as a Spaniard I sometimes feel a little bit frustrated with the quality of the wine which I find in many bars and restaurants in the Netherlands. Can I ask how do you choose the wines you offer?
Jerry: I love wine but of course everyone has a different taste. That’s why I always ask several people to try with me the different wines proposed by our suppliers before deciding which ones we want to serve at Kaai 13. I know wine is very important as a complement to a great meal.
Dutch people, as well as the large international community who live in The Hague, are more and more knowledgeable about wine, so we want to offer the best quality at reasonable prices.
Elena: That’s a smart thing to do. People like me would be thankful! (laughs) Now, before we continue with the wine, tell me Jerry how Kaai 13 was born?
Jerry: I’ve been working in the hospitality business for more than 20 years. I managed several restaurants during all these years but as you can imagine my dream has been always to have my own place. So I can say I’m now living my dream.
Elena: Why has this been “the moment”?
Jerry: I was working many hours for an employer, so I then thought, if I have to work this hard I want to do it for my own place. My girlfriend Mia supported me a lot in this decision.
Then this place was about to be available, De Zon, it was a vegetarian restaurant that had been opened for about 30 years and the owner just wanted to retire. We love the place because of its perfect location and the amount of natural light. And of course, the terrace, facing the canal.
Elena: It’s really lovely, I used to come a lot to the Bierkade since I lived close by for some time. It’s definitely one of my favourite places in The Hague.
Jerry: Specially after they did a facelift in the area about 3 years ago. The municipality did a great thing when they decided to recover this historical area of the city and helped renovate the beautiful old traditional Dutch houses.
Elena: It’s perfect to have a terrace here, facing the canal.
Jerry: And we have the sun all day long on this side. We couldn’t have asked for a better place.
Elena: How about the interior design? Who was in charge of it?
Jerry: Mia and me have chosen everything ourselves, the tiles, the tables, the chairs. The pictures on the wall are old photos from the past centuries taken in the Bierkade. So yes, we have done everything except the logo which we asked King&Jester to design for us and we are super happy with the result.
Elena: I know King&Jester. They do very cool designs. So tell me Jerry, what kind of customers come to Kaai 13?
Jerry: All kind of people, really. Families with kids, groups of friends, couples, people coming alone to enjoy a nice cup of coffee with a piece of cake.
Everyone is welcome here. We open all day every day, from 11 am until 11 pm so you can eat and drink something at any time of the day. No matter if you eat lunch late or dinner early, you will always be able to enjoy a tasty dish here. Kitchen closes at 10 pm.
Elena: That’s great news for people who eat dinner late like me! Many places in The Hague close too early… What kind of food do you serve?
Jerry: We want everyone to find something they like on the menu. We have traditional lunch dishes like Uitsmijters (fried eggs on toast with different options like cheese or ham) and fresh soups but also more international dishes like truffle ravioli, chorizo croquets, grilled sea bream or ribeye.
We have many options for meat lovers, vegetarians or fish fans. We like to change the menu every season so to include seasonal ingredients and we talk often with our customers in order to get feedback.
You have to listen to your customers to know what you are doing well and what you can improve.
Elena: What do you think makes Kaai 13 different from other restaurants?
Jerry: The menu is special. We put a lot of care in providing first-rate culinary experiences in a very relaxed atmosphere at affordable prices.
Elena: I honestly think this place evokes a very relaxed and cosy feeling. I also think it’s because of you, the chef and the waiting staff. You all seem happy to be here. Like you are having fun.
Jerry: Exactly. If you want to offer customers a nice experience you need to ensure first your staff also enjoy what they do. And this is what happens here. We all feel part of a family which we have chosen to be part of.
Elena: We can call it gezellig (laughs) I guess that in order to spend so many hours working without getting too tired, as happens in the hospitality business, you really need to love what you do.
Jerry: That’s it. And that’s how I feel and how my people feel as well here. They work at Kaai 13 because they really want to work here and because we all love what we do. We feel good at work and I think we transmit this feeling to our customers.
Elena: And what about the name, what does Kaai means? I couldn’t find it on my Dutch dictionary.
Jerry: It’s an old Dutch term to say quay. We liked how it sounded and of course we are on a quay. And this is number 13, so it was easy.
Elena: So you are not superstitious.
Jerry: No, not at all. The previous restaurant that was here, remained in business for 10 years so there’s no bad luck around here.
Elena: You’re right. This place is really perfect for a restaurant because you have natural light on both sides, at the front but also at the back.
Jerry: Yes we have a heated covered terrace at the back of the restaurant that faces the garden. Do you want to see it?
Elena: Of course. (Moving there) This looks amazing. It’s so cosy. It’s the perfect place to work on your laptop! You know, lots of freelances like me like to work in cafes now and then to get away from our desks at home. Do you welcome here people who want to work on their laptops?
Jerry: Sure thing! Mia also works here very often. She is a translator and loves to sit here in the heated terrace and work for hours.
Elena: No wonder why!
Jerry: We want people to feel at home. There’s a lot of space so of course we welcome people who want to work for a while here! We have installed a very powerful Wi-Fi for this purpose as well. And in this heated terrace there isn’t any music, so people can really concentrate.
We have also observed that The Hague is changing rapidly, there are many internationals living here and we love it. That’s why our menu is also very international and we have of course an English version for those who don’t understand Dutch.
Elena: That’s a very nice thing to hear. As an international I must say that we love places where we feel welcome. I love this terrace. I’m going to seriously come here to work now and then (laughs). It’s also great that you can see the kitchen from here so you can watch how they are preparing your dish.
Jerry: And for the guys is much better to see the customers and have natural light in the kitchen.
Elena: Jerry, how do you see yourself in 5 years?
Jerry: Honestly, I don’t want to become a millionaire. I’m now living my dream working for my own restaurant. I just want to be able to continue making my customers happy and live a simple life with my family. That’s my dream. And I’m living it now. (Big smile).
Elena: Thank you Jerry. I enjoyed a lot talking to you and Mia. And thank you for the fabulous wine!
It feels so great to witness moments like these. When we realise there are genuine people living their dreams and making our lives a bit happier with places like this.
See you soon at Kaai 13! You will definitely see me there often 😊