Tuesday 8th September 2009
This ancient building is another for the "Most Beautiful Pub in the World" award. I've seen a few and this is right up there with them. The main hall was once filled with knights and, as can be gathered, this is a place with a lot of history, so please indulge me whilst I give you a brief overview.
The building was commissioned by gentleman by the name of Van Zoudenbalch and construction was underway by 1280. He was not of the nobility yet extremely well-off nevertheless. The building was in the style of a fortified house and made of stone, not normally used in the Low Countries at that time as most houses were still timber-framed.
Its name came from the man who bought it from Van Zoudenbalch, who was Dirk van Houdaen. In 1528 it stood up to the cannons of the Spanish Army who were attempting to suppress a revolt from the ethnic Dutch citizens and in this they failed. The Netherlands then was, of course, under the Spanish throne and interestingly, this same house was later linked to the end of that regime.
The War of the Spanish Succession commenced in 1701 when the King of Spain died without an heir. The French King Louis XIV, who was already related to the Habsburgs, had his eye on what are now Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, all under the rule of Spain. So he went to war in these countries and there was much carnage and destruction. It was ended by the Peace of Utrecht which was convened in 1712. The French envoy De Polignac was accommodated in the Oudaen, which was given a refurbishment. The war didn't actually end till 1713 when the Netherlands came under the direct control of Austria. Full independence came later.
The building was purchased by the local council in 1758 and used as a home for the poor and old, the last of whom moved out in 1965. It then had several owners and very poor attempt at renovation which was halted when it was purchased by a Historic Buildings Trust. It was they who masterminded it's transformation in to what it is today, a top-class restaurant, pub, meeting place, theatre and more.
It is in a stunning site in the centre of the oldest part of Utrecht with a terrace overlooking the canal. In fact the only problem with the location is the sheer number of people who congregate there. My advice would be to visit as soon as possible in the day as they open at 09.00. The main room is full of diners at lunch time.
The brewery is in the cellars so is not visible in the main room. The beers are two wheat beers and a pils. Ouwe Daen (5.0%) is an unfiltered wheat beer with orange zest, coriander and other botanicals added. Junge Daen (5.0%) is a filtered version. Linteloo Gold (5.0%) is a pilsener said to be in the true Czech style. The strange thing is that it is top fermented, which is odd for a pilsener. Anyway, it certainly tasted fine.
So, good beer (the main thing), good food and a great location, all provide powerful incentives for a visit.
Stadskasteel Oudaen, Oudegracht 99, 3511 AE, Utrecht
Open: Daily 09.00 to close
As the pub is in the middle of the old town it is completely walkable, and is less than ten minutes from Utrecht CS (Centraal Station) with all its rail and city transit connections.