The first Dikker & Co Shop was founded in 1895 by Mr. A.W. Dikker and soon became famous in Amsterdam and the rest of Holland for its high quality. Henri Thijs became a partner in 1915 after being the assistant to the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier. They opened their first shop in the Kalverstraat and in 1921 the majestic building situated on the corner of the Prinsengracht & Leidsestraat became the new address of Dikker & Thijs. Here they became famous for selling oysters, lobsters, and caviar. Today, more than 100 years later, much has changed but the new Dikker & Thijs Fenice Hotel still respects the spirit of its founders. In 2001 the historic hotel was completely redecorated in a lavish and classic style.
Maison van Laar
On the 1st of May 1895 the two shop managers, (the gentlemen Dikker & Co.), took over the company where they worked, J.C. Van Laar in the Kalverstraat, in central Amsterdam. Van Laar at that time was already a reputable shop selling ‘fish and comestibles’ and was well known in Amsterdam. The company had existed since 1821 and was initially located at number 93, ‘in the second house and could be seen from the Dam square’. It was known as the most extraordinary delicacy shop in the Netherlands, where you could find oysters, lobsters, caviar, salmon and exotical fruits.
Oysters at Bagatelle
Dikker & Co. moved to number 113, and continued selling fine delicacies. Shortly after the outbreak of World War I Frederik Dikker started to collaborate with Henri J.J.A. Thijs who had a fish trade in the P.C. Hooftstraat 67. Together they decided to expand the oyster shop to a restaurant and named it ‘Bagatelle’.
Moving to the Leidsestraat
Dikker & Co. became Dikker & Thijs. In 1921 the partners opened a second shop in the Leidsestraat, first at number 96 and one year later moved to the corner of Leidsestraat and Prinsengracht at number 82. Initially this had been the company showroom of the Amsterdam gaspropaganda, built in 1914-1915, and was specifically chosen because of its central location. The council shop survived until the 15th of april 1921 and from that day the gas company disappeared from the Leidsestraat and gave Dikker & Thijs the opportunity to demonstrate the preparation of culinary dishes, using gas, off course, to its customers.
The influence of Auguste Escoffier
The new partner Henri Thijs was an old colleague of the famous French chef Auguste Escoffier and his style and cullinary craftmanship added gastronomic finesse to the cooperation between Mr. Dikker and Mr. Thijs. Escoffier was the greatest maitre de cuisine of his time and was considered, the great innovator, in the field of the French cuisine. He noticed in the early years of the 20th century that the days ended with extremely generous meals, baroque styled dishes. According to the new rules by Escoffier all food should be the ‘flavor of what it is’. The appearance of the ingredients should not be in disharmony with the taste and the character of the ingredients and the dish should not disappear in a ‘soup’ of sauce or side dishes. In those days quite a revolutionary innovation. Henri Thijs had been the person who brought this innovation, which still applies today, to the Netherlands via the kitchen of Dikker & Thijs.
Dikker & Thijs, a concept in the Netherlands
This is how the restaurant of Dikker & Thijs became a purveyor of French haute cuisine, where the most refined delicacies were served. No more lengthy menu’s ‘where people were ricketly seated at the table and made the poor ladies anxious for some breath’. The dinner-table slowly became more sober, but remained of high quality. The huge hors d’oeuvres have been replaced by small, refined starters like melon with ham, caviar, smoked salmon, oysters and pâté. Also the spectacular capstones of the meal, the ‘pièces montées for which the pastry chef had worked many hours, sometimes even days to prepare!’, have disapperaed. Vegetables and fruit became more important components of the menu.
For many years both directors were employed in the kitchen, to learn the tricks of the ‘métier’. In this way they combined the delicacy shop and the restaurant from the beginning. Delicacies and scoops that were on sale in the shop, were prepared in the kitchens of the restaurant. In this way Dikker & Thijs created a unique concept, from sea to table, where the freshness of the ingriedients were visable for all to see. In 1936 Henri Thijs passed on his knowledge to his successor H.A. de Wijs who was the managing director of Dikker & Thijs untill 1950, when he was succeeded by H.J. van der Vecht. At the first awards of Michelinstars in the Netherlands, in 1957, the restaurant received a Michelin star, which it kept until 1962. In Den Haag Dikker & Thijs since1939 also had the famous café-restaurant ’t Goude Hooft at the Groenmarkt. A striking detail is that ’t Goude Hooft is probabley the oldest, existing retaurant in the Netherlands. First mentioned in 1423 as ‘taveerne’(tavern). From 1946 Dikker & Thijs were managing another restaurant, called restaurant De Beukenhof in Oegstgeest, which is also still in operation today. The succesfull management of all the companies of A.W. Dikker en H. Thijs has continued for many years, by various directors. Throughout this time the headquarters remained in the old gas building, on the corner of the Leidsestraat & the Prinsengracht. In 1964 restaurant ‘De Prinsenkelder’ was added to the portfolio, a ‘pleasant restaurant with an non-pretentious bistro-caracter’. It was established in a warehouse, pakhuis ‘De Prins’, dating from 1737 and became a self supporting restaurant with kitchens of their own. Within short time this restaurant became very populair in Amsterdam.
The French restaurant of Dikker & Thijs which was situated on the first floor, just above he shop in the Leidsestraat, was at that time restored completely renovated in a Louis XIV style and expanded to cater for an extra 50 customers.
Café du Centre
The Zeeuwse Hoek, initially the bar-bodega of Dikker & Thijs, was reshaped and reopened around 1965 as Café du Centre. This new café became a resting point in a street filled with more and more activities and soon plans are made to expand Café du Centre. According to culinairy journalist Wina Born it is an establishment ‘where people easily walk in, where also women who were shopping, and normally wouldn’t enter at a bodega, liked to rest and have a coffee.’
In May 2011 the completely renovated restaurant THIJS was opened by the present owners of Dikker & Thijs Fenice Hotel. They took over of the hotel in 1995 after the Bilderberg-group had left. This happened exactly 100 years after Dikker & Thijs took over the business of J.C. van Laar in the Kalverstaat. With the opening of restaurant THIJS a long culinary tradition is being continued and the restaurant has reopened its doors for everyone who loves good food.