At only fifteen minutes from the centre of Amsterdam, one of the most beautiful and most historic areas of the Netherlands is located: De Zaanse Schans. This most iconic attraction is visited by everyone from locals to domestic and foreign tourists. De Zaanse Schans is a monumental area situated in a typically Dutch countryside along the river the Zaan. This unique area in the Netherlands is an extraordinary part of the world heritage site. And amidst this special place, our restaurant is located!
D’Swarte Walvis and the Zaanse Schans were founded at about the same time, in the mid-sixties. Since our premises are formed on a cluster of three historic sites, not much of the exterior and main structure have been changed. Unlike the interior and the menu card. D’Swarte Walvis started as a pancake restaurant but evolved, alongside the classical ‘Zaanse’ company with Albert Heijn as its owner, to one of the most successful restaurants in the Netherlands.
The Michelin-star that was once connected to that growth and excellence is no longer and in 2003 D’Swarte Walvis was sold by Albert Heijn. Yet these two events are still present in our collective memory. Since 2003 several changes have been made, but since 2012 it has been smooth sailing under the current owners. Now in 2018, we’ve adjusted again to align with the time, the environment and the versatile nature of D'Swarte Walvis, which now offers contemporary ambiance in a historical setting.
"De Zaanstreek" (region along the river 'Zaan') is known as one of the oldest industrial areas of Europe. The houses, warehouses and windmills on the Zaanse Schans are authentic premises from the Zaanstreek. Hundreds of windmills were located here and during its peak year around 1720, no less than 600 windmills were in simultaneous use.
The wood processing and food processing industries have been the most important trades in the Zaanstreek for a long time already. Along the shores of the Zaan, weaving mills, forges, and a variety of other 17th and 18th century processing industries (tobacco, cocoa, paper, paint, candles) were sited. The maritime and ship-building sectors were also widely represented. Almost every village in the Zaanstreek was engaged in whale fishing. In 1697 almost 80 Greenland sailors returned back to the Zaan with no less than 40,000 barrels of whale blubber!
With the invention of the steam engine, most of the windmills disappeared from the scene. Around 15 of them have been preserved and a few of these are still to be seen in action at the Zaanse Schans. The iconic wooden green and white ‘Zaanse’ houses also still stand here.
Since the last couple of years, sustainability and responsibility have become essential quality requirements. It is important to know what you are eating, and you will most likely know local sources better. Besides regional products, we also try to purchase products that are seasonal. Even products that come from far (wine for example) we purchase nearby.
Thanks to the century long food history of the Zaanstreek, there are a lot of products to be found around here: coffee, oils, seeds, mayonnaise, sambal and cocoa for example. Apart from that, local small-scale breweries are also gaining market power. Thus, we buy our beers from local breweries Breugem and Brouwerij Hoop, which can be found across the Zaan in the village of Zaandijk.
For a long time, small chocolate factories were also popular in the Zaanstreek. The famous Verkade-family manufactured the chocolate in this area and the ‘koetjesrepen’, small chocolate flavoured candy bars, were also originated here. In the second half of the 20th century the chocolate production completely vanished from the Zaanstreek, whilst the cocoa factories kept on producing. Why does the Zaanstreek smell like cocoa? You can find out yourself at the CacaoLab from ‘Zaans Gedaan’, where the chocolate industry can be traced back to the beginning of cocoa production.