Raw charm - Rotsoord

Raw charm

Rotsoord on the Vaartsche Rijn canal in the south-west of Utrecht is a creative and cultural hotspot, set right in the middle of our industrial heritage. It’s a great development, say the entrepreneurs based there. They are all keen to maintain the raw, unembellished feel of the place.

by Pam van der Veen and Matthijs de Groot

There’s a great view from the other side of the Vaartsche Rijn: you see the water tower, the

Heuveloord factory, the old Pastoe furniture factory and the Ondix warehouse. Together, they create a modest skyline of industrial heritage, just a stone’s throw away from Utrecht city centre. Practically all of these buildings are now bars and restaurants, art institutes or creative new businesses. Much has changed here over the past few years: the WT Urban Café & Kitchen restaurant, located on the top two floors of the water tower, is always fully booked. And in January, the Spanish wine bar Brutal opened on the ground floor. Asian bar/restaurant LE:EN was a pioneer in Rotsoord; it opened six years ago in an empty welding and construction hall. Encouraged by LE:EN’s success, the Klein Berlijn bar and Kwestie van Smaak wine & whisky shop also made the move. They now have permanent bases in the recently completed new building project, De Trip.

Just a bit further south along the Vaartsche Rijn, the final result of the new Pastoe factory is in sight after a period of intensive planning and renovation. ‘New’ only applies to the interior; the industrial character of the buildings themselves has been preserved. Harm Scheltens is co-owner of the Pastoe factory. He excitedly points at the ceiling. ‘See those metal arches? All authentic, dating back to the original Pastoe furniture factory that was still right here last year.’ The factory had to move to keep pace and so the production halls were given a new designation. Scheltens, then managing-director of the factory, decided to make a virtue of necessity. Assisted by two business associates, he devised a plan for the ultimate creative hotspot. Creative entrepreneurs moved into the warehouses, alongside students from Utrecht University of the Arts.

But the Pastoe factory had to fulfil another function: leisure. In addition to a simple café-restaurant, Het Ketelhuis restaurant opened its doors. ‘A spot in the former Pastoe factory was too good an opportunity to miss’, says owner Ditmar Zuiderhoek. He could barely contain his enthusiasm when he saw the eight-metre-high windows looking out across the water. When it came to the interior – the more authentic, the better. The original steam boiler (used to generate steam for production) was preserved.

The rusty letters adorning the roof of the Pastoe factory currently serve as a reminder of a vanished age, but as from April, they will be the signboard for a brand new creative breeding ground. A place where inquisitive people can swap innovative ideas and drop in for a fix of art and culture. Scheltens wants to appeal to as many people as possible. ‘Just imagine: first an interesting exhibition and then a bite to eat at a table by the water. It doesn’t get much better!’


Heuveloord 140


Klein Berlijn

Briljantlaan 5A


WT Urban Café & Kitchen

Heuveloord 25A


Café Brutal

Heuveloord 25A


Kwestie van Smaak

Helling 11


Pastoe factory

Rotsoord 3

Het Ketelhuis

Rotsoord 7A


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