T’ Oude Pothuys, lovingly pronounced as and called The Pot House by all the english speaking patrons who know it, can be described in one word: Ambiance. The secret little bar is located just a tad farther down the Oudegracht (Utrecht’s main canal) than Tiovli, the 25 y.o. and below dance club which attracts hundreds of bikes to the otherwise quiet area every weekend. Even when I show up to Tivoli on Student Thursdays (free with any student ID!), I wish I was making the extra block and a half journey to the underground cavern that is the Pot House.
Perhaps the most beautiful and unique thing about Utrecht is its sunken canals. Different from Amsterdam, the street you walk on is in fact elevated above the canals, leaving space for restaurants, bars, yoga studios, etc. to set up shop in hollowed out caves below the main thoroughfares. However, the most beautiful part of it though, is the ability each of these places then has to set up tables, chairs and umbrellas and entertain patrons on their cobblestone patio that is literally right next to the water. On beautiful days, these places are packed with people who are sunning, having a beer, chatting. Canals are a fact of the Netherlands, a country who has reclaimed a third of its land from below sea level. Utrecht is in fact above sea level, but barely, which allows for these sunken canals, and for cave bars like the Pot House.
The entrance to the Pot House is a tiny little green doorway that is reminiscent of a guard’s hut outside of a palace, and only a small sign in the dark (when approached at night of course) lets you know where that doorway leads.
Completely white washed, the tavern does not disguise the fact that it was hollowed out from stone, retaining the rounded, vaulted ceilings and low hanging arched doorways (a safety hazard that would never fly in the U.S.). The whole place consists of two long and relatively narrow rooms, is devoid of any windows (it’s a cave, duh) and as far as I can tell, any overhead lights.
That title I gave it earlier- ambiance- mostly comes from the fact that it is completely candlelit. Aside from the red, blue and green lights that color the stage area for live music performances, the entire place is lit by tall candle sticks, one at every table. It is beautiful to watch the candles flicker and only softly light up the room. It also happens to make the beer, served in beautiful glasses, look super sexy. It doesn’t make people look too bad either.The Pot House is on top of my favorites list for another very important reason beyond the candles and sexy looking beer. Tables. If I’m going into a bar, it’s to hang out. It sucks to hang out and stand while doing so. I have never not been able to find a table (with candle!!) to sit at with my friends. The tables are old and rustic looking with mismatched chairs- some elaborately carved wood, some cushioned and velvet, there’s even a chaise lounge in the back where their cat (!!) hangs out.
Though I have only been here after dark, during the day it is a cafe like any other (except you know, better) on the Oudegracht. Mondays are fondue night, which I always say I’m going to go to, and yet I never manage to make it there (class at 8pm might have something to do with it). The Pot House is my favorite bar to hang out at, learn some Irish politics, try some random beers, and soak up the Utrecht lifestyle. Truly an amazing and beautiful place. Ambiance.