Now the Leonardo Royal Hotel, a different name but the same dedicated staff
By John Dunkelgrün
On the very spot where guests have been treated to comfort and quality for over 200 years, Patrick Aarsman and his team are proud to make this jubilee year something truly special.
Their annual herring party on the 22nd of June showed their inventiveness in the time of Covid restrictions.
Not one big party for the 150 invitees (mostly ambassadors and other diplomats), but three separate shifts. There was of course plenty of freshly caught and cleaned herring (the quality is superb this year!), which the mainly non-Dutch guests first sampled and then enjoyed with gusto.
The herring was followed by a sit-down lunch at tables for two or four with the mandated 1.5 meters between them. Lunch consisted of a series of very original small dishes that were a delight to the palate and beautifully made up. Chef Sido and his équipe had really outdone themselves in showing what they can do for parties, dinners, and receptions.
What is it, that makes herring so special in The Netherlands and why has it become an almost iconic food here? There are two main reasons. Herring used to be overwhelmingly plentiful in the North Sea close to the Dutch shores and when in season became a prime source of protein for the masses. it was caught in small vessels and immediately put into barrels heavily salted, a layer of salt, a layer of herring, another layer of salt, and so on. The problem was, that while this slowed spoiling, the innards caused an unpleasant flavour.
Then in the 14th century, a method was found to solve that. We claim that it was invented by a man from the province of Zeeland, Willem Beukelszoon. It consisted of using a specialised knife to cut out most of the innards in a single sweep and cut off the gills. The method was called “kaken”. This allowed for storage until the next season and made it a popular food all year round.
The second reason comes more than a century later. Holland had revolted against Spain and the Duke of Alva was charged with subduing the revolution. He laid siege to the well-fortified city of Leiden and almost managed to subdue it by causing a complete famine. At the last moment, the Prince of Orange and the grand council at The Hague decided to flood the surrounding land by breaking the dykes and sending in boats with troops and food for the city. The food that saved them on October 3rd, 1584 consisted of herring and white bread. It has been the symbol of Dutch resilience ever since
While a sit-down lunch isn’t ideal for networking, everyone was simply delighted at being able to meet in person once again and the sense of re-found freedom was palpable. General Manager Patrick Aarsman proudly announced that in a year that is so special for his Leonardo Royal Hotel he is planning extensive renovations to the ground floor to give their guests a truly world-class experience.
And to make it even more attractive to the diplomatic community, there will be a separate dining room for diplomats only.
Expressing regret that she couldn’t be present due to the Covid restrictions, he honoured Dr. Mayelinne de Lara of Diplomat Magazine in gratitude for the close cooperation in bringing together the Diplomatic Corps at The Hague and the hotel.
Many ambassadors attended the memorable Herring Lunch among them H.E. Mr. Riaz Hamidullah, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and Mr. Md. Jannatul Habib; H.E. Mr. Arnoldo Brenes Castro, Ambassador of the Republic of Costa Rica; Mr. Fery Iswandy, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia and Etty U. Wulandari; H.E. Mr. Andres Terán Parral, Ambassador of Ecuador, Nicolás Ortiz and Susana Medina; H.E. Mr. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of the Russian Federation; H.E. Mr. Jorge Skinner-Klée Are, Ambassador of the Republic of Guatemala; H.E. Mr. Lawrence Lemayapa, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya and Ms Josephine Opili; H.E. Mr. Mark Anthony Pace, Ambassador of the Republic of Malta and Mr. Rick Bajker; H.E. Ms. Elizabeth Ward Neiman, Ambassador of Panama; H.E. Mr. Naor Gilon, Ambassador of Israel and Mr. Orly Gilon; H.E. Giorgi Nakashidze, Ambassador of the Republic of Georgia; H.E. Mr. Mario Oyarzabal, Ambassador of Argentina; H.E. Mr. Dirk Brengelmann, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany and H.E. Ms Eniola Olaitan Ajayi, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Mr. Adegboyega Oke.
Life is slowly returning to normal and this relay herring party showed that the Leonardo can adapt to unusual circumstances as only a Royal host can.