Local restaurant hosts celebration fit for a king

Dutch national holiday recognizes birthday of Willem-Alexander

Dutch ex-pats will be painting the Danforth orange this weekend in honour of King Willem-Alexander’s 51st birthday.

This will be the fifth public recognition of the Dutch king’s birthday, which falls on April 27, since his inauguration in 2013. The national holiday is known as King’s Day, or “Koningsdag.”

The birthdays of Dutch monarchs have been celebrated publicly since the late 1800s. During the national holiday, Dutch citizens wear orange and organize parties and flea markets. In the Netherlands, the big cities such as Amsterdam and Breda host concerts and boat parties on the canals.

This year, Borrel, a Dutch restaurant located at 1333 Danforth Ave. in East York, will offer a place for people wanting to wish the king of the Netherlands a happy birthday.

Owner Justin Go said the bar will be decorated accordingly and DJ Nanna Koekoek will play famous Dutch tunes. As well, drinks and Dutch snacks will be on offer.

“We’ve actually teamed up with another bar in our neighbourhood (so) that if we are over capacity, they’ll be able to take people over there,” he said. “Hopefully we ‘Dutch up’ their bar a tiny bit for the atmosphere. People do seem to appreciate it if you put up some orange streamers.”

Hitch was a sea of happy faces and orange balloons during a previous King’s Day cele. (Courtesy of Justin Go)

Go and his wife, Alison Broverman, previously hosted King’s Day events at The Ossington, Hi-Lo, and Hitch. Those events were a big success, he said, and they’re happy to host this year’s national holiday at their new permanent location on the Danforth. Events will run from 3-11 p.m. on Friday (April 27) and Saturday (April 28).

One person who will be celebrating King’s Day in style is Janny Thomas, who left the Netherlands over 60 years ago to live in Canada. Even so, she’s remained true to her Dutch roots. She raises funds every year with the Dutch Bazaar to send about 300 children to summer camp, and celebrates King’s Day by attending a party at the Dutch consulate every year.

Thomas said she loves the Dutch national holiday since it gives her a chance to catch up with people. The tone of the event has changed over the years, though, becoming more casual in response to the younger generation’s input.

“When you attended the consulate’s party (in former times), you had to dress up,” Thomas reminisced. “You would be served Dutch snacks, like blocks of cheese and bitterballen. But recently, people show up in jeans and ‘oranje’ T-shirts.”

Bitterballen are deep-fried balls filled with a mixture of beef or veal and different spices, served with traditional Dutch mustard. ‘Oranje’ is the Dutch word for orange.