The past year and a half have been weird, to say the least, however, the Dutch music scene is forever evolving. A plethora of new music-focused places has popped up all over the country. This is the fourth interview in our 'Sonic Spaces' series, where we take a look and have a listen in these fresh venues on the map.
I met Marco & Valentino during ADE a couple of years ago, and after learning they got a new space in Amsterdam East for their vegan restaurant (with a custom-built sound system), I called them to schedule an interview for Sonic Spaces.
Timothy: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself & this place?
Marco & Valentino: We started thinking about the concept of H/Eart.h back in 2015, after having worked in various Horeca-jobs for 20 years. We noticed our interest went elsewhere as well, not just food. So we had the idea to put everything we love in one place: art, photography, live music & DJs.
In 2016 we opened our first location on the Albert Cuyp-market with a small menu of soups, sandwiches, and smoothies. We were very open to having local artists use the space for their art. We built a table with swings for chairs. This vegan restaurant thing was still very new and niche in 2016.
Basically, the only things you could eat out as a vegetarian or vegan was a quiche, a salad, or a lentil burger. So we made our menu a bit bigger, added some pasta dishes, and started getting a lot of great reviews, attracting attention from vegan bloggers & tourists.
There was even an article in Vogue America and the New York Times but we never even saw that last one! All the great reviews made us show up high in the Google algorithm! We even started showing up second when people looked for 'sushi Amsterdam' or just 'Italian Amsterdam'.
Timo: So that was all in the old H/Eart.h but we are in the new space right now - how did you end up here?
M & V: The place we had was very small and we couldn't keep up with the amount of reservations we were getting. The space limited us in our operation & side activities like art expo, our biweekly Jazz in the Hearth of Amsterdam or other events. So we put it on sale in January 2020 so we could start looking for a bigger place and approach it a bit differently. We got an offer in April 2020 which we were very happy with. Now there is an amazing bakery (Rise).
Then, every lockdown that was lifted, we started looking for places. Valentino even got stuck in Mexico with his partner for a while. We went to check out this place around the corner from here and on our way back, we spotted this one. It needed a complete renovation. Craziest thing we've done so far, but we made it in 4 months! Coming summer we even have space for a nice terrace outside.
The bar [Yuri Yabi]
Timo: Tell us about the soundsystem / booth please!
M & V: Now that we have the space for it, we decided to invest into a proper DJ booth & sound system. The sound system is built by Yuji (Kikuno) who we met at Feed through Patrick and Marcel Vogel who was playing there at the time. We have built the booth ourselves, with a Rane MP 2016 & XP Expander Rotary DJ Mixer as the centerpiece.
Throughout the dining area, we have 360degree speakers hanging from the ceiling. They don't have a strong bass but the sound spreads around the room nicely. There are no overly loud or quiet spots, which is important for our guests during dinner.
Custom speakers [Tijmen De Nooy Photography]
We put a lot of thought into the choice, and placement of the speakers. We went to Yuji's studio to check out his speakers and found them perfect for the space. After that, we spent a lot of time trial & erroring to find the best placement. Of course, we also had to think about how the DJ would experience the sound! We are waiting for a special design booth monitor speaker which will be installed in the coming weeks.
Every Friday and Saturday we have DJ's playing all night. We call it Dining W/, intended to fuse our passion for food and great music. We host weekly listening sessions with local and international talents during dinner time on the weekends, when selectors dig into their collections of records, to create a relaxed and joyful soundtrack for our dinners.
In April we have Gropina, Kay Tee & Marcos Tocae, Lucas Benjamin, Lil Lawaw, Eisor, Coco Liqueot, DJ Tracksuit, Jan Dolphin, Boogie Mind & Mo Wrights. Soon we will start with live jazz, continuing our tradition of live music like our event Jazz in the Hearth of Amsterdam.
Timo: What influences can we see in the space?
M & V: Mexico / Tulum a little bit, like in the materials we chose, Valentino's partner works there. There's some Asian influences as well, actually a bit of everything! We have a print from Mali, lots of natural or recovered materials. Wabi-sabi (Japan) was an inspiration as well. We didn't want the place to feel too slick or new either.
T: Any Italian things?
M&V: Just the two of us! That's enough, haha.
Timo: What’s in a name? How do you pronounce it?
M & V: You pronounce it ‘Haard’ or like the English hearth but there's a lot of parts to the name. Art was what we love to do, Earth for the vegan aspect of it. Heart is in there as well of course. The logo encapsulates all of this:
After a while we realised hearth has a meaning as well which represents a lot of what we stand for.
Timo: What’s on the menu?
M: Valentino is the creative genius behind the food.
V: I do it the same like in Ableton: lots of layering! I start with the main ingredient and then add layers of flavour, colour & texture. I really care about the presentation because it is the first impression and we also eat with our eyes.
A selection of the dishes on the menu [Yuri Yabi]
Aside from the gnocchi, we're also keeping the tagliatelle from the old menu, the quinoa sushi as well. We have a new fusion Mexican Japanese sushi with chipotle, green spirulina, and beans. There's a cauliflower ceviche dish that is inspired by the original fish ceviche.
We have a nice selection of vegan, conventional and natural wine as well.
Timo: Anything special about the place we should know? (decoration, lighting, art,…)
M & V: We designed everything ourselves and expressed all our passion for decor and design. We have put lots of thought into the lighting of the place as well. There are these cool 3D printed moon lamps and used old carriage wheels from Bali to create other lamps.
Some details of the interior design [Tijmen De Nooy Photography & Yuri Yabi]
An open kitchen allows for a real connection with our guests. It's part of the experience of coming to H/Eart.h. We like to give our guests the feeling of a warm, welcoming living room space.
Timo: Last question! Any songs come to mind which we could add to the interview? M & V: There are a couple of songs that are special to us and touch us deeply:
You can also go to our Mixcloud to check the sets from the restaurant:
Timo: Grazie ragazzi!
H/Eart.h's new location is on the Camperstraat 26H between Wibautstraat and Oosterpark and is open Tuesday 'til Sunday with DJ's or Live music from Thursday 'til Sunday.
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