Weststraat staging a comeback with Patio 15

Two decades ago, Weststraat was the hottest street in town, with a row of hopping, popular night-clubs attracting great crowds to the wee hours, in the area behind the Oranjestad harbor, where no one lives.

There were no neighbors to complain about parking and/or decibels, I thought it was fantastic.

Then mysteriously, the scene shifted to the high rise hotel area with the construction of three commercial complexes across the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, and three across the Holiday Inn.

It took these new places a long time to achieve synergy, some never did.

Palm Beach, designed to serve visitors, was now inundated by locals, as Weststraat sadly emptied. We all wanted to be on Palm Beach, which offered only limited parking, and very few sidewalks.

In walks Mark Benson, a veteran news ferret, and in recent years a successful entrepreneur. His company operates tours of the California lighthouse and organizes the walking tours in town. He was looking for headquarters in Oranjestad and turned to the Monument Fund, hoping to move into the Yellow House, you guessed, on Weststraat 15.

He was already involved with the California lighthouse, also a monument, 1915, he explains, and now the Yellow House, 1908, called his name

From the Monument Fund’s website: This cunucu house once standing on the island’s main street was built by a Frenchman in 1860, and the inscription 1908 above the main door denotes its renovation by Richard John Eman. The local businessman married Johanna Catharina van der Biest, and the couple had six children, one of the daughters married banker Gerard Eman, who became the founder of Aruba Bank.

In 1998, neighboring Aruba Bank, first though it had to demolish the cunucu house in the forecourt of the bank building in order to gain more space on the island’s premier shopping artery, but the monument board opted for an ambitious project, moving the structure from main street to Weststraat. Some parts of the house were packed and moved whole, other parts were disassembled and/or replaced. The project started on August 21st, 2000 and ended on December 12th, 2001. The project concluded successfully even before protection of local monuments was approved by Parliament.

Mark and his partner Randolph created a casual eatery and bar, in the Yellow House. Patrons are invited to sit at picnic tables in the front patio, overlooking the Dutch architecture of Royal Plaza, or chill in the cocoon hanging chairs. The tables are placed at great social distance. The back patio is a friendly space, for outdoor events, weddings, public dances. Not now, but down the road.

In the new normal patrons cannot enjoy any of the cute interiors, by designer, fashion and color lover Veronica van der Dys. She put together a beautiful, now only a service bar, with an intricate front grille, a nostalgic mini museum, where a vintage phone, an old Singer sewing-machine an ancient RCA TV, an antique gramophone and a grandfather clock display against a uniquely-painted, blue-blotched wall. The effect is tremendous.

Patio 15 pays tribute to Old Oranjestad with an impressive collection of old photographs.

A Wall of Fame eternalizes local vinyl recording artists, Padu de Caribe, Sharon Rose, Inky, Edwin Abath and even Erin Croes.   

Then there is FOOD: Patio 15 offers ten kinds of delicious tapas created by chef Ludwig Samson, all beautifully garnished, served with tasty sauces: Conch Fritters, Papas Bravas, Escargot & Mushrooms, Vegan Ceviche, and items with a local accent such as Funchi Fries with Truffle Mayo, yum, and Keeshi Yena Taco, an original appetizer that pairs a traditional chicken dish with a funchi foundation. You may order a Mini Saco, a local hit, served in a small brown paper bag! Order one or ten, they are all sharable and rumor has it that Spam Sliders, Pan Bati Pizza and Salt Fish Sushi Rolls will be coming on board soon, to delight and thrill a local audience.

The cocktails: Some serious research work went into the cocktail menu. Patio 15 mixologists came up with some pretty amazing libations that hiss, smoke and sizzle, and are guaranteed to knock your socks off!

The welcome one-man committee is charming, the octoagerian door-man of now defunct La Linda found a new home at Patio 15, and he helps sanitize hands at the entrance.

Open 5pm to 11pm, you already know the address 

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January 19, 2021
Rona Coster