A café with good kitchen, a place where you can meet for a good conversation, that was what Helmut Winzeler (1928-2001) envisaged when he, together with his partner Alexandra and his cousin Tom, started Café Bern in 1978. A few years later, Koen Vollaers joined and together they made Café Bern what it is today. Helmut himself is no longer there in person, but his café is still here and unmistakably has his signature. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Café Bern is that so little has changed in all these years. The Fondue is legendary, as are the Entrecôte Café Bern, the Emincé de veau, the Steak au pistou, the Yemeni salad and all those other Bern classics that have been on the menu for years. Only the soup always changes.
History of Café Bern
The door of Café Bern opened on August 26, 1978. The day before was the opening, with about a hundred guests. The plan for a café was from Helmut Winzeler. He had been brooding on it for a while. Helmut was a Swiss nuclear physicist. His current research project – elementary particles, at the Zeeman Laboratory in Amsterdam – was completed. Helmut, now 49, decided to look for help elsewhere.
First of all he got his restaurant diploma. Since his student years he had a desire for the hospitality industry and a great interest in cooking. He once ran a “stadtbekannter” jazz cellar in the city of Bern with his friend Pips Vögeli.
The decision for a good café, where people can drink and eat something good, was born. Examples were Café du Commerce and Café des Pyrenées in Bern. A meal – of decent quality – formed, as far as he was concerned, the frame of a meeting.
It was a special adventure to start the cafe. The Nieuwmarkt of that time was not the cheerful, idiosyncratic Nieuwmarkt as we know it today: situated between the end of the Zeedijk, at that time a certain non-dangerous no-go area and the neighborhood directly behind the café where the Metroaanleg had left a devastating trail . Only someone with an original spirit and unconventional view of the world would come up with the idea of starting a café like Café Bern. Helmut was such a person.
The audience he attracted, and steadily, Café Bern has grown into what it is today. Helmut himself is no longer in person, but his café is still there and is unmistakably his signature.
Contrary to what many people think, Helmut never came up with a “formula” as the basis for the café, but his real, timeless formula consists of the basis of life: food, drinks and a fruitful conversation: two people know infinitely more than one.