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The Story of The Bulldog: From Rebellious Coffeeshop to Ski Resort Darling
Visitors to Silver Star are often surprised to discover the colourful history of The Bulldog Hotel, tucked amidst the bustle of the Village.
Enter through the doors and you’re greeted by a statue of Joris, the four-legged friend that inspired owner Henk de Vries to name the original Bulldog in the Red Light District of Amsterdam in 1975.
With live DJs and music most weekends along with a sun-drenched patio, The Bulldog Silver Star is as lively as its sister location, making it a popular spot among locals and visitors alike. Stop in and you might spot chef Tyler whipping up a traditional Indonesian Rendang or Henk on his annual ski trip; experience for yourself the open and relaxed atmosphere for which The Bulldog is best known.
“We’re like a family here,” says manager Oscar Carriera, who’s been working for some iteration of The Bulldog for over 30 years and who works alongside staff equally dedicated to the establishment. “We want to make it feel like you’re at home when you stay here.”
The Silver Star establishment opened in 2006 after Henk saw the spot come up for sale on his annual skiing trip to Silver Star, and according to Oscar, “still going strong, though it’s been quite a ride!” The Bulldog at Silver Star is warm and homely, with leather barstools and a distinctly European vibe. Your eyes are soon drawn to the array of historical news clippings, articles, and photos displayed proudly on the walls, telling the story of The Bulldog, and you realise that the hotel retains its maverick status from days gone by, for the original Bulldog in Amsterdam has a fascinating past.
“It was the first coffeeshop of its kind,” recalls Oscar. “It was (and still is) a two-storey shop; the street-facing level was a juice bar, and the cellar was where the marijuana was sold. As it was obviously still illegal at that point, they had a chute from one floor to the next. If an orange was dropped down the chute, it meant the police had arrived — in other words, pack up and go!”
Despite these measures, Henk and his customers were arrested hundreds of times, and when the Amsterdam Police Station came up for sale, it seemed like the perfect next step in The Bulldog enterprise. Turning the police station into what would become known as “The Palace” was one of The Bulldog’s most important victories.
“It was the place to be,” says Oscar. “The irony wasn’t lost on anyone; it was a huge success.” And so after its rocky start, The Bulldog steadily grew to become known and loved globally, its open and relaxed atmosphere drawing in not only locals but tourists and celebrities.
“We know our style might not be for everyone, but we’re not afraid to be who we are and we welcome all visitors from all walks of life.”
The Silver Star location upholds the values of the flagship location, serving up their own brand of innovative cuisine. Pick up a menu and you’ll find interesting flavour combinations influenced by Dutch history in Indonesia that are unique to this Silver Star establishment. Oscar and head chef Tyler Lafferty travelled to Bali to develop the Asian-inspired fare. “We really took the menu to the next level. Everything is made from scratch, handcrafted in the traditional way as much as possible.”
The rooms are comfortable and cosy; the staff are knowledgeable and happy to help. With 23 rooms ranging from simple beds to studio apartments, there’s something for every traveller, family, or group. The location doesn’t get any better either: leading straight out into the Silver Star Village you’re immediately among coffee shops, boutique shopping, and all the winter activities Silver Star has to offer.
Next time you’re in town be sure to stop by The Bulldog to give the statue of Joris a pat, eat some delicious food, and take in the history of this intriguing place.
Contact The Bulldog Hotel directly for room availability this season.
Photo credits: Sebastien Brule, Lianne Viau