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Bremen, food capital of northern Germany

Bremen, food capital of northern Germany

E. Tresmontant - 2009-11-12

Contrary to popular belief it is entirely possible to eat well in the north of Germany, and Bremen in particular! In addition to its beer, coffee and chocolate, Bremen offers a cuisine that is both appetising and sophisticated, which will appeal to partisans of local fare and disciples of creative cuisine alike.

 
Coffee and cakes
 
Half of the coffee consumed in Germany has transited via Bremen since the 17th century. Before Hamburg, Bonn and Berlin, it was in Bremen that the country's first establishment serving cups of coffee was founded. It was also there that the famous HAG decaffeinated coffee was invented in 1906. Today, “Café” generally designates a cake shop where you can sit and eat in, such as the famous Knigge cake shop.
 
The more authentic and traditional Stecker cake shop dates back to 1742 and boasts an impressive collection of 19th century nutcrackers. The Stecker family is a real dynasty of pastry cooks. People come here to sample the delicious “Dresden Stolle”, a sort of fruit cake made with butter, almonds, raisins, sugar, and orange. Its local counterpart is none other than the “Bremen Klaben”, which contains more raisins. The other speciality of Bremen is the “tree cake”, a cake in the shape of a trunk with countless inner layers that look like the growth rings of a tree. Be sure to try the fresh apple strudels with pastry as fine as in Vienna!
 
Chocolate
 
In Bremen, the other institution after coffee is chocolate; the Hachez company, founded in 1890, is the second largest chocolate manufacturer in Germany after Lindt.
 
Hachez imports its noble beans from Ecuador, Venezuela and Mexico, and prepares the cocoa using traditional methods: it takes 100 hours of work from grain to bar! The cocoa is notably ground and mixed for 72 hours to obtain a very fine powder with little bitterness. Hachez' 88%-cocoa chocolate is smooth and fine. Delicious milk chocolate and drinking chocolate to drink in or take away.
 
A choice of wines, sausages and caviar beneath the flagstones of the town hall
 
Although Bremen is renowned for its very pure beer (the famous Beck's), wine connoisseurs will also be interested in exploring the immense cellar located beneath the medieval vaults of the Rathaus, opposite the market place. This cellar contains 600,000 German wines (the oldest of them dating back to 1653), kept in a candlelit room. A shop outside, next to the Rathaus, sells a selection of vintage wines dating back to 1727. Here you will find the sublime ice wines (Eiswein) from the Sarre and Moselle, renowned for their aromas of dried fruit, rose and spices.
 
Also located in the town hall basement, the Ratskeller is a large picturesque brasserie with its old ornate casks, waitresses dressed medieval style, and little wooden booths where you can have a romantic dinner behind curtains. (Menu from €18*)
 
At the other end of the dining room, the gourmet restaurant L'Orchidée marks a change of standard! The atmosphere here is rather chic and the prices are high, but this is the city's leading restaurant. The French-inspired cuisine combines international flavours, for example sea bass with Iberian ham, carrot soup with ginger or marinated tuna with Charentais melon. (Sampler menu at €89).
 
Where to go for lunch and dinner
 
Set in a 16th century house in the heart of the oldest and most charming district in Bremen, the Schnoor, Schröters is a fashionable restaurant which is known above all for its trendy Italian-inspired cuisine.
 
Preferring to try local recipes, we ordered a venison stew with mushrooms, red cabbage and potatoes, dressed with a ginger and elder sauce. The calf's head on parsley mousse with mushrooms was also finely crafted. You can also let yourself be tempted by 100% traditional Bremen dishes, such as green cabbage and sausage stuffed with oats, poussinstew (Kükenragout), Vegesack herring and cabbage with black pudding. (Menu at €30)
 
Above the Weser and not far from the beautiful windmill overlooking the river, Grashoff is one of Bremen's gourmet institutions. This delicatessen, created in 1872, is renowned throughout Germany for the quality of its products: its jams, homemade chocolates, ready-cooked meals, balsamic vinegars, delicious rye bread (which keeps for a week!), baguettes, cooked pork meats, French cheeses, and old cognacs.
 
But Grashoff is also a bistro where people like to come and eat during the day, until 6.30pm. In addition to its beautiful red leather seats and old photos, connoisseurs will discover an impressive wine list dedicated to the great wines of Bordeaux, with the oldest vintages dating back to 1961 (a legendary year if ever there was one). At the bar we sampled a pleasant Kiel salmon trout caviar, as well as a Canadian lobster with saffron. (Menu at €35)
 
The Park Hotelrestaurant is an address that we recommend as much for its magnificent setting (large windows giving onto an English-style park) as for its cuisine, which is both classic and creative. Frenchman Laurent Vialle, 45, arrived here barely six months ago, after starting out at the Plaza Athénée in Paris and then travelling through Europe and Morocco for ten years. From this voyage of discovery, he has been able to make good use of the various cooking methods of Scotland, Portugal, Poland and Germany. Although his cuisine is of French inspiration, with for example sole meunière, chateaubriand and canard à la presse (a duck speciality of the Tour d'Argent restaurant in Paris), he nevertheless endeavours to use the most outstanding local produce such as venison, pikeperch, smoked fish, liver sausage and cabbage. His cappuccino-style onion soup with cream of potato is delicious. The sommelier will introduce you to some fine German Rieslings, such as those of Fritz Haag and Reinhardt Löwestein. (Sampler menu at €60, lunch €40).
 
* One euro is worth approximately 0.67 GBP.
 
Practical information
 
Hachez
Westertrasse 32
Tel.: 0049 (0)421 50 90 00
www.hachez.de
 
Knigge
42, Sögestrasse
 
Stecker Cake Shop
11 Am Markt
www.konditorei-stecker.de
 
Schröters Leib & Seele
Schnoor 13
Tel.: 0049 (0) 421 32 66 77
 
Grashoff's Bistro
Hillmannplatz 20
Tel.: 0049 (0) 421 14 749
www.grashoff.de
 
Park Hotel Restaurant
Im Bürgerpark
Tel.: 0049 (0) 421 34 08 0
www.park-hotel-bremen.de
 
 

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