Rainer Schäfer - 2013-01-12
Along the Große Elbstraße in Hamburg’s Altona district, there is now an animated quarter that attracts food lovers from far and near. Rüdiger and Dirk Kowalke, who opened their establishment in 1981, are the pioneers of the local gourmet movement.
The Elbe flows lazily in front of the establishment; now and again one sees boats setting off toward the North Sea. The view is unique; in fine weather one can even see the Köhlbrand Bridge and it soaring steel pylons. The Fischereihafen Restaurant is a central feature of Grosse Elbstraße, a street whose marketplace teems with fish, shellfish and crustaceans. The past few years have witnessed the arrival of ateliers where artists’ visions become reality. The wealthy Elbchaussee quarter with its many villas is nearby, but many neighbourhoods around the Elbstraße have changed so much in recent years that it’s hard to recognize them. Where prostitutes soliciting from cars used to dominate a district of ill repute, today there is a string of restaurants and bars. This lively quarter has much to offer gourmets. One constant amongst all the transformations: Fischereihafen, a red brick establishment that most locals easily recognize. ‘We started the first restaurant,’ says Dirk Kowalke, 41 years old. Back in 1981 Dirk’s father, Rüdiger, took over the lease of this building that used to be frequented by prostitutes.
Kowalke has mastered the balance between traditional and contemporary cuisines
In Hamburg, the Fischereihafen Restaurant is an institution where seafood is the central attraction. ‘Everything is fresh and of top quality,’ says Dirk Kowalke who has been running the restaurant since 1997 and has managed, with a good dose of savoir-faire, to find a balance between traditional and contemporary cuisines. The interior was carefully rejuvenated this year: the red carpet at the entrance was removed, as were the heavy beige curtains that seemed outdated. ‘I’m all for preserving tradition,’ Kowalke says, ‘but I’m also open to innovation.’ A glance at the menu makes this clear. Yes, there are original, traditional dishes, such as smoked eel fillets served on scrambled eggs with herbs or turbot with Pommery mustard sauce. But there are also modern, creative dishes, such as grilled cod fillets with spicy herb bouillon or fried prawns served with a spicy Chinese noodle salad. Jens Klunker oversees the kitchen, following in the footsteps of his father, Wolf-Dieter, who once defined the restaurant’s style. It’s an atypical situation: the Kowalke and Klunker families work together in perfect harmony as the sons carry on the tradition. Customers benefit greatly from this continuity.
‘Our service begins in front of the door’
The Fischereihafen Restaurant has long been known for its cosy atmosphere and thoughtful staff. The parking valet awaits outside. ‘Our service begins in front of the door,’ says Kowalke. Here, everyone feels comfortable and welcome, from Hamburg families to a varied business clientele to the many VIPs who regularly dine here, as can be seen from the photos of Sean Connery, Mikhaïl Gorbatchev and Angela Merkel hanging on the wall of the bar.
143, Große Elbstraße
Tel: + 49 040/381816