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Good Eats (and drinks) in Hamburg

10.February 2011

Just in case you’re lucky enough to be going to Hamburg (die schönste Stadt der Welt, I’ll have you know) anytime soon, here are a few places you must try out.

  • Sweet Virginia (Bismarckstr. 10, Hoheluft-West):

If Sweet Virginia were in America, I’d call their food New American, but as it’s not really American at all, I’ll just call it New Food.  This teeny restaurant is hidden in a mostly residential neighborhood whose first floors are filled with boutiques and cafes.  They have a constantly changing menu – they don’t even bother with a sample menu on their website – and their daily offerings are very much determined by what’s fresh at market and what ingredients are top notch.

Influenced by the Slow/Local/Organic Food movements, Sweet Virginia is focused on providing excellent service and high quality fresh food with robust flavors and not too much drumherum.  It’s not fussy fancy food, but it’s deeply delicious.  I ate house-made salsiccia ravioli with herbed brown butter sauce.  Yum.

As good as the food is the atmosphere.  Low lighting, friendly waitstaff, and seating for maybe fifty make for a cozy setting.  You’ll want to stay for hours.

  • Südhang (Susannenstr. 29, Sternschanze)

This restaurant and wine bar is situated in what used to be a punky part of town.  It’s quickly gentrifying and becoming much hipper than it used to be, but Südhang has been there long enough that we’ll not hold any of that against them.  Also, they’re above a combination shoe and wine store.  Awesome, right?

Anyway, this is another fresh, local, slow food restaurant.  The appetizer I had there was one of the most memorable things I ate on this whole trip – it was a mache salad (the Germans love their mache – why can’t we get it here more often?  I’m so planting some on the roof this summer) with a sesame-y, balsamic-y dressing and fancy local goat cheese on toast.  Holy.  Crap.  It was so delicious.

The wine and entrees were also great, but damn.  I can’t get past the goat cheese.

Again, it’s a rapidly changing menu, so don’t expect to get the same thing twice, but I’ve heard it almost never disappoints.

Oh, and the waitress was the nicest one I’ve ever had in Germany.

  • Hegeperle (Hegestr. 68, Eppendorf)

I went to the Hegeperle twice in one day.  Wiebke and I had breakfast there before she went to work (poor thing wasn’t also on vacation) and it was delicious.  Cold cuts and cheese and delicious bread – all the things I like about a German breakfast, but it was all of a slightly higher quality than I’m used to seeing at German breakfast places.  There was also a tiny little bowl of jam that was a gorgeous fuchsia color.  We tried and tried to guess, but couldn’t place the sweet but tangy, almost creamy flavor.  I asked finally and was totally surprised.  You’ll have to wait for a recipe and the punchline when I have time to can some for myself.  Ha!  Also, it’s the kind of place that has a resident dog.  This one scuttled around the cafe sniffing people’s feet and stopping to say hello each time she passed my table.

When I went back in the afternoon, it was with the beginnings of a cold that knocked me out for the following two days.  I ordered myself a big pot of berry tea and a slice of cake.  They had just been setting the cakes out at breakfast time and I had had my eye on a slice of Beerentorte, but decided 10 AM was too early for gluttony.  When it arrived, it was stunning.  I have no idea what kind of filling it was – it was almost cheesecake-like, but without the tang and with a more solid (almost custard-like?) texture.  It was the color of butter.  And all over the cake, just at the surface of the filling, popping and bleeding into it, were at least three types of berries.  Definitely raspberries, maybe blackberries, definitely Preiselbeeren (which the Germans think are like cranberries, but aren’t, actually), maybe blueberries?  And there was a beautiful, glistening cloud of whipped cream on the side.  I begged and flattered and brown-nosed and pouted, but the owner wouldn’t give me the recipe.  Apparently she’s maybe writing a cookbook.  Fine.  I’ll figure it out MYSELF.

  • 20up (in the Empire Riverside Hotel, Bernhard-Nocht-Str. 97, St. Pauli)

There was quite a fuss when they built this hotel.  It’s in another rapidly gentrifying area, just between the Reeperbahn (red light district) and the harbor, on the old grounds of the Astra brewery.  Anyway, it’s a pretty elegant hotel and up on the 20th floor (20 up, you see?) there’s a very chic bar.  Seriously, extremely chic.  All the beautiful media types were there.  They sell expensive drinks (not by Boston standards, really, but for German drinks they were expensive) and a view that’s worth every penny you’ll spend on the drinks.  If it’s not completely foggy, it’s completely fabulous.

  • Trific (Eppendorfer Weg 170, Hoheluft-West)

I went to Trific with Christine on my first night in town.  I was so very sleepy that I don’t remember exactly everything that I ate, but it was delicious.  I had delicious Arctic Char and Topfknödel – a kind of dumpling (steamed?) with a fruit sauce – I don’t remember exactly what.  These Topfknödel were amazing.  We’ll be talking about them again soon.

The restaurant is run by a former food magazine editor and his wife.  They had an ad up in the bathroom looking for a new apartment and offering a reward of a free meal for anyone who helped find one.  It seems like quite a nice family and they’ve created a gem of a restaurant.  Definitely try it out for good fresh seafood and extremely friendly service.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 10.February 2011 17:31

    Ooooo… drool drool. So glad you posted about your Hamburg food experiences. Now I want to go back, and learn German, and… and…

    I love mache! So tender and succulent. One may find it at Whole Paycheck, but it is (duh) not cheap. You may want to start seeds inside (around early April, methinks) and plant it out early, as it is definitely a cool-season crop. Or you could rig some kind of shade structure up on your roof so the mache doesn’t bolt for the sky as soon as the temps crack 70.

  2. wjh permalink
    13.February 2011 06:57

    Die schönste Stadt der Welt!!

    I am still dreaming about these daiquiris. Should start test series of how to make them just as delicious as at 20up.

    Next time we have to have breakfast at Speisekammer. http://www.qype.com/place/48602-Speisekammer-Hamburg

  3. 17.February 2011 21:07

    Was that a wiener dog??? I LOVE dachshunds!! And good food, of course. Great post! Makes me want to travel!

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      18.February 2011 10:17

      I don’t know what she was – some sort of mutt, I think. But definitely part dachshund. Fun fact: did you know that even though we call dachshunds by a German name, the Germans don’t use the same name for them? They call them Dackel. The more you know…. :)

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