C’est la vie: French cuisine in Cologne
Time to explore the culinary delights of our neighbouring country France! Eléna, who has spent the last three months interning with VisitKoeln’s communications team, comes from Bordeaux, the city of wine and the famed miroir d’eau – a large water-covered granite-paved area on Place de la Bourse that reflects the surrounding buildings and is the most photographed attraction in the city. She came up with the idea of introducing you to the cuisine of her home country by reviewing a selection of French restaurants in Cologne.
The term gastronomie française tends to have connotations of luxury, which is why most people assume that French cuisine is all about tiny portions with a large price tag.
However, don’t let that influence what your palate thinks about French cooking! And anyway, there are so many unique regional variations of French cuisine that it really doesn’t make much sense to speak of “French” cooking per se.
Also, “eating French” is about so much more than just filling your stomach. A typical French meal will consist of an entrée, a main course, and cheese and/or dessert – the holy trinity, if you like. In other words, eating the French way is not so much about the food than the sense of community that is celebrated every time you sit down to enjoy it.
And this sense of friendly community is not limited to restaurants in France; it extends to most French restaurants outside its borders, too. For this blog post I’ve selected four French restaurants in Cologne, each of which impressed me in its own special way. They’re illustrative of France’s culinary diversity and exemplary in showing that French cooking is highly accessible.
Frau Maaß Herr Schlie
The menu at Frau Maaß Herr Schlie is all about quiches and tortes. Quiche Lorraine is typical of northern France, in fact it hails from the eponymous Lorraine region. The shortcrust pastry base is topped with what is known as migaine, a mixture of egg and fresh cream flavoured with pepper and grated nutmeg, with smoked bacon on top of that. The restaurant serves a variety of quiches including ones with vegetables and cheese, alongside a selection of soups, salads and main courses. To finish on a sweet note, try one of their cannelés, cakes or cookies, all of which are home-made! There’s also vegan and gluten-free options, even on the quiche menu (make sure you pre-order!), as well as gluten-free desserts, which is great for me and my gluten intolerance.
EUR 10 (or less) will buy you a satisfying and hearty meal that you can enjoy on the premises or to go. The staff are smiley and friendly, clearly proud to serve up the specialities of the house.
Huhnsgasse 37, 50676 Cologne
Web: www.maass-schlie.de | www.facebook.com/Frau-Maaß-Herr-Schlie-290312641590942
Wackes – French-Alsatian cuisine
In the Friesenviertel not far from Rudolfplatz is Wackes, which has been serving home-made Alsatian and French classics for 36 years. This restaurant (120 seats) is famed mainly for its tartes flambées, a traditional dish involving a rectangle of very thinly rolled bread dough topped with thick soured cream or crème fraiche plus onions and bacon that’s baked in the oven. Of course, there’s also vegetarian options. If that doesn’t take your fancy, try other French staples such as duck liver or crème brûlée. To accompany all dishes, whether fish or meat, the host will be happy to suggest the right Alsatian wine.
I loved the authentic flavour of the French duck liver, gently browned on the outside and creamy on the inside, served with apple and a lovely, slightly fruity Alsatian pinot gris. The same wine went beautifully with a tender piece of cabillaud (cod) and potato and parsley mash with a lemon and caper sauce. A delicious meal enjoyed in a typical warm Alsatian atmosphere, with a perfect balance of sweet and savoury flavours, rounded off with French music in the background that took me right back home. I was welcomed and served in French, too. Many thanks to proprietor Mr Wack, who has succeeded so well in transplanting a piece of Alsace into the heart of Cologne.
Benesisstraße 59, 50672 Cologne
The neighbourhood of Sülz is the home of Tappo, whose menu stretches across a variety of French regions. And with a wine list this long and diverse, it’s not hard to find the right wine for each dish. The experienced kitchen team uses only high-quality ingredients to produce dishes with a harmonious combination of aromas. Tappo’s list of entrées is extensive, including terrines, pastries and Breton soup. As for the main courses, France is clearly evident in the cordon bleu, confit de canard or roast lamb in a red wine sauce. The selection of desserts is small but well chosen, including mousse au chocolat with a berry coulis or crème brûlée.
In Tappo’s hearty, pleasant atmosphere, expect to spend between EUR 25 and 30 for a two-course meal with a drink, entirely acceptable for cooking of this quality.
Manderscheider Strasse 37, 50937 Cologne
This family-run restaurant in the Severinsviertel offers the classic elements of French cuisine including breast of duck à l’orange, loup de mer (wolf fish) provençale or veal kidneys dijonnaise, to name but a few, plus a few typical Kölsch dishes. Since it opened in 2004, owners Anne and André Niediek keep surprising their guests with new creations and wines. This makes Maison Blue pretty unique, also in terms of quality. André feels strongly about fresh ingredients and home-made food –even the bread is baked on the premises. Anne is in charge of the waitstaff, whose enthusiasm and friendly manner lift the mood and make your meal a highly enjoyable experience.
As a native of south-western France, I was excited to try out the breast of duck à l’orange, one of my favourite dishes. Originally a recipe from the Béarn region, it used to be reserved for the middle classes. I was delighted to be served this authentic dish on the patio, accompanied by a side of gently cooked vegetables and a glass of Bordeaux red. A home-made crème brûlée closed out the meal – a dessert whose origins is heavily disputed by the French, the Catalans and the English. In fact, it was a French chef who invented it in the 1980s: a vanilla custard topped with a thin layer of caramelised sugar that you break with your spoon to get to the goodness below.
Splash out on a night at Maison Blue – and just like me, you’ll want to return again and again.
With these four restaurants, you’ll have covered a large part of French regional cuisine. Despite the broad price range, the prices are still very reasonable compared to what you’d pay in Paris, say, while on the same level quality-wise. In each of these restaurants I found a friendly, light atmosphere in which to enjoy my meals. Not all of it was due to the great cooking, though – the incredibly friendly Cologne guests made all the difference, too.
Enjoy the diversity of French cuisine!