Gourmet cuisine: Five of the best
Where Himmel un Ääd meets French toast
Cologne’s culinary diversity is legend. That being said, when it comes to gourmet cuisine for a long time diners had to make do with a handful of established restaurants. However, this is changing fast, with new restaurants and young chefs entering the scene with Michelin stars attached. They have redefined – even shaken up – the city’s gourmet dining culture and spurred their more established counterparts to go to even greater heights. As Cologne hosted the Cologne Fine Food Days for the first time, food blogger Ralf Johnen introduces us to his favourite foodie spots.
Gourmet cuisine in the Old Town? The advent of maiBeck in 2013 raised quite a few eyebrows. Soon after, Jan Cornelius Maier and Tobias Becker received their first Michelin star, heralding the establishment of a new kind of restaurant in Cologne: uncomplicated gourmet food with quality products, a highly competent kitchen team, and a professional approach to sourcing ingredients and wine. Plus, an unstuffy atmosphere without a starched tablecloth or gourmet rulebook in sight. The menu reflects a confident reinterpretation of new German cuisine, with producer names and geographic regions indicated where possible, responding to today’s clientele’s increased desire for transparency. The menu also features a number of creative vegetarian options, such as warm and chilled goat’s milk cream cheese with apricot, poppyseed mustard from Monschau and Romaine lettuce. maiBeck’s philosophy has earned it a community of loyal diners who travel from far and wide to eat here.
Am Frankenturm 5, 50677 Cologne
Ox & Klee
First the sous-chef in a Cologne brewery, then a job in a basement of a turn-of-the-century building in the Belgian Quarter, today the occupant of a glamourous space in one of Cologne’s Kranhaus high-rises in the port area: Daniel Gottschlich has had quite a career trajectory over the last couple of years. This year, his career reached a new high when the Troisdorf native received his second Michelin star in recognition of his courage and unique concept that meets the highest of expectations. “Experience Taste” is Gottschlich’s philosophy of choice: a changing five- to eight-course tasting menu that responds to all the six senses. While his creations are sparsely described (“Cervena venison: loin and shin, Sichuan, wild broccoli, blackberries”), they cause veritable explosions on the palate, with interesting textures that are beautifully presented on the plate. For a more affordable experience, diners should head to Bayleaf, Gottschlich’s second restaurant on the lower level, a culinary bar offering small-plate meals and cocktails.
“Brunch is dead” was the slogan that made NeoBiota’s team hit the headlines for the first time in 2018. Just a few months later, they were able to claim a Michelin star for their decidedly un-bourgeois concept. This unorthodox restaurant has managed to generate peak attention in a short space of time from its unassuming location on Ehrenstrasse. Sonja Baumann and Erik Scheffler are two young chefs who previously earned Gut Lärchenhof in nearby Pulheim a Michelin star. Now in Cologne, they aim to become the best breakfast spot in the entire city while rewarding curious foodies with top-level cuisine in the evening. It’s a gap that NeoBiota bridges quite wonderfully, with creations such as “Himmel un Ääd (black pudding and mashed potato) meets French toast” or “Watermelon, scallops and magnolia”. There is absolutely no dress code, and the soundtrack is hard rock. And naturally, all dishes are Instagram-beautiful. In other words, gourmet cuisine for millennials.
This spot in the basement of Cologne’s fanciest hotel has an elegant Asian inspired aura in which head chef Mirko Gaul creates fusion cuisine that is full of surprises – not least due to his re-interpretation of traditional dishes using local produce. “Lettuce | grilled lettuce hearts with peanut, lime and coriander cream” is just one example. These and other dishes feature on the “Chef’s Choice” menu, a culinary journey that earned Taku a Michelin star years ago. The house speciality is Peking duck, the history of which Mirko Gaul has studied closely, along with the Japanese art of making matcha tea. If you prefer to approach this type of dining more cautiously, head for Poké Makai around the corner, which serves Hawaiian poké bowls created by Gaul himself.
Taku at Hotel Excelsior Ernst
Trankgasse 1-5, 50667 Cologne
Web: www.excelsiorhotelernst.com/restaurants-bar/restaurant-taku-in-koeln | www.facebook.com/restauranttaku
Le Moissonnier is Cologne’s longest-serving gourmet restaurant with a history spanning more than three decades. This impressive longevity, plus two Michelin stars, has already earned Liliane and Vincent Moissonnier its rightful place in Cologne’s urban history book. With incredible attention to detail, chef Eric Menchon creates his own interpretations of classic French cuisine that, while true to tradition, are recognisably innovative. Le Moissonnier maintains the lively atmosphere of a Parisian bistro, with impeccable service and a hand-picked wine list, turning every single visit into a real treat. Here, the attribute “old-school” is meant as a compliment in the true sense of the word: food photography is frowned upon.