Unbreadictable! – Suppertime in Cologne
In terms of food choices, Cologne leaves nothing to be desired. Falafel, sushi, burgers etc. – there’s nothing that doesn’t exist. You could even say there’s too great a choice. But sometimes you just need to go back to basics and choose bread. Two slices. Plus something yummy in between. For #VisitKoeln I went out to visit my favourite sandwich shops. And as you will see, bread might be basic, but sandwiches are a different creature entirely…
The apes have spawned: Eileen Lehr and Moritz Ochsenbauer have finally opened another Bad Ape outlet, having made a very prominent name for themselves with their extraordinary sandwich variations and fabulous salad bar. Bread salad with cucumber, tomato and fresh basil; potato salad just like your granny used to make it; fried cauliflower with peanuts and lime juice; lentils with tahini; savoy cabbage with apricot and elderflowers… you can choose a bit of everything and pay by weight.
But I’m here to check out the bread-based options which here, how could it be otherwise, are known as Apewiches. Three delicious classics are always on the menu: an amazing veggie version with sweet potato, hummus and sesame aioli; smoked chicken with papaya and mango chutney; and beef brisket with braised onions, horseradish and cremolata sauce. The bread is crunchy, fluffy and absorbs just the right amount of topping. The Apes only serve what tastes really good – no wilted lettuce leaves, no canned tuna or tasteless mayo in sight. Instead, I see artichokes, green asparagus, hummus, mint and salsa verde. To drink, there’s homemade apple and elderflower lemonade. Their first tiny shop near the busy shopping precinct of Ehrenstrasse is still trading, but it’s more of a takeaway place. The second outlet, the Bad Ape Mothership if you will, has a comfortable seating area. Which is good, because the outside world doesn’t have to see the mess you might become, having enjoyed a very generously stuffed and vastly delicious Apewich.
Bad Ape Pop-up at Das Zappes
Roonstraße 71, 50674 Köln
This fabulous little idyll is just off Neumarkt. Originally, the proprietors wanted to open a café. After all, Cam is a trained barista and as such is the master of coffee drinks. But then she and her partner had a much better idea: a place serving coffee and bành mì.
These Vietnamese sandwiches are not yet super-popular in Cologne, but chef Hiep is doing his very best to change that. He stuffs his baguettes with very unusual toppings and the result is out of this world. Classic baguette meets pork paté, pork neck, duck liver paté, raw vegetable salad, coriander, chilli and an outrageously delicious sauce. The bành mì version with shrimp also features avocado, yuzu spread, crunchy vegetables and fresh herbs. The version with beef brisket is a Café 1980 mainstay, as is the vegan option with seitan, tofu, glass noodles and fried rice. Plus there’s weekly specials such as green mango salad with shrimp or crispy pork belly. The whole place is lovingly decorated and is my personal favourite in Cologne. In summer, be sure to order the watermelon salad with prawns and chicken and finish off with Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk and crushed ice. In fact, order it in winter too.
Bobstraße 28, 50676 Cologne
Aline Rademacher’s bistro is so delightful you want to squeal. Reed baskets are suspended above the counter, there’s fresh flowers and a porcelain sugar bowl on every table, the walls are adorned with statues of the Virgin, enamel cake pans, painted plates and lots of framed photographs. And then Aline floats into view in her stripy full-circle skirt and welcomes you with a friendly “Bonjour!”.
Madame has imported her favourite food from her native France, tartine – essentially open sandwiches au gratin, or slices of hearty rustic bread with various delicious toppings, several of which are available at any one time. For instance, there’s Tartine Fourme d’Ambert with a mild blue cheese, pear and almonds, or Tartine Sesame with tomato, rocket, ham, dried tomatoes, comté cheese and of course sesame. And naturally, the menu features the mother of all cheese sandwiches, Croque Madame, and its “male” version Croque Monsieur: toast au gratin with cooked ham, Emmental cheese, béchamel sauce and a fried egg on top – my favourite Sunday breakfast by far. And as if that were not enough, Madame Tartine has its own in-house French patissier, Sylvain, who creates chocolate eclairs, strawberry tartlets, lavender cheesecakes and almond croissants. Come in a starved state, and wear something elasticated.
Venloer Straße 432, 50825 Cologne
The original German-style sandwich is alive and well in Cologne’s Südstadt: known as “Schnittchen”, a simple slice of bread with a topping. No gratin, no beef brisket, nothing fancy – instead, bread plus a classic liver paté, camembert, gouda, goat’s cheese, or sliced boiled egg with chives. And it’s fantastic! Birgit Winterberg has opened a pilgrimage site for all sandwich lovers. In her pretty café, Birgit serves various products from the nearby Eifel region.
Her lovely rye bread is as hearty as they come and is served in great classic combinations: country liver paté from the Eifel with pickled gherkins and celeriac chutney, camembert with mustard and berry chutney, or scrambled eggs with parmesan and tomato chutney… Naturally, there’s also a Schnittchen version of the German classic “Strammer Max”, with gouda, ham and fried eggs. Geschnitten Brot is one of those places where you instantly feel at home: lots of wood, pleasant colours, fresh flowers, a welcoming host and Schnittchen like your mum used to make you. Besides the sandwiches, the menu also features daily specials including soups, salads and home-made cake. The house special is what Germans call Kalter Hund (cellar cake) – if you like, the Schnittchen edition of cake.
Alteburger Straße 28, 50678 Cologne