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How To Eat In Hamburg

My Hamburg trip woke me up to the joys of German food. My previous Berlin trips had left me with the impression that German cuisine was all wurst and bier. Well, I was wrong. Okay, so I'd be remiss if I omitted to mention sausages and beer entirely, but this great city has so much more to offer. Best of all, it's brilliant for those travelling on a budget, with most meals for two clocking in at under 20. Here's a list of the food (and drink) I think you should try if you're planning a trip!

Fischbrötchen at Brücke 10 (St Pauli-Landungsbrücken 10)
Brücke 10, a little shack on the riverfront, offers the typical Hamburg dish. And no, it's not a hamburger; it's fischbrötchen, a fresh fish roll served with raw onions or pickles. (It's lucky that B and I have been dating for a while, isn't it?) Stick with me here - it's actually delicious. We tried two iterations of this traditional sandwich: herring and kräutermatjes (€3-3.50 each). This humble dish surprised me - it's full of complex flavours and textures. The fish, creamy yet meaty, offers notes of nutmeg and lemon, and is incredibly refreshing, especially when washed down with Alsterwasser, a Hamburg shandy. These are served cold and therefore probably best eaten al fresco at the height of summer, watching the huge liners sailing past. However, in the winter there's also the option of taking shelter inside the cute shack and snuggling up with sheepskin rugs while you chow down, and there's also warm food like Fischfrikadelle (fish balls).

Wurst at...

Mö Grill (Lilienstraße 36)
Simply the best: mildly spiced Currywurst with thickly-cut Pommes and a huge dollop of mayo. Cheap and filling. There's lots of 'Kombis' on offer at this particular joint: essentially meal deals where you can get currywurst, chips and a drink for about €5. Nicht schlecht!

For an even simpler lunch, have a little tray of classic Bratwurst and chips for lunch under the rails of the Isemarkt. We ate incredibly well at the Isemarkt (read more about this brilliant market in my 10 Things To Do In Hamburg post) - there's tons of choice, and if you're not keen on meat there's also the veggie option below...

Vegetarian lasagne at Isemarkt.
Like most German food, this lasagne is hearty and you get lots for your money (€5, or €4.50 without the sauce) - but is lighter without the meat. I'm not sure what this stall was called - perhaps 'Vegetarische Spezialitäten' - but I'd recommend walking along the Isemarkt to find it for lunch. As you might have guessed, it specialises in vegetarian food, from spelt pasta salad to Auflauf, and also does a fantastic range of juices, We had one with carrot, beetroot and celery, which tasted delicious and felt very cleansing. Which was sorely needed after all that fried food. 

Flammkuchen at Jimmy Elsass (Schäferstraße 26)
The speciality at this cool restaurant is a crispy, creamy quasi-pizza. Please don't attack me, Italians and Germans - the two are wildly different. There's a base covered with a range of toppings, and there the similarity ends. The shape is different - Flammkuchen are more oval or rectangular, and much thinner. We had goat's cheese with pear and Schwarzwald ham with rosemary and mushrooms. You can also enjoy über-Deutsch specialties here, such as steins of fantastic beer and Obatzter: a fluffy pretzel with a cheesy dip, cornichons and peppery radishes. The flammkuchen are pretty affordable, roughly comparable to London pizza prices at €8.50-11.50. 

 Pfannkuchen in the Kleinhuis' Cafe & Weinstube (Peterstraße 28)
In my experience, Hamburg museums have fantastic cafes, so you won't go hungry if you're in search of culture! Wiped after visiting the Komponisten-Quartier Museum, we sat down for a bite to eat in the elegant adjoining bistro-cum-cafe, which is not cheap but offers some great lunch options such as these pfannkuchen: mini crêpes topped with pulled pork (for me) and a feta and tomato salad (for him).

  Kaffee und Kuchen at...

Cafe Gnosa (Lange Reihe 93)
Gnosa is an amazing old-school establishment where you can peruse a cabinet stuffed full of cake and sip your coffee while leafing through the newspapers on poles. We chose a rhubarb streusel which came with tons of cream. Drinks: coffee for B and a hot chocolate for me. 'Would you like cream with that?' asked the waitress innocently. I answered in the affirmative, and along with a brimming cup of hot chocolate and biscuit came an espresso cup FULL of cream. On top of the cloud of cream that came with the cake. The Germans know how to live.

Kaffeerösterei (Kehrwieder 5)
This warehouse in the Speicherstadt is actually a coffee museum, so obviously it's got a great café. We walked in here exhausted after a day of roaming around the city and flopped down next to the antique roasting machines, but were soon revived after a predictably great freshly roasted coffee, a plump Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) and thick, sweet hot Kakao, both garnished with the requisite mountain of cream.

Kunsthalle (Glockengießerwall)
I intend to write more fully about the Kunsthalle in due course, but for now let it be said that this brilliant art museum has great cake to match. B is crazy for Mohn (poppy seed) and this earthy Mohnkuche lived up to expectations. It went particularly well with a floral, full-bodied Earl Grey. I seem to recall that this was the most expensive of the cafes we visited, with a deal pricing a big cup of coffee and slice of cake for €5. However, be warned - if you want your peak of whipped cream with the cake you'll have to pay extra for it! Which I did, because I'm an addict.

Wine at Alles Elbe (Hein-Hoyer-Straße 63)
This amazing underground bar is a stone's throw from the Reeperbahn. It's an intimate space illuminated by candlelight, specialising in wines created along the banks of the river Elbe. I enjoyed a very good Riesling here: light and floral with a crisp green flavour, reminiscent of freshly sliced cantaloupe melon. B chose an Apfelwein which tasted citrusy yet reminded me of tarte aux pommes - incredibly light with an intense apple flavour. It's a charming bar, serving little pots of pretzels with the drinks, the tables adorned with little bottles of tulips and baby's breath, a record player in the corner piping unobtrusive jazz and signs on the wall forbidding political chat. It's also pretty cheap - I paid €3.60 for my glass of wine. I just know that if we lived in Hamburg that this would be a regular haunt, and wish I could find an equivalent in east London. 

I hope that this post (as bloated as my belly after my visit...) proves that Hamburg is rich in food offerings! I haven't even written about Hamburg's burgeoning bakery scene. As in Germany generally, there's a bakery on every corner - sometimes two or three - and breakfast is guaranteed to be exciting, with delicacies such as Mohnschnecke or Franzbrötchen to sink your teeth into. Try both!

If you want to read more on Hamburg, check out my 10 Things To Do In Hamburg post. 

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