Major food trends rarely point in the same direction. Like in the case of meat, for example: Cologne might be home to a great many top-notch burger places — such as Fette Kuh (Bonner Str. 43) in the south of the city — but more and more vegetarian restaurants are cropping up here too and their creative approach to vegetarian and vegan cuisine is even attracting a growing number of meat-eaters.
These conflicting trends take on a more interesting dimension in Cologne, where brewhouse cuisine is founded on meaty classics such as blood sausage (Flönz), kidneys in a sour sauce and Rheinland-style marinated pot roast. However, a new generation of chefs are well on the way to establishing vegetarian food, even in these rather conservative circles. One example of this is Johann Schäfer (Elsassstr. 6), where you’ll find lovingly prepared vegetarian fare alongside regular meat-based classics.
And there are a whole host of other ambitious chefs here who are including meat-free creations on their menus as a regular fixture. Located in the upmarket Gerling Quarter, La Fonda (Gereonskloster 8) matches its sophisticated fish and meat dishes with vegetarian and vegan delicacies such as black salsify bread salad or oven-roasted cauliflower with pomegranate, spinach and a lemon glaze. The owners of this chic restaurant are sending out the clear message that it’s not only possible to prepare fine cuisine without meat, but also that it makes perfect sense.
And Michelin-starred establishments such as Ox & Klee (Im Zollhafen 18), which was awarded its second star in 2019, or Maibeck (Am Frankenturm 5) in the Old Town (see also page 28), have been including mouth-watering meat-free options on their menus for quite some time now.
Asian cuisine is often a good source of inspiration. Ever since Chum Chay (Friesenwall 29) opened, guests have been beating a path to its door. As well as being a popular spot for a good, straightforward lunch, the Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant also offers the perfect surroundings for a cosy dinner in the evening. Its hearty vegetarian and vegan dishes and soups truly hit the spot with their careful blend of seasoning — feel-good food at its best.
With its clearly defined flavour palette, Japanese noodle bar Nobiko in Kalk (Josephskirchstr. 25) is a prime example of an alternative, collectively organised gastro concept that has really upped the ante. On the entirely vegan menu, diners will mainly find udon noodles that are made on the premises, as are the soups and seasoning blends. It’s a well-kept secret — even for many Cologne locals.
Meat traditionally takes centre stage in Austrian cuisine, but Gasthaus Scherz (Luxemburger Str. 256) will surprise you with its top-quality vegetarian take on the classics. Owner and head chef Michael Scherz is a vegetarian himself and more than happy to arrange meat-free options for his guests — in fact, demand is so great that there are plans to introduce a fixed vegetarian menu.
Returning to our burger theme, the sheer variety on offer at the vegan Bunte Burger (Hospeltstr. 1) in the vibrant district of Ehrenfeld means that meat-eaters won’t even feel like they’re missing out on the lack of beef. This corner restaurant, which originally started out as a food truck, is also certified organic — bringing together two major culinary trends. Which goes to show that even burger joints can serve up sustainable, healthy food.
Friesenwall 29, 50672 Cologne, city centre, Tel. +49 (0)221 790 037 98, chum-chay.de
Luxemburger Str. 256, 50937 Cologne, Sülz, Tel. +49 (0)221 169 294 40, scherzrestaurant.de
Gereonskloster 8, 50667 Cologne, Gereonsviertel, Tel. +49 (0)221 16 81 75 15, lafonda.koeln
Josephskirchstr. 25, 51103 Cologne, Kalk, Tel. +49 (0)221 168 686 66, nobiko.de (credit cards not accepted!)
Hospeltstr. 1, 50825 Cologne, Ehrenfeld, Tel. +49 (0)221 595 560 88, bunteburger.de
(by Bernd Wilberg)