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Whenever I need to feel inspired, I head to a shisha bar

A day in the life of Julia Komp

|   day in the life

I live in Mülheim not far from the huge Rheinpark, the perfect place to go for a morning jog. When the sky is blue, the Rhine is glistening in the sun, the grass is a lush green and flowers are blooming, it’s really idyllic there. I don’t tend to eat breakfast because, as a chef, my working days are usually very long, but I have been known to go out for brunch: I really like Café Vreiheit and Jakubowski in Mülheim. If I have a day off, I will head to Gruber’s, a stone’s throw away from Reichenspergerplatz. It’s an Austrian restaurant that serves great food and has a lovely terrace surrounded by greenery. I also have a few other favourite places for lunch and dinner: the menu at Henne Weinbar combines Asian-inspired dishes with gourmet classics. And the great thing about it is the “sharing is caring” concept – the small plates served here are meant to be shared, which means you don’t really keep track of how much you’re eating! I also really like Kosta’s in the Belgian Quarter for its classic Greek dishes, excellent wine list and swish cocktails.

Speaking of cocktails, I can highly recommend Spirits on Engelbertstrasse and Toddy Tapper near Ebertplatz. The Sri Lankan owner puts an exotic twist on classic concoctions with aromatic spices like cardamom and star anise. Absolute perfection in a glass! I’m a big fan of oriental flavours in general. If I’m peckish late in the evening, I’ll grab a falafel from Habibi on Zülpicher Strasse – I love multicultural places like that!

I think it’s great that you can see so much of Cologne in just one day, especially if you enjoy cycling or walking. Before returning to Cologne to work as a chef in 2020, I spent a while travelling around the world and also explored a lot of cities on foot. If you ask me, that’s the best way to really get to know a place. Here in Cologne, a good route to take is from the Cathedral to the Old Town and then down to the Rheinauhafen, over to the south of the city and Chlodwigplatz to the city’s ring road boulevard, the Ringe. At Rudolfplatz you can turn into the shopping streets Mittelstrasse, Ehrenstrasse and Breite Strasse and cross the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine. From there, you can then enjoy a leisurely walk or bike ride along the river to Mülheim and admire the architecture of this former industrial quarter. And you can’t beat a sundowner in the Rheinpark! It’s worth bringing a picnic blanket and ending the day there with a view of Cologne Cathedral.

I picked up plenty of inspiration on my travels. For example, I was really fascinated by how people spend their evenings in the Middle East. Once the heat subsides, everyone flocks to the cafés. In a laid-back atmosphere, they drink mint tea and smoke traditional water pipes – that’s just part of everyday life there. Those were the moments on my trip when I was truly able to relax, soak up the inspiration around me and come up with ideas for new dishes. And still today, I will head to a shisha bar whenever I need to feel inspired – this might sound crazy, but it just reminds me of being on holiday. There’s no end of shisha bars in Cologne and although some don’t have the best image, there are also two or three good ones with a cool concept and a different kind of crowd. Such as Mason’s on Pfeilstrasse or Loya in Nippes, a chic-looking location with pink and purple décor that is anything but dark and dingy! I’m currently making plans to open my own fine dining restaurant called Sahila, where oriental cuisine will definitely have a role to play. 

Julia Komp, originally from Overath, became Germany’s youngest Michelin-starred chef when she was just 27. Following a stint at Lokschuppen in Cologne, she is now making plans to open her own restaurant Sahila.