Here, in the shadows of the extraordinary architecture of the Kolumba art museum, you’ll find a buffet with a colourful mix of dishes: from soy stroganoff to goulash and mango curry. Simply choose a plate size and help yourself. For just five euros you can get a bowl of soup with two slices of bread. The downside of the buffet concept here is that the dishes are often not as hot as they could be, but the sheer variety more than makes up for it. Most dishes are based on classic recipes but given a unique twist. Like the stroganoff, which uses gherkins to give a slightly sour tang to its creamy sauce and black salsify for a slightly nutty taste. The roasted cauliflower florets are covered in a tahini and lime sauce, turning the golden-brown veg into a hearty treat. But be warned: tables are hard to come by at lunchtime.
Ludwigstr. 11, 50667 Cologne, sattgruen.com
For many Cologne locals, Kebapland is the culinary highlight of Ehrenfeld – comedian Jan Böhmermann even once urged his Twitter followers to “Bury my heart in Kebapland!”. The only bone of contention here is the signature charcoal smell that wafts in all directions. The officers from the police station opposite aren’t always impressed, but the thought of a mouthwatering Adana platter or sandwich is usually enough to keep the peace. These house specialities are ordered by a constant stream of people from all walks of life – from gangster types with tattooed necks to young boys, senior citizens and regular workers on their lunch breaks. The meat is juicy and generously portioned. And the soup of the day – “lentil, as always!” – is served with a flatbread from the grill, which gives it its signature smoky flavour. In a word: delicious!
Venloer Str. 385, 50825 Cologne
Astrein is the new restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Eric Werner, whose style is classic, precise and perhaps a touch conservative. With a vegetarian option also available, the set meal starts off on an indulgent note: the veal terrine with duck liver was sumptuous, while the black salsify, green apple and Périgord truffle salad provide a fresh touch. This is promptly followed by char baked in puff pastry and positioned before a small pond of beurre blanc, held in place by two pieces of glazed spring lox and a very decadent helping of caviar. Next up is an excellent filet of Breton mullet, flanked by sobrassada risotto – with preserved limequat for a fruity, bitter contrast. But the undisputed highlight is the aromatic duck breast, accompanied by a tender, vanilla-tinged gratin of Jerusalem artichoke.
Krefelder Str. 37, 50670 Cologne, astrein-restaurant.de
There are many restaurants that contribute to the typical grill aroma on Keupstrasse. But particularly worthy of a mention is this one. Family-run restaurant Mevlana is always busy – and rightly so. But hospitality is always the order of the day. Once seated, you will be brought a generous portion of fluffy pita bread and two dips to start. Main courses include the grilled rack of lamb, which is cooked on the charcoal grill and seasoned with paprika which gives it its red colour, or the tender roast lamb in a delectable tomato sauce. At the end of your meal, you’ll be treated to a çay (Turkish tea) on the house. If you are interested in discovering more about Turkish cuisine, the restaurant changes its daily menus during the week, allowing you to embark on a culinary tour of Turkey without ever leaving Cologne.
Keupstr. 47, 51063 Cologne, mevlanakoeln.de
This small restaurant is living proof that vegetarian cuisine can also be exciting and varied enough to appeal to a mainstream audience. If the weather is good, try and get a table outside on the leafy patio. Although small for a Vietnamese restaurant, the menu is great and includes delights like green curry with peanuts, tofu, lime leaves, coconut, chilli, mushrooms and beans. You can’t go wrong with the daily specials either, such as tofu with fried vegetables on a bed of thin, yellow ribbon noodles with a pleasant hint of turmeric and topped with fried onion, fresh herbs and a slightly spicy lime and chilli dressing. The soup with rice noodles, tofu, shiitake mushrooms and eggs is also a very well-rounded affair. And if you want to up the flavour stakes a little more, why not finish up with one of the sweetened teas on offer? But don’t forget: it’s cash only here.
Friesenwall 29, 50672 Cologne, chum-chay.de