Breakfast: Café Elefant
Café Elefant is quirky, but also very popular, which means it can get very full at times. The interior is classic: lots of wood, old furniture, floorboards with a real patina — reminiscent of a café in Belgium or on the banks of a canal in Amsterdam. The best place to sit is at the front by the window opposite the little counter, where you’ll have the best views of the tree-lined street outside. Unchanged for years, the offer is solid: coffee, various teas, spritzers, bottled beer, simple wines. The breakfast menu is substantial and includes really good scrambled eggs. Recommended for any time of day are the blinis, which are clearly prepared with a lot of love. The waiting times could be a little shorter, but just see it as an opportunity to relax and read one of the newspapers lying around to help you pass the time. Failing that, you could go wild and start chatting to the person sitting next to you. How very unconventional!
Weissenburgstr. 50, Agnesviertel
Lunch: Öz Urfali
Weidengasse, a street on the left side of the Rhine River in the north of the city, is a real Turkish hub. It’s not exactly the most beautiful part of town, but cosy in its own unique way, and at Öz Urfali you can also enjoy a decent lunch. There’s always some football match or other being shown on the TV — Turkey’s Süper Lig never seems to have a day off. To start with, you’ll be served three really tasty little dips with flatbread, best followed with one of the many grilled dishes, which are all good. The classic charcoal grill in the front window regularly attracts the interest of passers-by. We found the lamb kebabs on toasted bread with yoghurt to be quite plain; a tad more seasoning wouldn’t have gone amiss. Wash it all down with an ayran and some tea and leave with the aim of memorising the Turkish teams’ strip colours for your next visit.
Weidengasse 35, Eigelsteinviertel
Coffee + cake: Café Wahlen
Café Wahlen on the city’s ring road is Cologne’s most sophisticated coffee house. Very little has changed here since the 50s — and that’s a good thing. Apron-wearing waitresses, velvet-upholstered wood chairs, Persian rugs, silk wallpaper, display cabinets full of cakes and pastries such as ‘Baumkuchen’ (a cylinder layer cake resembling a cross-section of a tree trunk), petit fours and ‘Grillagetorte’ (a cake with half-frozen cream and meringue) — this place is a real treasure. It attracts a random mix of customers, from elegant ladies or distinguished city slickers with a sweet tooth to students in the mood for a glass of bubbly. This café is clearly very popular with locals and tourists alike. Our favourite is the Engadine nut tart, but it’s also hard to resist their almond and marzipan cake.
Hohenstaufenring 64, inner city
This bistro, with its black-and- white interior, has been one of the most reliable eateries in the Belgian Quarter for years now. You can’t go wrong with the set menus — three courses for 42 euros. And they recently also introduced a menu featuring various smaller dishes for 15 euros each. The combination of turnip cabbage, buttermilk, hibiscus and hazelnut comes highly recommended. Served with delicious red cabbage medallions, slightly dry chestnut dumplings and unfortunately not enough gravy, the juicy duck breast is melt-in-your-mouth tender. And the fjord trout from the smaller dish menu tastes great and comes with fun black salsify chopsticks.
Antwerpener Str. 15, Belgian Quarter
The Suderman cocktail bar close to Ebertplatz exudes an elegance that is rarely found in Cologne. Its minimalist style and extremely friendly welcome don’t feel forced, meaning it attracts a more down-to-earth crowd than your average cocktail drinker. The bartenders serve a range of regularly changing beers and ‘Herrenge-decke’, a beer and a chaser (in this case an IPA plus a shot). The cocktails are finely tuned, flawless drinks for around ten euros each but the portions are small. It’s rather quiet at the long bar during the week but can get crowded at weekends when DJs take to the decks.
Sudermanplatz 3, Agnesviertel
Fine dining, quick bytes or the best new bars: “tagnacht” is the German- language gastro guide to eating out and drinking in Cologne. Every year in April, we present hundreds of new reviews: from fast food to first-class restaurants, from the Old Town to the outskirts. “tagnacht” also features photography and reports on the latest trends in food culture and provides an extensive selection of tips on grocery shopping, cooking and going out in the cathedral city.
(by Christian Meier-Oehlke)