Notes from a one-day visit to the Bavarian capital.
It was cold and grey, which pleased me. I’ve enjoyed the Mediterranean summer but it was nice to get an early taste of winter by heading north. I pulled on a sweater and buttoned up my long wool coat and hit the streets of München with the munchies, ready to enjoy some rib-sticking traditional food.
Obviously in just one day I didn’t get to see very much, but as usual when I travel my first port of call was the local food market. Munich’s outdoor Viktualienmarkt is simply stunning. Hundreds of stalls sell superb, fresh produce and serve snacks to hungry shoppers and tourists. I could have spent all day here filling up on soups, fish sandwiches and sausages, washed down by selections from, of course, the beer garden. The quality and range were first rate and I immediately wanted to prolong my stay so that I could shop and cook with some of what was on offer.
In the end I decided to warm my bones with a seat indoors. I have no frame of reference so I can’t compare Bratwursthertz with other restaurants nearby but I certainly enjoyed my lunch there. Located just off the market in a small square, there’s been an inn on the site since 1633 and Bratwursthertz has existed in its current form since 1901. Inside, brick arches form a low ceiling, beneath which a well-ventilated wood grill turns out traditional Bavarian dishes to (on the day I was there) an almost exclusively German-speaking clientele, which I took as a good sign.
After a quick chat with the friendly waiter – and, of course, a beer – I chose a mixed ‘farmer’s platter’ (Bauerschmaus) in order to try as many things as possible: there are no tapas-sized portions here. For a bargain €10.80 I got tender roast pork and gravy, sour cabbage, an enormous dumpling and some smoked sausages. Food porn it’s not, but it tasted great.
An afternoon of pacing the handsome city, including a lap of the impressive and vast Englischer Garten, a landscaped park, was fuelled with a mid-walk strudel stop. This, despite the long heritage of the Kreutzkamm café, turned out to be a soggy, sloppy, microwaved disappointment.
Dinner was much better. I found the Wirsthaus in der Au by chance near my hotel and knew I’d struck lucky when I glanced through the window. This large hall lit with candles and log fires was absolutely packed, and the piled plates of dumplings that the costumed waiting staff were carring looked good. It was fully booked, but a space was found for me on the end of a shared table near the bar. More excellent wheat beers, of course, washed down a messy but delicious plate of Burschen-Reindl: Bavarian duck and roasted pork, served with red cabbage, potato, and dumpling (€16.50).
German food has a bad rep in Spain and I can understand why a lot of it is unappealing to Mediterranean palates. It’s heavy, stodgy, winter food with unfamiliar flavours; but I grew up on roast meat, gravy and dumplings and this was just comfort eating with a slightly exotic edge for me.
I had a final encounter with Bavarian food at the airport, rarely a gastronomic highlight of any trip but on this occasion actually pretty good. It was, unsurpisingly, sausages, dumpling, cabbage etc. and I can imagine that the appeal of these limited combinations starts to wear thin after a while but I was happy enough to give it another try. And the beer, or course, was excellent.