Hamburg's Culinary Scene
Hamburg has more star-rated restaurants than ever. And yet the city’s young, dedicated food scene has a preference for simplicity, celebrating artisan food and beverage from regional, seasonal and eco-friendly sources – to be best enjoyed in good company at one big driftwood table.
The smell of fried king trumpet mushrooms and sautéed fennel rises in the air around the sizzling and rattling skillets and cooking pots. The setting: a charming old industrial site just next to a suburban railway line in the district of Altona. It is Thursday, and the area in front of this former transport equipment workshop is packed with mobile food booths, gourmet trucks and deli stands with home-made regional specialties. Food lovers, hipsters, gourmet folks and food bloggers are browsing the site, while others enjoy a philly cheese steak or blini with salmon and sour cream on long tables inside the building, toasting with local beer from the Ratsherrn brewery or the “5 continents” Hamburg gin.
Hamburg’s culinary avant-garde is known for their love of regional organic food. The fare on offer is sustainably produced and prepared with love – in other words: fast food with slow-food quality. “There is an urgent need for people to know what they eat and under which circumstances their food has been produced,” says Dannie Quilitzsch, the organiser of the Hallo Frau Nachbar neighbourhood market on the Schanzenhöfe, where local artisans and designers present their products during the summer months. In response to the recent do-it-yourself spirit and the growing public awareness for sustainable consumption, she has now taken an interest in Hamburg’s evolving food scene. Aswell as many Hamburgians do - their interest boosted the appearance of many food trucks in the city aswell as a weekly Food Truck Market in Altona.
Hamburg’s Lively Brewing Tradition
Also on offer at any streetfood market: craft beer from local microbreweries. Only two years ago, the choice of beer in Hamburg’s pubs and clubs was largely confined to appealing lager varieties from a limited number of national breweries. However, a lively craft beer scene has evolved in Hamburg in recent years. It was Oliver Wesseloh who started this trend with his Kreativbrauerei Kehrwieder. “It is a true culinary pleasure to see a choice of pale ales, and even a Baltic porter and an imperial stout being savoured at a table – this is truly the renaissance of Hamburg’s beer culture,” rejoices Oliver, the current world champion beer sommelier. Today there are a number of local breweries that are pursuing Hamburg’s traditional art of brewing. Back in the Middle Ages, Hamburg was in fact considered the “brewery” of the Hanseatic League, and the worty flavour of the local beer was owing to the somewhat salty brackish water of the city’s canals. Hamburg’s brewing industry had reached its peak with more than 600 breweries around the year 1500, and Oliver and other brewing masters are now reviving this old north German tradition. These unique, tasty craft beers cannot be found in just any shop – which is fuelling the trend rather than slowing it down. In their quest for local quality products Hamburg’s connoisseurs are willing to go the extra mile.
Working together with cottage industries and small manufacturers
This can also be said for Robert Wullkopf and Hagen Schäfer. These two chefs run the Lokal1 in the Schanzenviertel district, where they exclusively offer local, seasonal produce from organic farms and welfare-friendly environments. Situated in a quiet side street, their restaurant is a real treat for all those who love this blossoming food culture. In winter, the Lokal1 offers turbot from the Wismar Bay served with swede gratin and leek. Robert and Hagen, who were schooled by celebrity chef Christian Rach, place a special focus on sourcing their produce from small farms and manufacturers located in and around Hamburg. When sourcing their products, they pay less attention to eco seals, as not all of their regional suppliers have undergone the costly certification process involved. Instead, they rely on personal contact and mutual trust, which offers them insights into their suppliers’ eco-friendly, high-quality production methods.
Slow food on wheels
With their bright green gourmet truck, Robert and Hagen can also be found at local markets, which certainly adds to the popularity of the Lokal1. While enjoying the meal, word has gone around that celebrity chef and restaurant owner Tim Mälzer is also developing a gourmet truck concept – which is hardly surprising: the direct contact between the chef and the connoisseurs, the limited, high-quality choice of dishes, and, not least of all, the cool image of food trucks make these mobile galleys so popular. This new trend represents the food scene’s sociability and creativity and also its rejection of industrial mass production. Hamburg’s food scene is sizzling – not only during market days.