The Organic Traveller
Saturday, 28 October 2017

Munich: Organic and partially organic restaurants

To find a place for an organic lunch, snack or a coffee break requires not more than keeping your eyes open, but the evening out or a sumptuous weekend brunch can be a challenge if you don't know where to head for.

French

Given the French love for quality food one would expect all self-respecting French restaurants to use organic ingredients to a certain extent, but to actually find those which do proves to be harder than expected. In Munich head for brasserie La Bouche in Schwabing, a tastefully decorated place a few steps away from Münchner Freiheit. They promise to use organic ingredients throughout the menu, with three quite excusable exceptions: snails, seafood and Marsala wine.

In fact the exception list varies depending on daily supplies -- when I went there the lamb and the duck liver had been added -- but since it is all transparent and clearly stated on the menu you can adapt you order accordingly. The food itself is hearty French countryside fare, apart from the risottos (together with the Italian coffee the international touch to the menu) most dishes focus on meat or seafood. Since the main courses are very generous compared to other French restaurants, come hungry or skip the starter. In the meat-based stews we had -- coq au vin and an ox liver ragout -- the flavours of the ingredients were perfectly amalgamated and harmonic. The entrecote marinated in a pesto of fresh herbs -- although perfectly cooked rare -- however, did not live up to expectations, too perfumed, too imbalanced (and way too big) for my taste. Although the side dishes -- salads, stewed root vegetables, fried potatoes, and similar -- clearly play a supporting role they were well done and tasty. And the baguette served together with the starters was clearly one of the best I ever had.

Sadly the wines aren't organic, the soft drinks however are, and the bar offers organic pastis, gin and vodka. Note that the place is closed on Sundays.

German/Bavarian

With its rustic and cosy flair and garden tables under horse chestnut trees during the warm season Zum Kloster in the heart of the former village of Haidhausen a short walk from Wiener Platz makes the perfect surrounding for a laid-back chat with friends. They serve a selection of organic non-alcoholic beverages and up to three dishes on their meat-centric menu are marked as made with organic meat, eggs and flour, one of them being Spaghetti Bolognese. What a couple of years ago was simple, but perfectly eatable turned to be spoiled with what tasted like a conventional prefab seasoning so that I avoided the place for the last year. When I gave it a try yesterday it turned out that they obviously had a new chef: Both the liver on salad as well as the goulash stew were good home-made fare. Only the salad should better not have been as soaked in rapeseed oil as it was.

If heading for the classical Bavarian Wirtshaus -- rustic, but certainly missing the air of the students' and artists' pub present in "Zum Kloster" -- the Klinglwirt at the opposite end of Haidhausen near Rosenheimer Platz is the place to go. They serve organic meat from the nearby farm in Herrmannsdorf, organic cheese, bread, coffee, tea as well as Cramer's ice-cream. Unfortunately the side-dishes -- mainly potatoes, dumplings, sauerkraut, red cabbage and rustic salads -- usually are not organic, and there are no organic cold beverages on offer which is a pitty as it destroys the overall positive experience. The one notable exception is a delicious organic lager dubbed "Dachauer Schlossbräu", an organic brand of the Anheuser-Busch subsidiary Löwenbräu-Spaten, which goes perfectly well with the Klingwirt meat dishes. It does not appear on all menus yet but the friendly and helpful staff knows about it. Little guests are welcomed warmly, among others with a decent menu of their own (most kids will accept happily that the dishes listed there are almost free of greens). The restaurant is a member of Green Chefs, a network of eco conscious and socially responsible chefs.

For the 100% organic experience of Bavarian cuisine take the tram no. 25 from Rosenheimer Platz to its end station in the suburb of Grünwald. A five-to-ten minutes walk from there you'll find the only organic hotel in reach, Alter Wirt, with its rustic, yet up-market restaurant. Children are welcome and often allowed a visit to the kitchen, but the place is spacious enough that occasional little guests won't spoil your romantic candle-light dinner. There's a beergarden under horse chestnut trees, and the entire place is a real oasis in suburbia. On offer is the meat- and fish-centric Bavarian Sunday menu completed with dishes of Italian origin. The food is extremely tasty, home-made, yet peppered with pleasant little twitches of ambitious chefs. Not the place for vegetarians, but if you happen to be the only vegetarian in a group of omnivores, there's a tasty meal in for you as well. In addition they offer a range of assorted organic spirits.

The Herrmannsdorf farm mentioned above has its own upmarket 100% organic restaurant, the Wirtshaus zum Herrmannsdorfer Schweinsbräu, for meat lovers definitely worth the troubles of getting there -- an up to 1.5 hours affair (one-way) by public transport from Ostbahnhof station. Take a regional (faster) or urban train (S4) to Grafing Bahnhof, continue with bus no. 440 to Westerndorf, and walk about ten to 15 minutes over the fields to the farm. The rustic and newly refurbished restaurant offers high-standard traditional Bavarian cuisine based on freshest ingredients including the farm's famous own beer and assorted spirits. If you are wondering what you are going to eat stroll through the farm and greet the pigs and piglets. During the warm season you can also sit outside under horse chestnut trees, and if you happen to forget the time and your food shopping, there's a beautiful delicatessen cum supermarket in another farm-house opposite the restaurant. It is advised to book your table a few days in advance, and mandatory if you come on the weekends when the farm gives host to its traditional arts and crafts markets (in May, before Easter and Christmas). Especially the advent market is a pleasant alternative to the commercial Christmas markets in town. On market days a free bus transfer is provided from and to Grafing Bahnhof.

They advertise "Highclass organic food" in the 2015 print issue of Spy city guide, and you will find them listed as organic on the web, too, but when I rang them up the staff ensured me repeatedly: No, we do not use organic ingredients. Since they themselves do not mention the word bio neither on their German website nor on the menu it's likely that lack of command of the English language lead to this misconception. So even though Roecklplatz restaurant is a socially responsible enterprise employing young apprentices in difficult life situations and/or without formal education and thus deserves support, I can't recommend it in this guide.

Seven years ago this blog would also have featured the Ratskeller townhall restaurant at Marienplatz: Back then they had a separate organic menu. But since what is left of it are organic fried potato patties ("Reiberdatschi"), spaetzle, some organic juices and softdrinks, and they as a meat-centric restaurant do not serve any organic meat, I do not feel like recommending the place anymore.

International

Not a single word on their menu suggests that Miss Lilly's kitchen in Giesing prefers organic ingredients. But when tasting their huge and extremely yummy home-made burgers or Wiener Schnitzel it's perfectly reasonable that not only the meat (as confirmed by the staff) but also a good deal of the side-dishes are at least partially organic. Although vegetarians are catered for it's very obvious that Miss Lilly's chef prefers meat and does it perfectly. If you come with kids and ask for fries they will be served huge portions -- so don't order too many. The place near tube-station Kolumbusplatz is famous for their American Cheesecake (I didn't feel for dessert after a sumptous dinner and rather opted for a -- proper Italian-style -- coffee) and serves breakfast until 5 pm.

In the South-Eastern part of Giesing, near congested Tegernseer Landstraße yet tucked away in a pleasant neighbourhood at Alpenplatz you will find another rustic place, Das Edelweiß. Since it started as an organic restaurant about six years ago you will still find business cards and references describing it as organic, and you can still order organic softdrinks. Unfortunately the concept did not work out, and the focus has shifted from organic towards supporting local and small-scale businesses. Some of the ingredients such as the milk of the Sternenfair brand are produced according to near-organic principles, the tasty artisanal bread may sometimes be made from organic flour, if you come for breakfast on weekends you can have organic chocolate spread, maple syrup and hot chocolate, but you should rather expect artisanal conventional food. When I questioned the owner about it she assured me that she's trying to find a new chef with love for local and seasonal high-quality food, and hopefully a renewed focus on organic principles will follow.

A dedicated family restaurant in the queer and hip neighbourhood of Glockenbachviertel dubbed Kaiser Otto is the place in Munich closest to the cafe latte moms cliche. You may step by for a coffee break during the day, or have breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner while your kids may disappear to a dedicated playground room next to the cafe. The latter is however closing at 7 pm; during weekend brunch (10 am to 2pm) you can leave them in the care of a kindergarden teacher for a fee of 2,50 EUR per half an hour while finishing off tasty though not elaborate food often made from at least partially organic ingredients. Reliably organic items on the menu are coffee, eggs, bread, a selection of soft drinks as well as the meat served with one of the dishes to have for dinner. Greens, veges and pulses may or may not be organic, so you have to enquire, meat items served until 3 pm are definitely not.

The contrary of a family restaurant, i.e. a decent (American-style) bar cum burger restaurant is The Potting Shed near Münchner Freiheit, a few steps from Brasserie La Bouce. Instead of french fries you're served yummy rosemary-flavoured potatoes, instead of prefab mayonnaise delicate home-made aioli, and the coleslaw was crisp, showing off the (organic) quality of the cabbage. The top of my burger bun was caramelised, adding an interesting twist to the taste, and the patty, announced as medium, still gorgeously pink. Unfortunately they do not do rare burgers which indicates that the meat is minced in advance. All meat products come from a organic-only local butchery, and the delicacy of the food indicates that most of the vegetarian ingredients are organic, too. For those not feeling like having a sumptuous high-calory burger plate (there's one veggie option) there was a tasty seasonal salad (with goat cheese) and a range of tapas, mezze and small starters, decidedly omnivore. Unfortunately the rich bar sports only a few organic drinks, namely an organic Cabernet Sauvignon, The Duke and Lyonel gins (the latter made a nicely balanced jasmin-tea flavoured gin and tonic) and fairly traded cachaça. Soft drinks including the tonic water however aren't organic at all. The bar itself values traditional bar etiquette: an observant yet not obstrusive waiter (who took care of our jackets when we came in), a skilful professional barman, pleasant background music at a volume allowing for effordless conversation (though I cannot say anything about the noise on a Friday or Saturday night), the walls adorned with interesting and tasteful art. Definitely recommended for a civilised evening out.

Italian/Mediterranean

As far as I know there's only one 100 percent organic restaurant in Munich, L'Amar, in the Glockenbach neighbourhood. Crammed and cosy with a cellar vault for small concerts and play readings they serve lovingly home-made Italian food and arguably the best restaurant-made risotto in town, exceptionally prepared meat as well as an (often ayurveda inspired) vegan dish. Vegetarians and vegans are catered for with the same care and love as omnivores, and their wines, cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks, coffee and cakes are simply delicious. Their short menu usually changes daily, and during the weekend you can indulge yourself in a sumptuous breakfast if you like.

Mix the interior of a trattoria in Italy with a Bavarian Wirtshaus, and you'll end up with Hostaria Rò e Buni, a certified organic Italian restaurant in the heart of Schwabing. The name alludes to the dialect words used in the area of Bologna to steer bullocks to the left and to the right, and the tasty food served here has its roots in the country kitchen of the Emilia Romagna - not too fancy, hearty, receiving its fulfilling taste from high quality organic ingredients, many of them (especially the meat) sourced from farms in the greater region. Unlike in many other certified restaurants almost all ingredients are organic indeed, those coming from conventional agriculture are clearly marked with a star on the menu. Vegetarian and vegan drinks and dishes can be easily distinguished by a leaf or flower label, respectively. Although the owner has Italian roots don't order a four course menu (antipasti, pasta, primo e secondo) a la carte unless extremely hungry -- the sizes of the dishes are adapted to the German habit of ordering a pasta or main course and perhaps a starter. If you feel Italian stick to the four course tasting menu suggested by the menu, or discuss with the affable publican. Don't leave without having tried their fresh home-made pasta, and an organic grappa to finish. If you fancy slow-cooked Italian meat classics like Osso Buco -- here's the place to try. The kitchen closes half an hour before closing time, and the place itself keeps open evenings only.

No bosses and driven by consensus: Its unusual organization qualifies the Neuhausen based restaurant cooperative Ruffini for a recommendation on its own. Their Italian and Mediterranean food looks and tastes like mother's -- it is prepared with love though without the ambitions of a trained restaurant chef. Although they cater for vegetarians and omnivores alike only meat and eggs are organic. Which is sad -- the Imam Bayildi I had tasted bland as the eggplants did not have the concentrated flavour of organic ones. On the contrary their home-made croissants -- organic or not -- are without doubt worth a sin: You'll have to travel far to find equally full-flavoured ones, so take away (or come to shop at their bakery a few meters away). Have an organic ice-cream for dessert -- during the warm season it's also offered to take away.

Japanese

With the explosion of sushi take-aways you may have to kiss many frogs on the quest for sushi worth its name. Arguably one of the best sushi restaurants in Munich is the Sushiya Sansaro in the Amalienpassage backyard passage in Maxvorstadt, a three minutes walk from the Northern exit of the Universität tube-station. As you might expect from a restaurant with love for -- in this case -- Japanese -- food they use some organic ingredients (eggs, spinach and pork for example), the soy sauce is organic and you can order organic beer with your meal. The menu does not stop with sushi, instead you can get a good impression of the Japanese kitchen, both in its vegetarian and its meat-based variety. The place itself is pleasant but often crowded. If you cannot get a reservation do not dispair: You can also order by phone and step by to take away.

Mexican

The latest enterprise of prominent Munich publican, club manager and cooking book author Sandra Forster, herself a vegan, is the Blitz ("lightning") club located within the entrance building to the Museumsinsel island housing Deutsches Museum, the congress hall finished in 1935, formerly used as a cinema. Attached to the club is a Mexican-vegetarian restaurant, with dancing skeletons in colourful costumes adorning the walls. During the warm season enjoy a sugar cane cocktail and yummy fajitas or quesadillas, on a peaceful terrace outside facing the river Isar. About 80 percent of all ingredients used in the kitchen are organic and -- if possible -- sourced from farms in the greater Munich area. Exotic ingredients difficult to find in organic quality usually make an exception. If you want to avoid eggs and dairy products (which come from animal-friendly farms) do not hesitate to request a vegan meal.

Vegan/Vegetarian

My favourite vegan place, the Gratitude in the humming University quarter of Maxvorstadt, is fully organic when it comes to food and non-alcoholic beverages, and more of a cafe bar than a restaurant. They serve delicious cakes and you can have your latte not only with soy but also with almond milk. While in the beginning the food was simple -- raw or inspired by ayurveda -- and sometimes a little bland, the kitchen has improved vastly, reaching the level of Munich's legendary first (though no longer existing) vegan restaurant Zerwirk at my last visit. 100 percent recommended both for lunch and your evening out, although the cocktails aren't organic.

Another vegan restaurant is the Max Pett near Sendlinger Tor, run by a former Zerwirk chef. Unfortunately it's only partially organic, which is probably why the kitchen does not live to up to expectations. The place is 100 percent non-alcoholic.

On a special occasion you may treat yourself with classy declinations of seasonal, predominantly organic vegetables at Gault Millau and Michelin awarded vegetarian restaurant Tian opposite Viktualienmarkt. For dinner you may choose between a vegan and a vegetarian set menu consisting of four, five, or six delicate courses. Alternatively you can order the items individually as well as combine your meal with (not necessarily organic) wines specially selected by the sommelier to match the course. Keep in mind that a single course is not meant to be filling -- the combination of several small dishes taking your time will however not leave you hungry in the end.

Juices and most of the soft drinks are organic. For a gourmet restaurant the place is frequented by a pleasantly mixed audience, but the interior has been designed to give you an undisturbed dining experience. Prices on the menu are indicated by naked integers and include the service of professionally trained waiters. If your budget does not allow for dinner (a five-course dinner including complimentary amuse-gueules is at 60 EUR without drinks) try to have lunch (19 EUR for three courses), it's a fascinating experience to taste what you can make of ever so boring veges like cabbage or beetroots.

The Tian cocktail bar (the place is a hotel restaurant) adjacent to the restaurant uses organic juices, but the alcoholics are not organic, not even the gin. Note also that the restaurant is closed on Sundays.

Another fully vegetarian, vegan-friendly restaurant is the Blitz described above.

Ceased to exist

The following places shut down, were replaced by other, not organic ones, or are (temporarily?) closed. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:

2017-10-28 19:00:00 [Munich, Haidhausen, Schwabing, Maxvorstadt, organic, lunch, dinner, market, deli, coffee, hotel, accommodation, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Mexican, vegan, vegetarian] link

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