Thursday, 14 November 2019
Eating out organic in Mannheim is different than in other cities: First it means vegetarian and vegan-friendly (almost) without exceptions. Second there seem to be no places serving national kitchens -- no German Wirtshaus, no French cuisine, no Turkish fastfood and not even a mock Italian place. And finally organic here means organic for everyone, not just for a wealthy, hip and urban clientele. As a result you may miss cleverly designed cool places as much as refined coffeehouses or classy gourmet restaurants. The good news is that Mannheim's organic restaurants and cafes are extremely affordable.
For breakfast (or a snack or coffee during the day) head for Bio-Bäcker Bihn on the ground floor of the Stadthaus housing the city library and other communal facilities and staging the city's part of the Mannheim/Heidelberg International Film Festival. Enter the complex from the north-eastern entry facing Paradeplatz, and you'll find the unpretentious bakery cum self-service cafe at the right hand site.
The breakfast options served on work- and Saturdays until noon are sufficient for two not too hungry ones; you can choose from a menu which also boosts three vegan varieties or combine yourself. Coffee or tea on the go is possible, but you should rather bring your own refillable cup (or buy one on the spot) as a one-way paper beaker righteously will be charged with 25 cents. For breakfast, lunch or in between freshly prepared sandwiches are available, too (though no longer in the evening). The coffee comes from an automat, and the rather cheap-looking interior design maintains a low threshold. If you come with a family or friends pay together which will give you a small discount (10% above 20 €, 12% above 30 € and 15 percent of a total above 50€).
100 percent organic wholefood has been served for almost 30 years now at the Hellers self-service restaurant on the Kaiserring ringway opposite the Wasserturm ("water tower") landmark. Take a tray and a plate, fill it from the various stations offering salads, mueslis, soups and warm dishes, proceed to the cash counter and find a place in the winter-garden like dining hall. During the busy lunch hours (usually between noon and 2 pm) there's also a separate station offering a pan-fried dish of the day in small or regular size. It's located next to the entrance and you also have to pay there. The food follows the principles of health food, seasonal and low in spices (the "hot" components I had were rather bland).
At the entrance to the sitting area there's a coffee and cake bar also serving ice-cream (1.50 € the scoop).
The cake at around 3 € the piece and the coffee drinks compensate for the rather low lunch prices: 4.15 € for a large (that is: what elsewhere would be regular sized) latte and 2.50 € for a small espresso from a coffee dispenser is more than you'd pay in much more pricey cities, and
given that the adjacent Alnatura supermarket has a decent Italian pressure coffee machine (though only one chair and table for in-house consumation) better take a coffee next door.
The audience at Hellers is quite different than in organic restaurants you may be used to: a lot of elderly people meet here for lunch and coffee.
Unfortunately the place doesn't serve breakfast -- the
kitchen opens half an hour after the cafe opens and closes one hour (on Sundays and public holidays two hours) before closing time. Also good to know: The soap dispenser in the bathroom contains organic handwash.
If you fancy a better coffee in the Schwetzingerstadt neighbourhood you may step by Eddie's, the city's zero waste grocery store.
For an organic coffee, spritzer (of fruit juice and sparkling water) or wine head for the north-western neighbourhood of Jungbusch. The vegetarian, vegan-friendly gastro pub Kombüse serves Mexican-style fastfood as well as a daily changing soup and main course, on availability (but not reliably) using organic veges. It keeps open until late and may give you an impression of the city's subculture. The place also offers a take away service, but kindly invites guests to bring their own re-usable cups and jars. You will be charged the extra expense if you insist on one-way packaging.
South of the main train station
Interestingly the hippest and most expensive places aren't located in the very city centre but south of the railway tracks. The first one is the Glückstein in Lindenhof south of the railway tracks, a short way from the banks of the river Rhine. This organic vegan restaurant took over from Frankfurt-based raw eatery Rohkosteria.
You can choose from the menu which still contains a lot of raw dishes
(bowls and salads, burgers, wraps, falafel, vegetable "pasta", smoothies, shots, cakes and cookies), and two warm and filling daily specials at 8 EUR (I had a simple, yet very tasty lentils-based lasagna).
Although the place is open in the evenings no alcohol is being served here, and you can also have caffeine-free lupin-based "coffee" drinks.
The pleasantly designed interior and the unexcited atmosphere make it an ideal place to stay for a while.
If you have a bicycle take the chance to visit the neighbourhood of Neckarau where you will find two real gems: The first one opened in 2019: Hedonist is another modern, thoroughly designed eatery, friendly, but less homely than Glückstein, rather the type of place where you expect busy business people to have a recreational and healthy lunch break (but no worries, the audience isn't that uniform). You can buy everything to take away, much of it in returnable glass jars with a deposit of 2 EUR -- salads, desserts, falafel and burger sandwiches, pasta, but also German-style pork and fish main courses. On weekdays a set menu consisting of a main course and a dessert is available at lunch time. On the Thursday I was there it was (very filling and quite dry) falafel with some salad, a spoon of pickled beetroot, a small amount of lentil salad, prefectly crisp potato chips and tasty (though too cold) potato salad. While the food is being served guests may collect the generous glass of dessert from the fridge. I had the so-called cheesecake which wasn't actually a cake but a cheese cream with oranges and sponge biscuits. There were also tiramisu and blueberry or raspberry mascarpone cream. The entire vegetarian meal came at 8 EUR, if you choose a fish or meat main course the price tag increases to 11 or even 15 EUR.
There's also a rack of selected wines, pickles and condiments to buy home. The place is fuelled by renewable energies.
Right next to the Hedonist you'll find the second place, a carefully curated and decorated cafe cum wine shop cum organic delicatessen dubbed Bittersüß ("bitter sweet"). Too beautiful to call it an owner-run organic grocery store you can buy all daily necessities here -- fresh fruits and veges, and dairy products as well as organic bodycare. But on top of all this you'll find French sweets, selected cognac and other spirits, an abundance of wine, delicate chocolates, and last but not least the delicious products of the organic ginger bread bakery Friedmann in the same neighbourhood. Between noon and 2pm vegetarian lunch is being served on weekdays -- the daily changing menu you'll find on a hand-written piece of paper at the cashier desk.
North of the Neckar river
Bicycle lovers must not miss out the city's first bike cafe in the Neckarstadt north of the river Neckar. The
Café Flamme Rouge (dubbed after the red flag displayed one kilometer before the end of a bike race) was established in 2005 and serves
organic bread and rolls from the
Lummerland organic bakery with biodynamic vegetarian spreads, partially organic coffee, home-made pesto, pancakes and a lunch dish (the menu changes on Mondays and Thursdays).
Also located in Neckarstadt Ost the
has a focus on regional, but unfortunately not organic ingredients. Organic products are used in the kitchen here and there, and the milk is always organic, though neither the (locally roasted) coffee or tea.
More to try
The following place I had on my research list but could not make it there:
No longer organic
The Wohnhunger gifts and things shop does no longer offer organic soups or stews for lunch, and does not use organic milk for their coffee drinks. The coffee itself may occasionally be organic (as they also sell organic beans) but usually isn't.
Of the following places you may find remnants on the web but be assured: They do no longer exist.
- Café Vogelfrei, C3, 20
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, M3, 7(moved to Stadthaus)
- envita Bio-Restaurant, Im Stadthaus N1, 1 (replaced by organic bakery Bihn)
- O’ Dog Café, M5, 8 (Hot dogs)
- mundgrün veganerie, T3, 7 (vegan) (preceeded by Sonnenblume Naturkost)
- Veggie-Stadel (formerly Bio-Stadel), Lindenhofstr. 62 replaced by Rohkosteria
- Rohkosteria, Lindenhofstr. 62, replaced by Glückstein
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, Kurfürstenstr. 7
[Mannheim, organic, breakfast, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant, bakeries, ice-cream, delicatessen, wine]
Sunday, 20 October 2019
In a city that -- according to reliable hearsay -- has at minimum five zero-waste supermarkets it should be easy to find the next shop or restaurant selling and using organic produce. Unfortunately my stay -- a night and a few hours -- was too short for thorough research, so the reviews here are far from comprehensive.
Where to stay
Having said this it turned out that in the year of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus it was impossible to find a place to stay sustainably and wake up to an at least predominantly organic breakfast at a short notice -- all the places below were sold out. I finally stayed at the DJH youth hostel and dropped the 100 percent conventional breakfast buffet with its abundance of small plastic-packages containing jams and spreads.
If you fancy a design hotel with (at least predominantly) organic breakfast in the very city centre there are three hotels of the Motel One chain, all in walking distance from each other.
The budget option if you can stay over night less central is the Home Planet hostel in Connewitz. They run washing machines and wireless on renewable energy, use eco cleaning agents, and seem to buy them from a package-free supermarket, Einfach unverpackt in the Südstadt neighbourhood. In the kitchen they use
organic milk and bake the bread themselves. Their Neapolitan chef directly imports olives and cheese from near organic farms in Italy, but although the breakfast is vegetarian and home-made the manager told me that using more organic produce would excel their price calculations. The reception recently moved a few steps in north-western direction, to the corner of Hammerstraße. There it takes the place of former bakery shop Nix Tonne which re-sold day-old bread and cakes and was turned into vegan-vegetarian cafe Cafe am Ende des Universums (alluding to "the restaurant at the end of the universe" by Douglas Adams) by the Home Planet folks.
Where to eat
I decided to combine my basic overnight stay with a luxury dinner at breathtakingly beautiful organic fine dining restaurant
Macis in the very city centre, a few steps from
Thomaskirche. The place aims to re-create the air of the great urban bars of the 1920s, and you will be waited at table in style. If you have the budget choose the menu, with impeccable wine selection on request. The food combining mediterranean traditions with local ingredients was an explosion of taste, with the most delicate grilled octopus I've ever had, and a perfectly balanced meat course (I admit I had difficulties to choose from the menu as the vegetarian courses were equally promising). Of course everything here is sustainably sourced, organic and to a great deal seasonal from local farms and suppliers. Make sure to use the bathroom as on the way, you will pass the ironwork of the house's historic lift (which unfortunately is taken out of service).
Lunch is less expensive, and during daytime you may also opt for a sandwich or coffee at the joint bakery cum cafe, or enter the beautiful Macis Biomarkt convenience store next door which stocks everything used in the restaurant kitchen and also offers salads made there.
I was pondering long whether I should list Café Central here -- as the city's foremost grand cafe back in the GDR it is an address to visit for its -- now of course completely exchanged and polished -- 1970ies-style interior -- or rather warn of greenwashing:
Although the menu advertises organic bread and focaccia (which wasn't available for breakfast), the eggs are no longer certified for reasons that clearly show that the managers have neither understood the goods of organic agriculture nor the basics of organic certification.
The only organic drink is tea (not even the milk for the coffee drinks is organic), the service unimpressing.
Just around the corner from the Macis restaurant you'll find the city's organic ice-cream maker, Tonis. Unfortunately I was too late after dinner and could only watch them closing. They also have a second branch in famous Könneritzstraße.
More to try
As I said before my time in Leipzig was limited (as was my upfront research) -- but here are a few more tips, for you to try (and tell me if you like):
[Leipzig, organic, breakfast, lunch, dinner, German, restaurant, hotel, accommodation, ice-cream, cafe, coffee, supermarkets, grocery, zero_waste, unverpackt]
Thursday, 13 June 2019
Uneasiness with industrial agriculture often starts with the brutal reality of how we treat animals, and consequently eggs and meat often are the first ingredients restaurants use from organic farming. In many cities this means that conscious omnivores have a better chance to find a place to eat than vegetarians or vegans. With Padua this is different: All organic or partially organic restaurants I found within the city boundaries focus on vegetarian courses, and all of them are vegan-friendly.
Unfortunately my time in Padua has always been very limited, so all I could find out this time was that my favourite bar in the city centre ceased to exist. So here's a number of places I'd like to try but haven't had the opportunity yet:
Fully organic and vegetarian (needless to say these days: vegan-friendly) restaurant Vegetariamoci a little North-West and over the bridge from the Giardini dell' Arena park is the brainchild of organic pioneers in the region. Unfortunately closed Mondays through Wednesdays.
Also in the neighbourhood of Arcella, north of the main train station, the Osteria di Fuori Porta offers uncomplicated organic dinner, and, on weekdays, lunch, the latter also at a fixed price for 12 EUR including a beverage and coffee.
If you take the tram leave at stop "Borgomagno".
Food, art, and concerts -- that's the concept of the Ca'Sana cultural space offering organic brunch on Sundays, and apart from Mondays, late night food. The place is situated a little out of town, near the airport.
If you fancy a pizza Daltrocanto seems to be the place to go. There's more on the menu, all vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
[Padua, Padova, biologico, organic, vegetarian, vegan, eatery, restaurant, breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee]
Monday, 10 June 2019
Its lively main street, the Corso Palladio dates back to imperial Rome and, still today, is framed by buildings of the arguably most influential medieval architect, Andrea Palladio.
When feeling hungry while you stroll through the Unesco World Heritage head for spacious, wholesale organic supermarket Silene in a quiet side way a few meters North off Corso Palladio. As you enter you will notice the self-service coffee bar immediately, open for a coffee, healthy drink or snack even before the supermarket opens itself. But there's a real restaurant when you proceed into the building: At the left hand side you'll pass the open kitchen, and arrive at a water tap where you can refill your drinking bottle with both, plain and sparkling water. There you are: more tables to sit down, you will be served.
The small menu offers vegan and vegetarian Italian wholefood, tasty pasta and risotti of course, but also surprising twists as the hearty risotto-style oat porridge with spring vegetables I had, or carrot-based falafel (which I liked less). A refreshing surprise was the alcohol-free "sangria". Unlikely you can have the same, though, as the menu changes according to season and daily availability of fresh ingredients. Needless to say that the coffee was a delight, too, and the staff helpful and friendly. If you're looking for the toilets: They are hidden at the opposite, right wall of the supermarket, and open for guests.
The supermarket itself will provide you with all daily necessities, all types of fresh and dry food as well as organic household chemicals and a superb choice of organic body care. Unlike other groceries it keeps open throughout the day without an afternoon break. There's a second Silene supermarket a little further west, without a day restaurant though.
All days including Sundays (though not on public holidays) the Vicenza branch of Germany's DM chemist's chain will provide you with a great selection of organic food, drinks, natural body care and sustainable cleaning detergents. The spacious supermarket in Corso Andrea Palladio opened in 2018 and is a great source of eco- and climate conscious products at budget prices, but since the majority of the items still are conventionally produced be careful to check eco and organic labels.
For a treat of ice-cream follow Corso Andrea Palladio to its Western end and proceed straight ahead, past the Giardini Salvi park to the right. The less shiny neighbourhood San Felice hides a gem: Gocce di Bio ("gocce" meaning "drops"), a vegan-friendly fully organic ice-cream parlour. With its modest window front the spot-free place with its fresh-green painted walls is easy to oversee, but unlike other shops it sports a clearly visible organic logo over the entrance. On the premises of a traditional neighbourhood gelateria it's one of the ice-cream and no frills (not even coffee) places you'll rarely find outside Italy serving a mouth-wateringly creamy all-organic delight. Unless you avoid alcohol try the Malaga variety, and you will be cured for all time from that fake yellowy sweet and flavoured stuff with raisins and perhaps low quality alcohol going under this name elsewhere: The Malaga ice-cream here has distinct, melting flavours -- cream, grappa and raisins of highest organic quality, delightfully combined.
Unfortunately the place is closed on public holidays.
Ceased to exist
A few years ago the following gelateria served very nice organic ice-cream but unfortunately did not survive:
[Vicenza, biologico, organic, vegan, ice-cream, coffee, supermarket, grocery, eatery, restaurant, breakfast, lunch, bodycare, household]
Monday, 20 May 2019
Taste- and love-less, standardised conventional breakfast buffets are still league in Berlin, but if you have the chance to decide where to stay you can easily start your day in a way that's good for you and the planet: If you don't mind hotel chains the easiest bet are the hotels of the Motel One chain. All over Germany they offer partially organic breakfast for 11.50 EUR in addition to the room charge. They promise organic dairy products, plant-based drinks, jam, honey, apple juice, coffee, tea, apples and muesli at all hotels, and if you are lucky there may be more organic and fairly traded options.
But you can have it even more luxurious, at welcoming, owner-run boutique hotels striving for a fully sustainable overall experience.
Both of them are located in the city centre, and you may even be surprised to find that they aren't necessarily more expensive than the chain.
If you do yoga or adhere to a minimalist lifestyle Hotel Almodóvar in Friedrichshain is a must-go (but neither of the two is a prerequisite to feel at home here). The reduced geometric minimalist chic in white and dark-brown, with carefully selected design objects to light the room, beanbags, and yoga mats generate a very special, focussed room atmosphere.
All food and drinks here are organic: In the morning you wake up to a gorgeous
vegetarian breakfast buffet with lots of regional produce and tasty home-made spreads and preserves at Bistro Bardot; on Sundays you can have brunch until 3 pm, with (among others)
vegan curry "sausage" and scrambled "eggs". Given the pleasantly styled location it's sad that the bistro isn't a public bar in the evening, but as a hotel guest you can have a glass of
organic wine to quit the day.
While the Almodóvar building is quite new (opened in 2013) the Guldsmeden hotel Lulu
in the vibrant neighbourhood of Potsdamer Straße in Tiergarten/Mitte is located in a
beautifully renovated 1850’s building. Part of a small Danish family-owned sustainable hotel chain which carefully and individually decorates the rooms you can expect
the lunch at their restaurant and bar dubbed Sæson (Danish for "season") to be fully organic. For breakfast, dinner and at the bar there may be some conventional exceptions.
Also here you can have predominantly organic brunch on Sundays even if you do not stay at the hotel, with live jazz music. The beer comes from the Moabit-based Brewbaker brewery, also juices, gin, and wine can be had organic.
I haven't had the chance to stay here yet but given my absolutely positive experience with the Guldsmeden hotels in Copenhagen and Oslo I'm pretty sure you won't regret your stay here. All body care products there are organic, so I expect them to be so at the Lulu, too.
[Berlin, organic, hotel, accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, bar, restaurant]