Famous throughout the world for its beer festival, Munich has many other culinary surprises in store. From the traditional Bavarian snack to lunch outdoors in a Biergärten via dinner in a star-rated restaurant, a gastronomic stay in the capital of Bavaria is rich in contrasts.
The gastronomy on offer in Munich is a reflection of the city, proud of its traditions and looking to the future. According to your desires or appetite, you can sample fortifying and copious traditional Bavarian cuisine; have a quick bite to eat in a Biergärten; or make a reservation at one of this opulent city’s star-rated restaurants.
Two traditional Bavarian restaurants
This is one of the best-known restaurants in Munich. The very popular terrace gives onto Max-Joseph square, opposite the Residenz and National Theatre. Inside, the typical decor is all blond wood. If you want to sample traditional Bavarian cuisine, choose from among the specialities: grilled knuckle of pork (Schweinshaxe) served with potato dumplings (Knödel) and a little white cabbage salad, roast pork (Jungschweinebraten) with red cabbage salad, or braised suckling pig (Spanferkel) with potato and bread dumplings and white cabbage salad. The restaurant also offers a copious Bavarian dish where braised suckling pig and knuckle of ham are served with duck, grilled sausages, and white and red cabbage. In any event, the portions are such that a starter and dessert are superfluous.
Another unmissable traditional Bavarian restaurant, which boasts a superb terrace in the courtyard of the new town hall (Neues Rathaus). So throughout your meal you will have this particularly flamboyant neo-Gothic decor right in front of your eyes. The menu offers the classics of Bavarian cuisine, as well as a vast selection of international dishes.
Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s most famous market
This is a feast for the five senses! South of Marienplatz, the famous food market is held every day; it was created in 1807 so that the region’s peasants could sell their produce. In the centre the famous “May tree” – a richly decorated greasy pole – occupies a place of honour. It is erected every year during a mass on May 1st. This catholic tradition, which is probably of Celtic origin, dates back to the Middle Ages. Today the stalls and little green chalets sell all sorts, from Bavarian specialities to exotic fruits and rare French cheeses. A good piece of advice: leave your wallet at the hotel – you will be doing yourself a favour. The prices are indeed off-putting. The great chefs used to do their shopping here every day; that time has gone. Do, nonetheless, make the most of the Biergärten with its shaded tables at the centre of the market for a beer and a sausage, or the stalls that sell fresh fruit juices.
Biergärten, the German art of living
The cuisine served in the typically German outdoor taverns known as Biergärten (literally “beer gardens”), is far from extraordinary. The main attraction of these places lies in their dream locations and unique atmosphere, all relaxation and conviviality in the shade of chestnut trees. One such is the famous Seehaus, set at the edge of the Kleinhesseloher See (lake) in the English Garden. The Biergärten of Munich are at one with nature and stay open as long as the sun permits, from spring to autumn. There are some 29 traditional Biergärten in Munich, capable of accommodating around 180,000 visitors in the open air. One of the most popular is the Nockherberg Biergärten, on the banks of the Isar right in the heart of Munich, and owned by the Paulaner brewery.
Real Biergärten have no closed rooms with a roof and serve only drinks. So one can theoretically bring one’s own food. However, adjacent to the bar, a self-service restaurant offers the inevitable Weißwurst or white sausage. This is the morning snack (when fridges didn’t exist, the Weißwurst was to be eaten before “the twelve strokes of midday”, as the saying goes), a veritable second breakfast, which can take the place of a proper lunch. The sausage meat is made up of veal and seasoned with fresh parsley, lemon peel and spices. For something simple to go with your beer there is nothing like Obatzta, fresh goat’s cheese mixed with butter, crushed onion, pepper, salt, capsicum, cumin or paprika, all served with a fresh pretzel.
A new star-rated restaurant: Mark’s Restaurant (Mario de Corti)
The marble and wood panelling in warm shades, Biedermeier furniture and genuine Renaissance engravings (one of them by Raphaël) of the Mandarin Oriental hotel constitute a choice setting for Mark’s Restaurant. The subdued lighting and strains of piano music drifting up from the bar will put you completely at ease. The chef is Mario de Corti, 28 years old, German son of German-Italian parents, hotelkeepers on the shores of Lake Constance. So he has known the score since early childhood, just like his second-in-command, Tobias Jochim, a big strapping man who likes to do a spot of salmon fishing in Sweden during his holidays. The restaurant moreover puts great emphasis on fish but also… mushrooms! Bavaria is indeed renowned for its cepes, chanterelles and pied de mouton mushrooms… Stefan Goeldner, the sommelier, does his job both amiably and efficiently. His taste for small vineyards and rare grape varieties – Italian in particular – makes him a choice ally when dining! We sampled a 2005 Chardonnay from Friuli (Italy, Colli orientali del Friuli) by Roberta Manzano, a light, structured wine with a particularly delicate aroma of peach.
Satisfying the lunchtime demands of businessmen in a hurry and delighting the taste buds of gourmets and hotel guests in the evening: Mark’s Restaurant, which was awarded a Michelin star this year, meets both challenges. The cuisine is essentially French, also indulging in a few moderate experiments. Excellent produce, precise cooking, impeccable and cordial service complete the picture. Sharing a passion for the sea, the two chefs combine langoustine with cream of capsicum soup, salmon tartare with cucumber soup, marinaded raw tuna with avocado. Cod, monkfish and wild salmon are cooked to perfection. Desserts include apricot in various forms: espuma, jelly, sorbet, tartlet and cream – a veritable melody devoted to this summer fruit.
An der Oper, Residenzstraße 12,
Tel: 29 07 060
Tel: 21 99 890
Neuturmstrasse 1, 80331 Munich,
Tel: +49 (0)89 290 98 856