It’s perhaps a sign of the importance that Münchners place on food and drink, that they even define their geographical location by it. If you’re reading this is Munich, congratulations: You’ve already made it across the “Weisswurst Equator”! This imaginary border (the exact location of which depends on who you’re talking to) separates Bavaria’s culinary and cultural heartland from the rest of Germany. The delicious, plump white veal and herb sausages which give it its name are the archetypal Munich delicacy, and part of the unofficial “holy trinity” of the Bavarian capital, along with beer and “Gemütlichkeit” – that untranslatable notion of everything that is easy-going and laid-back in the Bavarian lifestyle.
Loved by some and loathed by others, Weisswurst is traditionally accompanied by pretzels, sweet wholegrain mustard and a freshly poured wheat beer for the ultimate late breakfast or brunch. Once plucked from the steaming tureen of hot water they are served in, the finely flavoured filling of the Weisswurst must be removed from the casing. According to Weisswurst aficionados, there are only two correct ways to do this. Either cut the sausage open along its length with a knife and peel off the skin (boring but practical), or hold the sausage with your fingers and gently bite into the end of it without breaking the casing. Now draw it out between your closed teeth to retrieve the meaty mixture from the skin. Sounds complicated? It is. It takes practice and there’s even a special verb to describe how it’s done properly (“zuzeln”, pronounced “zootseln”). There are websites and clubs dedicated to the Weisswurst. It’s been the subject of parliamentary debate and there have even been calls to found a Weisswurst museum. As you can see, food and drink is a serious business in Munich… From the simple pleasures of the beer gardens to the rarefied circles of world-class fine dining, welcome to foodie heaven!
It’s probably no surprise to hear that traditional Bavarian cuisine is a hearty and robust affair, reflecting the agricultural and also the royal traditions of the region. Yet while the calorie count might be high, so is the comfort factor. Walk into any of the numerous Bavarian restaurants or beer cellars in the old town and above the friendly hum of conversation, the first thing you’ll notice are the mouth-watering, savoury aromas wafting from the kitchen. Munich classics include whole roast knuckle of pork, known as Hax’n. Served piping hot with potato dumplings, gravy and a crisp raw cabbage salad, the exquisite crackling alone can reduce grown men to tears of joy! Pot roast is also a favourite, pork, lots of gravy, bread or potato dumplings and red cabbage.
A further Bavarian staple beloved by Munich locals is the Brotzeit. Literally meaning “bread time”, Brotzeit is the general term for a collection of cold cuts, cheeses, sausages, salads, salami and pickles, generally served on a wooden platter with fresh breads and pretzels. It can be as grand or as simple as you like, but Brotzeitis always about taking time to enjoy – either alone or with friends. To experience Brotzeit in its purest form, take a warm summer’s evening, a beer garden and a group of friends. Next find a shady corner, lay the picnic on the table and pick up some cool beers from the bar. When everyone’s diving in to the freshly baked pretzels, scooping up the Obatzdasoft cheese with bread crusts, nibbling on chunks of radish and clinking glasses, then you’re experiencing a real Munich moment. Our city is the only place in Germany where beer garden guests have the legal right to bring their own Brotzeit with them.
And why not? Al fresco eating is something we’ve always indulged in. As soon as the last snows have melted and the early spring sun casts its watery rays across the Bavarian capital, the city’s sidewalks and squares are filled with tables and chairs. There is nothing that Munich likes more than to eat and drink outside. Head to the Viktualienmarkt, the central market, if you need proof. This is considered by many locals to be the beating heart of culinary Munich. Open all year round, this working, living, breathing daily market in the centre of the city is an absolute Munich institution. It’s also the perfect place to sample some of the city’s specialities, or just sit and people-watch over a beer or a coffee. From just-pressed juices exploding with vitamins to Leberkäs (meat loaf) or freshly cropped organic fruit and vegetables, the Viktualienmarkt offers untold delights for the gourmet and the gourmand.
Unlike the Viktualienmarkt, which has been around since 1807, a more recent development on Munich’s culinary scene is the concept of “entertainment gastronomy”, combining theatre and fine dining to create an unforgettable evening out. Good example is the GOP cabaret in the Maximillianstrasse with a regularly changing programme of menus and stage shows. If that sounds a little too hectic, Nektarin Haidhausen might be just the restaurant you’re looking for. Here the guests dine while reclined on loungers and couches in a purist, all-white interior. It’s a cool, contemporary feel, which can also be found – albeit in a more street-savvy form – in the range of “healthy eating” outlets springing up through Munich from companies such as Dean&David..At these restaurants and takeaways, the emphasis is on freshly prepared, low-fat, health-conscious meals at very affordable prices. Rest assured, there won’t be a Wurst in sight. The same is true, of course, for Munich’s wide choice of vegetarian restaurants, where diners are often treated to the best of the region’s organic produce.
There’s no shortage of choice at the top end of the price spectrum either. Munich boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants including the famous Tantris, renowned just as much for its extravagant retro decor as for the exceptional cuisine. Another is Schuhbeck’s in den Südtiroler Stuben in the very centre of the old town, next to the Hofbräuhaus. The chef and patron here is the Bavarian-born Alfons Schuhbeck, a popular celebrity chef who brings a new twist to old regional recipes, such as crispy pan-fried filet of zander, with butternut squash, pear, spinach and mint. Iced Kaiserschmarrn with quince ragout is Schuhbeck’s delicious variation of the classic Kaiserschmarrn; a sweet dish made with flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, nuts and raisins. Almost like a thick pancake torn into bitesize pieces, Kaiserschmarrnis traditionally dusted with icing sugar and served with apple puree. And normally an extra couple of forks and spoons for your dining companions… It’s practically impossible to keep this scrumptious rustic treat for yourself. But maybe you’ve been on the road a while, and are yearning for a taste of home? Or are you more of a wandering gastronaut, probing the world for new aromas and textures? Either way, in Munich’s spectacular array of ethnic and international eateries you’re sure to find your very own favourite. Australian or African, Persian or Polish, Kosher or Korean, Munich’s culinary scene is just as cosmopolitan as the city’s population.
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