Where to stay
Boutique hotel Anna is in the centre of the city with spacious, modern rooms and a great Asian restaurant. Doubles from £146. Schützenstrasse 1, 00 49 89 59 99 40, annahotel.de
The grandest hotel in town, which has one of the best city rooftop views at Blue Spa Bar. Restaurants maintain the classy standard with the fine-dining Atelier from £133 (five-course menu), and the airy Garden brasserie from £69 (four-course menu). Doubles from £395. Promenadeplatz 2-6, 00 49 89 21 200, bayerischerhof.de
The Flushing Meadows Hotel and Bar
Indie-boutique hotel on the top two floors of an industrial building in a trendy district near the River Isar. Comfy Coco-Mat natural mattresses, boomboxes and a choice of loft studios makes this a cool choice. Doubles from £150. Fraunhoferstrasse 32, 00 49 89 55 27 91 70, flushingmeadowshotel.com
H ́Otello B’01
Sleek style for a low-key urban hotel in an up-and- coming district. Good breakfasts and free Wi-Fi. Doubles from £130. Baaderstrasse 1, 00 49 89 45 83 12 00, hotello.de
Despite the hotel overlooking the busy open-air Viktualienmarkt, the Louis is a haven of oriental, subdued calm. The impeccable modern Japanese style is matched by the cuisine of Emiko restaurant. Doubles from £177. Viktualienmarkt 6, 00 49 89 41 11 90 80, louis-hotel.com
A traditional Bavarian house-style hotel with excellent amenities in the centre of the city. It has a good gym with spa and sauna, while rooms are large and comfortable. Doubles from £159. Sparkassenstrasse 10, 00 49 89 23 70 30, platzl.de
Munich is the capital of Bavaria, Germany. Flights from the UK take around two hours and the time is one hour ahead of GMT. Currency is the euro. In January, the average high temperature is 2C and the average low is -4C.
easyJet flies direct to Munich from London Stansted Airport daily from £98 return. easyjet.com
Lufthansa flies multiple times a day from London Heathrow Airport direct to Munich from £140 return. lufthansa.com
München Tourismus is the official tourist board providing you with up-to-date information, events and maps. simply-munich.com
The Traitor’s Emblem by JG Jurado (Orion, £7.99) tells the story of a 15-year-old boy in Munich who dreams of knowing his heroic father who died during the First World War.
Where to eat
Prices are per person for three courses with wine, unless stated otherwise
Andechser am Dom
Lively restaurant with monastery-brewed beer and hearty food. From £40 (including beer). Weinstrasse 7a, 00 49 89 24 29 29 20, andechser-am-dom.de
Stunning hotel restaurant that’s just been awarded three Michelin stars. The first restaurant in Munich to receive the accolade. From £130. Promenadeplatz 2-6, 00 49 89 21 200, bayerischerhof.de
Espresso bar also serving brunch and pasta dishes. Ledererstrasse 23, 00 49 89 22 37 62, bar-centrale.com
Popular brasserie at BMW World. From £42 (including aperitif). BMW Welt, Am Olympiapark 1, 00 49 89 35 89 91 818, feinkost-kaefer.de
All-day Italian and classic grills in a grand, pillared setting. From £45. Maximilianstrasse 15, 00 49 89 45 22 880, brennergrill.de
Café Bar Brasserie Kunsthalle
Stylish oasis in upmarket mall attached to an art gallery. Theatinerstrasse 8, 00 49 22 44 12,kunsthalle-muc.de
A little bakery with a big reputation for speciality schmalznudel. Prälat-Zistl-Strasse 8, 00 49 89 26 02 31 56
Retro café in a former haberdashery. Parkstrasse 2, 00 49 89 50 09 45 52, cafe-marais.de
Bavarian restaurant with excellent food. From £44 (including beer). Viktualienmarkt 15, 00 49 89 44 23 83 940, der-pschorr.de
Traditional restaurant serving Munich-style specialities. From £35 (including beer). Weinstrasse 1, 00 49 89 24 29 390, donisl.com
Top-of-the range Michelin-starred restaurant high above the BMW showroom. From £100 (and you get driven home in a BMW limo). BMW Welt, Am Olympiapark 1, 00 49 89 35 89 91 814,feinkost-kaefer.de
A two-Michelin-starred restaurant serving Japanese- inspired food in a charming setting. From £130 (five-course menu). Werneckstrasse 11, 00 49 89 38 87 95 68, geisels-werneckhof.de
Cool café-bistro and bar in a historic setting. Ace cocktails.
Prinzregentenstrasse 1, 00 49 89 54 80 47 77,goldenebar.de
Modern cooking in an understated setting. From £40. Sebastiansplatz 3, 00 49 89 26 94 91 20,restaurant-kleinschmecker.de
Glitzy setting for Italian-French menu and cocktails. From £60. Wittelsbacherplatz 2, 00 49 89 28 72 44 21, roccariviera.com
Huge traditional inn serving its own wheat beer and delicious offal-based snacks. From £40 (including beer). Tal 7, 00 49 89 29 01 380, schneider-brauhaus.de
Elegant restaurant newly anointed with a Michelin star on an upmarket shopping street. From £99 (six-course menu). Maximilianstrasse 17, 00 49 89 21 25 21 25, schwarzreiter-muenchen.de
Modern Munich tavern with great food and atmosphere. From £27 (including beer). Landsberger Strasse 73, 00 49 89 55 27 63 03, servusheidi.de
Grand studio windows overlook the Residence from this cool café. Residenzstrasse 25-26, 00 49 89 24 21 01 43, stereo-cafe.de
Stellar French cooking in a dramatic setting. From £165 (five- course menu). Johann-Fichte-Strasse 7, 00 49 89 36 19 590, tantris.de
Gourmet vegetarian cuisine. From £50 (four-course menu). Frauenstrasse 4, 00 49 89 88 56 56 712, tian-restaurant.com
- Shredded pancakes with apple sauce
- Potato salad
- Meat loaf/spread
- Clear beef soup with liver dumplings
- Spicy cheese spread
- Sliced radish, eaten with beer
- Young salmon
- Stewed, pickled beef
- Pickled cabbage
- Saures herz
- Sour heart
- Flat doughnut
- Pork roast
- Roast pork knuckle
- Bread dumplings
- Boiled beef
- Veal and pork sausage
Food and Travel Review
Almost every morning, a distinguished cosmetic surgeon speeds along the autobahn to Munich from his home in Nuremberg to sip an espresso in the tiny Italianate Bar Centrale close to the immense Gothic Neues Rathaus and iconic Column of St. Mary. Conspicuous consumption complete, he then zooms back, turbo-charged in every sense, to begin his day’s work beautifying the rich and famous after a coffee hit he claims is the best in the city. That’s what you call style, and judging by the crowd of regulars that includes half of Bayern Munich football team, he may not be wrong.
Elsewhere, chic young Münchner sip power-juices from the stalls in the delightful, tree-shaded Viktualienmarkt, where farmers’ market stalls cluster around the towering blue-and-white-striped maypole; the sleek Hotel Louis serves a vegan breakfast buffet in its refined, Japanese-style interior; young and old break the day with deep-fried schmalznudeln at the venerable Café Frischhut ‘with proper German filter coffee – none of that latte nonsense’; there is artisan ham, cheese and bread at the quirky vintage shop-cum-café Marais; biodynamic eggs and peerless pastries at the all-day Brenner Grill; avocado toast and Portuguese pastéis de nata for hipsters at the Stereo Cafe; and a few brave souls and steadfast old-timers who still order a plate of Munich’s famous white sausage with sweet mustard, wheat beer and brezeln, though never after the fairy-tale glockenspiel at the Town Hall chimes the midday wurst curfew.
Ah, the brezeln, one of the emblems of Bavaria and its capital city. Arguably, this is where they make the world’s finest – and among the best are those from the sumptuous food hall Dallmayr, a Lucullan shrine to the best of the best, where silver stands in the shape of octopuses hold oysters and porcelain vases contain rare teas and coffees. Yet, for me, it was the iconic bread rings, miraculously both crisp and soft, sprinkled with salt and eaten rather vulgarly from their elegant paper bag, that stay longest in the mind.
Munich is Europe deluxe. Wealthy, cultured, demanding and
discerning, it has a remarkable collection of high-quality restaurants
to match its profusion of shops, museums, galleries, churches,
concert halls, parks and fine squares and boulevards. The city
centre hums with bells and bicycles, is criss-crossed with trams,
studded with towers and spires: it lacks for little. There is even a
natural surfing spot on the River Isar. Although many buildings
were badly damaged during the Second World War, the skill
and attention to detail that characterises Bavarian engineering,
epitomised by the jaw-dropping BMW World complex, has recreated
a city that elegantly integrates the old and the new.
Munich is often compared and contrasted to Berlin. At the beautiful Goldene Bar clad in 1930s gold-leaf mosaics, cocktail wizard Klaus St. Rainer points out that in Berlin trends are zanier, louder and superficial. ‘In Munich, the same food fashions arrive but our outlook is more discerning and we do it better. In Berlin, tables look like wood; in Munich, the tables are wood.’
Niels Jäger, co-owner of the hideaway Stereo Cafe, with its secret rooftop garden and original 1950s mural, describes his home city as ‘small, but cosmopolitan, close to nature and woodland, but where there’s a concentration of creative energy.’ He says that compared to Berlin, Munich start-ups have to work extra hard to ensure the risk in such an expensive city will pay off. ‘Münchner are never going to lose their traditions and are quite conservative in many ways. That can be good and bad, but in terms of quality it’s only good.’
That quality of food and service shines through in classic restaurants such as the much-loved, morning-to-post-midnight Brenner Grill, which serves around 2,000 customers daily and where the meat and fish are precision-cooked ‘by eye and experience and not by timer’ over a massive coal-fired grill. The Brenner seasonal salads are popular with the couture-clad damen who lunch, but my choice would be wild samlet from the Isar, with its delicate pale pink, sweet flesh and crisp, charred skin.
Ingredients are as important as the season’s choice of stars at the State Opera (home boy Jonas Kaufmann is always the hottest ticket in town) or changes in the Bayern Munich team. The Westend Factory, for example, has a short but well-structured menu that showcases regional ingredients such as char from Lake Starnberg, venison from Garmisch and cheese from Bad Tölz.
The city also supports an enviable string of Michelin-starred restaurants. Gourmet fine dining here is world-class, with finely tuned, meticulously trained brigades headed by super-chefs such as the welcoming Munich native Bobby Bräuer in his curiously suburban eyrie EssZimmer, high up over the steel and glass BMW showroom, and Hans Haas who makes classic French magic in the madly theatrical faux-oriental setting of Tantris. Not only can they attract a super-sophisticated clientele for their exquisitely fashioned edible creations, they can also have the pick of international produce. Munich money is no object when it comes to the pursuit of heritage Piedmontese beef, lobster and truffles.
The Italian influence, indeed, is noticeable in what is sometimes called the ‘most northerly city in Italy’. On a clear day, the Alps are visible from vantage points such as the Blue Spa Bar and the top of the 11th-century St Peter’s church. The vast, super-smart Eataly, a gourmet flagship for the peninsula, occupies the Schrannenhalle (or ‘Schranne’ as locals refer to the marketplace), and is a modern monument to Germany’s long-term love affair with Italy. And, to see and be seen, fashionistas favour the cocktails and whole sea bass in a pastry crust at glamorous hot-spots such as Rocca Riviera.
‘Young Bavarian cooking’ in restaurants such as Kleinschmecker and one Michelin star Schwarzreiter offers a mid-point between haute cuisine and beerhall fare. Their lighter interpretations of established dishes might include filet of Bavarian ox, bone marrow, chervil sponge and port jus or Lugeder duck, curd cheese, parsnip and lingonberries respectively. For this dynamic generation of chefs in an affluent city, old-school attitudes are a thing of the past. Their cooking is dotted with Asian and other accents, the style relaxed.
German-Japanese fusion may sound somewhat improbable but in the hands of a distinguished virtuoso chef such as the charming and talented Tohru Nakamura at Geisels Werneckhof, his joint heritage and talent encourages the journey to this tranquil restaurant for exciting, experimental dishes such as duck liver, black trumpet mushrooms and umeboshi, or pike-perch, Duwicker carrots, sea buckthorn and smoked eel. Polished modern Japanese cuisine at the Restaurant Emiko, structured around regional and seasonal ingredients, is where Eastern aesthetics meet German precision.
In a city of a thousand sausages and despite (or perhaps because of) the hordes of ham hocks and monumental portions, vegetarian and vegan lifestyles are increasingly ubiquitous. It reflects a widespread concern for healthy eating and at Tian, for example, the playful style of presentation might even convince a traditionally built Brunhilde of the virtues of a meat-free diet.
There is, of course, no lack of old-style, wood-lined bierkellers serving lashings of gemütlichkeit (friendliness) along with the sauerkraut. Munich’s famous beers, brewed according to strict purity laws, wash down the rich, robust food with a refreshing sparkle. Augustiner-Bräu, sponsor of the city’s fascinating Beer and Oktoberfest Museum (which charts the history of Munich’s official breweries) is the local’s favourite brew. The autumn beer-riot inspires mixed feelings: for many it’s an important economic highlight, for some a much-beloved institution and excuse for a great party, but for others it’s a giant carnival that has got out of hand. Better, they say, to visit Munich when the lederhosen and dirndl dresses have been put away for another year and families’ precious beer steins have been returned to their padlocked racks.
Beer is power in Munich, even regarded as a food stuff in its own right, but the city would not be itself without the dumplings and strudels and the long tables that create an atmosphere of jolly conviviality. The Andechser am Dom specialises in suckling pig and Wagyu sausages; at the Schneider Bräuhaus whole animals are butchered in-house and the menu includes liver, lungs, goose and free-range ox cooked for ten hours. The kaiserschmarrn, a type of shredded pancake, is a must for anyone looking for a few extra Teutonic calories to bolster their hips.
Sourcing also distinguishes Der Pschorr from many of its beer-garden competitors. The restaurant keeps its own herd of rare-breed Bavarian cattle and uses organic Chiemgau pork. They have a nose-to-tail philosophy as well as commitment to largely forgotten recipes such as boiled brisket and beef heart. As the manager Jürgen Lochbihler explains, ‘People have busy lives and only do quick-flash cooking these days. Everything is cooked from scratch here, however long it takes. Really, we don’t sell food, we sell memories.’ Another time-honoured practice is the use of hand-formed ice-blocks to chill the beer barrels before it is poured with a magnificent layer of froth into ice-cold glasses.
Other kellers such as the 300-year-old Donisl are edging forward with their menus. Alongside the Munich-style stewed specialities such as pork with dark beer gravy and game goulash with bretzel dumplings and cranberry soured cream sauce, you can also find a vegan salad – albeit with chicken strips as an optional extra.
Anyone who loved the story of Heidi as a child (disclosure: I cried buckets) will already be well predisposed towards Servus Heidi, a lively post-modern beer-house in a newly gentrified quarter of the city. ‘Servus’ is the equivalent of ‘ciao’ and the key note is sharing: communal tables, perfectly kept Augustiner beers and excellent food. The enthusiastic young owners have nailed the tricky task of synthesising old and new with affectionate irony: the original 1952 film of Heidi plays in the background, there are design-led furnishings, lederhosen are worn not as a weary tourist gesture but in a spirit of fun. Above all, the cooking adroitly refreshes familiar dishes: superb schnitzel has a zesty crumb coating of sweet mustard and horseradish; fried chicken is served in a basket of hay.
The influx of fresh, modern ideas is driven by increasingly
well-travelled chefs, the influence of Slow Food, a widespread
concern for safe and healthy food tempered by a canny Bavarian
disposition to ensure value for money. Although the region is not
without its share of industrial farming, there are alternatives.
The first organic shrimp farm in the region opened in 2015 for
example, and Munich now has microbreweries and a craft gin
distillery. There is a saying in Bavarian dialect that ‘nothing is better
than something good’. It’s a good motto for a city that marries the
old and new, traditional and progressive, classic and avant-garde.
That’s why I’m going back as soon as I can to sample more of
this superb modernity that bends a knee to a beguiling past.
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