Eats in Hamburg: Some highs, some lows

two glasses of wine, olives and two glasses with soup on a table at Standard, hamburg
Aperitivo at Standard

I went to Hamburg for the weekend! This deserves its own shout-out, since we Berliners are famously lazy when it comes to the neighbouring city by the Elbe. Only 1.45 hrs by train and still too far away for most of us to go there regularly for a day or two. There’s not even a rational reasoning behind this, yet if you ask a random person living in Berlin when they’ve been to Hamburg the last time, I bet it’d be close to my answer before this trip: two years? Or maybe even three? It’s been some time, let me say it like that. Which is even more tragic considering that the Hamburgers are coming over regularly. I see my Hamburg based friends more often in Berlin than the other way round. One of them thought it was superweird we were walking through the Schanze together, since we’ve only ever met in Berlin. Anyway, I WENT. And I ATE. A ton of new places were added to the city, some old favs vanished and I was excited about the very long list of tips I had received from friends and followers. I will have to go back though, because just when I returned I found a lovely hand-written letter with even more tips in it, and I feel like I missed out on a couple of places (Hobenköok, HEAT, Balz & Balz…). So, I guess a trip in spring is coming up. Spring… 2020? Going north at least once a year is now on my agenda.
Here’s where I ate this time:

A bowl filled with celeriac, cheese and walnuts on a table at Carmagnole, hamburg

Bistro Carmagnole

I started the weekend with a real highlight, that ended up being my favourite meal of the whole trip. Bistro Carmagnole is helplessly booked out, you should get a table at least a week prior before going (even for just two people). But I get it, it’s one of these rare casual, buzzing places with a pleasant service and really good food. I’d even have trouble naming a place in Berlin that’s similar – I do recognize a grave lack of restaurants mixing a laidback atmosphere with excellent food, we do seem to get one or the other over here. We started the meal with very good olives and French 75, and then I enjoyed braised celeriac with fresh walnuts, Comté cheese, grapes and a buttery sauce (15,70 Euro). Pricing is really fair, especially considering the stellar service. We also ordered pommes dauphin, potato croquettes, and seriously, why are these so rare on menus these days? It’s basically more sophisticated fries and just too indulgent. We finished the meal with fine cocktails and left the place around 1.30 am, after a very enjoyable night. Congrats Hamburg, you’ve got a real gem here.
Juliusstrasse 18, 22769 Hamburg

This was an excellent start into my Hamburg adventure. The next day, after a very basic breakfast at the very pretty Café Johanna, I met a friend for coffee at tornqvist. The coffee there is excellent, very well balanced and refined (and expensive, wow), but the place itself is … difficult. The giant bar in the mid-size café seems out of proportion and we had to squeeze past many coffee connoisseurs to the back to get to a free space. Every design detail seems to come with a story and the staff is nice but also under some weird kind of pressure to serve coffee as a fine dining experience. It seems overly intentional, and at that, unfortunately a bit cliché. For instance, there’s no sugar and the staff will lecture you if you ask. (2011 called and wants its speciality-coffee-arrogance back.)

A white plate with a cheesecake with raspberry sauce on top stands on a wooden table at Hermetic Coffee Roasters in Hamburg

Hermetic Coffee Roasters

TBH, we ended up at tornqvist, because Hermetic was impossibly crowded, but after 20mins at tornqvist we decided to come back and sit out front bundled up in scarfs and hats. Instead of a coffee I went for a white tea and a piece of their signature cheese cake. Some say it’s even better than our local hero from Five Elephants. I wouldn’t readily agree after this particular piece because I ate it at 8 degrees and it was a bit too cold to fully develop. But it is very indulgent and delicious. The shop itself is a bit all over the place in terms of interior design, very crammed and diy, but I honestly prefer that to a place that puts more value on the look than the customer experience. However, it’s definitely nicer in the summer when you can sit on the terrace.
Sternstraße 68, 20357 Hamburg

Unfortunately, the rest of the day wasn’t blessed with good food. Next, we had a table at Standard, which has been recommended to me over and over again and I was quite excited (pictured on top). The concept is Italian, it’s all about the aperitivo: you order drinks and get antipasti and small dishes with it. It didn’t add up for me, though. The drinks are a tiny bit pricier than usual to cover the cost for the Stuzzichini, the food you get with it. Unfortunately, neither my rose wine was good (the cremant I had later was better), nor any of the food we were served. Mediocre olives were followed by a standard pumpkin soup and some grilled veggies with black lentils. We left with a bill over 40 Euros for two people and to be very frank, I would’ve rather paid for fewer quality dishes I chose myself than being served with what we got. The service was a bit confused, but okay.
Our next destination was a place that literally just opened: Simbiosa took over the rooms of the former Brachmann Galeron. I ate here years (a decade?) ago and always enjoyed it a lot. It used to be a simple but delicious Swabian place attracting loads of artists and theater people with their Käsespätzle. The new tenant is more on trend, they’re serving vegan Israeli food. The place was completely booked out, we snatched two bar seats by the window because of a no-show. Since it’s super new, the service wasn’t up for the crowds, they were polite, but overwhelmed. The food was a disappointment, though. The falafel were bland, as was the hummus, the bread was a total miss for me, and the green bulgur salad was watery and tasteless. I liked the tahini, the baba ganoush and the grilled aubergine were fine, and the tomato dip was also okay. But all in all, considering so many people are trying to get a table, it’s not living up to this demand. BUT, it’s really new, so there might be improvements coming, and they might’ve just had an odd night with the kitchen folding under the many orders. Let me know if you had a better experience.

A round, metal plate with two samosas and chickpea sauce stand on a wooden table at Badsha Indian restaurant in Hamburg


After a rather subpar food tour on Saturday night, my Sunday lunch appeased me again. Badshah is an Indian canteen-like food place just off Hauptbahnhof and it’s woah, delicious! Thalis are a mere 6 Euro or so, and you should definitely also get the Samosa. The counter is filled with many, many sweets of which I tried nothing because I bought an apple cinnamon bun at Mutterland prior which I wanted to eat on the (overbooked) train (that missed a waggon). I should’ve, though, the bun wasn’t all that. However, Badshah! It’s not pretty, but as usual in my view, good food trumps everything else. Unfortunately, the much famed Okra dishes were out when we were there, but the spinach dish I chose instead was also super tasty. The rice was well spiced, the samosas very well fried and the chickpea sauce that came with it was fragrant. I will definitely go back when I’m in the city next, crossing my fingers to get the okra dish.
Bremer Reihe 24, 20099 Hamburg