Posted by: travelrat | September 28, 2017


Cologne: 2001

Cologne (Köln) has always been proud of the diversity of culinary styles it offers. The local Hotel and Catering Trade Association boast that there is ‘virtually no nation on Earth whose cuisine is not represented’.

 But, what about German food? Of course, there are places in the city where unadulterated German cuisine can still be enjoyed, in a traditional setting. These are the historic bierhalle, or beer-halls, which not only sell beer, but also serve food … the real stuff! Be warned, though, that this is ‘hearty peasant fare’. Those partaking would be well advised to do some fasting in advance … and we suggest that nether garments with an elasticated draw-string waist-band be worn!


One of the most famous of the bierhalle is the Malzmühle, at No. 6, Heumarkt, on the left bank of the Rhine, near the Deutzer Brücke. The name means ‘malt-mill’, and this building was originally a malt-house, where barley was malted for the brewing trade. In 1858, they started to brew beer in the Malzmühle, and they still do.

Kölsch is the name to remember. It describes a native of Cologne, the dialect he or she might speak … or the light but highly fermented and hoppy beer peculiar to the area; if it’s not brewed in the Cologne area, it ain’t Kölsch!

 Mühlen Kölsch is brewed on the premises, and served in slim, cylindrical 0.2 litre glasses called stangen (rods) The beer comes from a wooden keg, and is poured into the stangen by the tap-man, or Zappes. The traditionally uniformed waiter or Köbes (a diminutive of ‘Jakob’) carries the stangen around the tables in a kranz, or crown. This is a circular tray with a central handle, with holes into which the glasses fit.

The Köbes simply distributes beer to anyone with an empty glass … unless specifically requested not to. He keeps tally by making a mark with his pencil on the bierdeckel (beer-mat or coaster) and drinkers pay their reckoning at the kiosk at the end of the session.


My first visit to the Malzmühle was purely to check out the beer. I’d already eaten at the hotel, and wished I hadn’t, for the aromas from the passing food-trays were temptation indeed. Sausage of every kind, of course, and the myriad of mouth-watering things German cooks can do with a dead calf or pig were all on offer.

I asked if sandwiches were available, and Köbes suggested a Halve Hahn or Kölsche Kaviar. Both names are deceptive; the ‘half-chicken’ is actually a sandwich of Dutch cheese on rye; ‘Köln Caviar’ has nothing to do with sturgeon, but is blood sausage (or black pudding, as we call it in Britain) on rye.

On my next visit, two weeks later, I was prepared for something more substantial. It wasn’t entirely by design; the buffet-car on the train from Munich was out of commission, which meant that I was more than ready for one of the Malzmühle’s more substantial platters.

I reached for the Foodekaat.


 If your German phrase-book says you should ask for a Speisekarte … it’s quite correct. This isn’t German, though, it’s Kölsch! This shows that the Malzmühle isn’t just for tourists; it’s closer to Dutch than German, so much so that it’s thought necessary to provide a German translation. But, if you don’t read either of these languages, the Köbes will bring you the bill of fare in English, French and Italian. This is actually the better option, because it describes exactly what you’re getting.

You can’t, in my view, get a better description than ‘Substantial joint roasted on a sprit (sic) with fried onions, coleslaw and fried potatoes’. But, maybe you could do without knowing that Himmel un Äd (‘Heaven and Earth’) consists of fried black pudding, mashed potatoes and stewed apples?

I thought I’d play it safe, and stick to what I knew. Goulash soup … the smiling Köbes proffered a knife and fork to eat it with … which wasn’t far off the actuality. When the Jägerschnitzel arrived, I could only greet it with a reverent ‘Oh, my God!’ Thank goodness, I’d cancelled the chips, and requested potato salad instead, and I swear there was a good half-pound of it … and an equal quantity of sauerkraut. The schnitzel itself was in proportion, with, naturally, a mushroom sauce to kill for.


The big surprise is the bill for this indulgence. For all the Malzmühle’s international reputation … former President Bill Clinton once stopped by for a brew during the G8 conference … it’s not going to break the bank. This belt-bustin’ repast came to, not counting the beer, less than £10 English money, or USD15!

Only a restricted selection of sweet courses was on offer. The choice is vanilla ice-cream with hot cherries or raspberries, with or without cream … and that’s it! I’d suggest that there’s not much demand for them except from the most gluttonous!

I admitted defeat. I declined the ice-cream, had a couple more beers, paid my bill, and left. I walked about a mile along the riverside promenade, the Frankenwerft, back to my hotel … and if I’d had a sweet course after that Jägerschnitzel, I’d never have made it; I’d have had to call a taxi!


Please note: I visited in 2001. Prices, and exchange rates have almost certainly changed since then.


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