The Best of the Rhineland in January

This month Rhine-online, the Rhineland’s leading English-language website, finds gourmet food in Gladbach, admires art in Düsseldorf, and tells you where to get your drink on in Bonn.

The Best of the Rhineland in January
Photo: Rhine-online

Vendôme – a gourmet paradise on your doorstep

Did you know that one of the best restaurants in the world is right here on our doorstep in NRW? Vendôme, at the beautiful Schloss Bensberg, is a three Michelin star gourmet palace, headed up by star chef Joachim Wissler. The restaurant was completely renovated in 2007 and now has a timeless elegance that matches Wissler’s modern and refined cooking. It’s almost an insult to describe the masterpieces served up in this establishment as “food”, each dish really is a work of art in itself – not only in looks but in the use of flavours and ingredients. Among Germany’s top chefs, Joachim Wissler pushes the frontiers for new (and forgotten) ingredients, techniques and, most importantly, new and unique combinations of flavours. He is at the forefront of the development of a “New German Cuisine” with dishes such as Gillardeau oyster with green apple and sauerkraut pearls, or scallops with porcini naturelle, juice of palourde clams and foie gras slices, warm octopus salad with sepia and seaweed. Or tuna belly with eucalyptus and cassis, almonds and apple/goose liver-ice cream – only a master can get away with these combinations and turn them into mouth watering taste sensations. It all comes at a price of course, your average meal can cost upwards of €150 per person, and that’s not including a wine from the excellent wine menu. However – the gourmet lunch on offer at the moment – is really quite affordable at €110 per person. It includes a champagne aperitif, a four course menu which includes marinated goose liver with dark chocolate, apple and coriander mousse and Banyuls jelly, plus Zander fillet with Weinberg snails and pine-nut sauce. Water, coffee and Petit Fours are also included – but wine is of course extra. It’s a “foodie’s” paradise – so why not treat yourself in the New Year, I can almost guarantee that you will not be disappointed.


Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, Kadettenstrasse, 51429 Bergisch Gladbach

T: 02204-420

Eating the Universe – food in art

Eat Art, (a term coined by Daniel Spoerri for art made with and involving food), has its origins in Düsseldorf. Two years after opening his restaurant at the Burgplatz, the Swiss artist founded the Eat Art Gallery in 1970 and inspired numerous artists to produce various pieces made of edible materials and food wastes. The exhibition “Eating the Universe” — a title created in the 1970’s by Peter Kubelka, former professor for Film and Cooking at the Frankfurt Städelschule, for a TV-show about cooking as an artistic genre — takes generous stock of the phenomena from today’s perspective and traces the original character of eat art from its origins to today. The exhibition demonstrates the continuing great attraction of the topic of food as a fundamental interface of art and life and its enormous relevance to the present day, especially against the backdrop of issues such as affluence and hunger, the anti-consumerism and anti-globalisation movements, modern dietetics and cooking shows, health crazes and fast food.

Participating artists include:

Sonja Alhäuser, Arman, Christine Bernhard, Joseph Beuys, Michel Blazy, John Bock, Paul McCarthy, César, Arpad Dobriban, Dustin Ericksen/Mike Rogers, Lili Fischer, Christian Jankowski, Bernd Jansen, Elke Krystufek, Peter Kubelka, Richard Lindner, Gordon Matta-Clark, Andreas Wegner, Günther Weseler

Kunstahalle Düsseldorf

28 November 2009 — 28 February 2010

We love the Köln zoo – how about you?

Anyone with kids in Cologne knows the winding path to the Spielplatz well, and can tell you exactly where to find the Capybara’s. But it’s not just a place for families – zoos are for everyone with an interest in animals, and the Cologne zoo has one of the best animal attractions in Europe – the elephant park. It’s not often you get to watch an elephant herd living together as a family. Now that there’s a little baby in their midst, it’s fantastic watching how the rest of the elephants run after it, protect it, stop it from getting in trouble and basically dote on it the way a human family dotes on it’s youngest members. The newest up and coming attraction at the zoo will be the Hippodom – due to open in 2010. At present the hippos bask in the old elephant house, a Victorian style pavilion that’s delightful to look at, but one would assume not so delightful to live in for a family of six hippos and their rhino next door neighbour. The new enclosure will recreate an African river landscape and accommodate the hippos, antelopes and crocodiles. You’ll be able to see the animals from above, below and right up close, and there will be both indoor and outdoor areas. If you want to contribute to the project you can make a donation at the zoo, or on the Cologne zoo website.

Bar Ludwig – Go before it’s all over

Down by the Rhine and opposite the Werkstattbühne is Bar Ludwig, currently one of the hottest (night) spots in the city. Formerly the bar and restaurant of the now condemned Hotel Beethoven, Bar Ludwig has been taken over by an outfit called Moving Locations that now runs club nights every Thursday to Saturday until the entire premises are torn down in February or March next year to make way for luxury flats. Most evenings start with a culture show and later transition to a dance/club event with well-known DJs and bands. Bar Ludwig still features the restaurant’s original 1950s décor, and the managers have installed several cinema seats from the now defunct Metropol cinema round the corner. The dance floor is situated in what used to be the hotel kitchen, still fitted out with the original tiled floors and walls. It’s very smoky, very crowded, and very cool.

Bar Ludwig, Rheingasse 26, 53113 Bonn

English books in Cologne’s Altstadt

Remember when buying books was about the books, and not the cafe, the bright lighting, sofa’s, the wafted smell of coffee and endless knickknacks? If you do – you might like the newly relocated English Books and Tea. The first thing that will impress you is its location in the Altstadt – probably the most beautiful part of Cologne – but a part that one only tends to visit for a quick stroll when friends come to visit. Well now there is a reason to go – and it’s a good one. Shelves and shelves of both new and second hand books, a view onto the prettiest square in Cologne, and seating by the windows where you can sip a cup of tea, browse you purchases – or just sit and chat to the amiable owner Christian Potter. It’s the perfect place to buy your Christmas books: with a wide selection of the latest releases, fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, a huge selection of second hand books, plus board games that come highly recommended. If you don’t find what you’re looking for you can place an order and expect to see it delivered within a week or two. The shop also hosts book discussion groups and games evenings – and has its own little community, which warmly welcomes new arrivals. I defy you to leave without buying something – even in its old location on Ritterstrasse – which had decidedly less charm and was tucked out of the way near Hansaring – Christian always managed to interest me in a book I couldn’t resist buying.

English Books and Tea, Auf dem Rothenberg 9a, 50667 Cologne

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Ancient Jewish settlement to be brought back to life in Cologne

No city north of the Alps has been home to Jews for as long as the Roman settlement of Cologne. A recently discovered Jewish quarter is now being brought back to life.

Ancient Jewish settlement to be brought back to life in Cologne
The site of the construction in Cologne. Photo: DPA

If you are a tourist walking through the centre of Cologne, sooner rather than later, you'll come across a construction site located in the very best position, in the middle of the town hall square.

At the beginning of this millennium, the people of Cologne dug into the earth directly in front of their historic city hall and found a treasure from another millennium: the Jewish quarter.

Complete with a dance hall, a hospital, a bakery and a synagogue, the quarter contains the ruins of a settlement from the Middle Ages. It is a city within a city, a miniature world of houses huddled together. 

Of course, all that is left is ruins – one needs a bit of imagination to picture how the whole thing once looked. But experts from Germany and abroad agree: there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

Ancient tradition

No other German city has been associated with Jewish history for so long as Cologne. 

The first documented Jewish community dates back to the year 321, making it the oldest north of the Alps. 

But in 1349, the neighbourhood was destroyed and its inhabitants were murdered or expelled. Local Christians blamed Jews for the outbreak of the plague.

Currently, a museum is being built over the site on the town hall square. It will be a parallel world underground: visitors will be able to relive life in the Jewish quarter in the era of knights and minstrels on a 600-meter-long trail. The trail also visits the governor's palace from Roman times, which was rediscovered in the 1950s. 

The museum is called MiQua after the name for the Jewish ritual bath, Mikveh.

Exhibits will include artifacts found during the excavations; among them is a crescent-shaped, gem-set gold earring from the 11th century. 

The researchers also discovered a tablet dating back to the Middle Ages with the inscription “yt in ys neyt anders.” This could be translated as “Et is wie et is” (It is as it is) – a classic Cologne saying. 

The museum is scheduled to open in 2024, but through the panorama windows on the third floor of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, also located on Rathausplatz, one can already follow the progress of construction work.

This year Jewish life will be celebrated across the country – the anniversary year '1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany' will be celebrated nationwide. 

Hamburg is organising a themed week entitled 'More than Little Jerusalem'; in Nuremberg the photo exhibition 'Germany's Emigrants' will be opened; and in Herxheim in Rhineland-Palatinate the play Judas by Lot Vekemans will be staged.

READ MORE: 9 hilarious gifts Judaism gave the German language