© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

 

© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

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Regensburg mon amour

The Danube at RegensburgThis time last year, Heathrow lay ybounden and, sad to relate, our planned December break reached no farther than Zone E at Terminal 1. But Lufthansa were very good to us and we had a few days' break in and around Regensburg in the springtime. It was so pleasant that we returned to see Bavaria in winter. No Caspar David Friedrich landscapes (the only snow was sliding off the fields of solar panels), but a change from the abundant glories of being stuck at Rayners Lane in what we now ought to call a "heritage" Met line train.

Naturally, the first step after arriving in Regensburg and depositing our bags was to seek out a relaxing pub for a reminder of Bavaria's benisons, so we slipped into the Dicker Mann (in Krebsgasse, since you ask) and got ourselves round some Kuchlbauer Dunkles. Deep and dark, with an impressively judged balance between sweet, dry and bitter, this was the works. Later, I realised that the sweetness element differed from other local dark beers because instead of calling up memories of chocolate, coffee or the like, the taste-chromatography was summoning up echoes of the darkest cherries in the land. It was four in the afternoon, and we were handed the dinner menu. We declined, and did not know what we had done. When we set out for an early dinner (lunch had been a modest sandwich on Freising station: €5 for two, and immeasurably better than anything at Marylebone, let alone West Ruislip or Watford, which would be its London-equivalent station), and trekked from restaurant to pub to hotel, we found that everyone eats very early, and there was no room at any inn for us. It was like being back in Iowa, but with the benefit of stunning mediæval architecture. We eventually found a hotel restaurant, and ate a meal there. It was as if a Little Chef had branched into schnitzeldom: the oil-soaked breading lay heavy all night and beyond.

Christmas market in Amberg RathausplatzWe fared much better (though no later) thereafter with our meals, whether a bratwurst sandwich on the run in the Rathausplatz in Amberg (definitely vaut le détour) or a jägerschnitzel in what is fast becoming our favourite dining establishment in Regensburg, the Kreuzschänke in Kreuzgasse. This wirtshaus is right on, or just beyond, the edge of the historic centre of town: go down the side of the enormous Kneitinger brewery (no mean eating-house either, if you can find a table) on Arnulfsplatz, and keep going, through the road barrier, on past a flight of steps up to the left, and persevere till you find it on the left with its beer garden.

We failed to get into the Augustiner restaurant (which is a bit like the time-warped Maidenhead dining-room where Gordon takes his girl in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, but with much friendlier staff and immeasurably better food), so stumbled up on another of the town's breweries, the Regensburger Weißbräuhaus. Once again, beer straight from the tank; the Altbayerisch Dunkel was not at all the mahogany-coloured beer we'd found elsewhere: it was caramel-coloured, unfiltered, and had a delightful woodsy-undergrowth element in the taste, almost reminiscent of sweet horse-mushrooms. No surprises that it was a tad more bitter than the Kuchlbauer, or the Weltenburger at the Kreuzschänke, but really good with a perfectly-cooked medium-rare steak (how often do you get that in a busy British city-centre pub?). The dessert menu at the Weißbräuhaus included an entirely decadent lebküchen parfait, with chews of gingerbread cookie and dark chocolate chips in a honey-spicy-choccy-ice-creamy cylinder.

The historic stone bridge over the Danube at RegensburgOn one evening, we were driven into the trattoria at the far end of the famous bridge, and managed to grab (again) what seemed like the last table in Bavaria. In general, when abroad I prefer to eat local cuisine where possible (the Balkan pizza-house in Levoča, eastern Slovakia, excepted), but needs must when the Christmas markets draw the crowds. The food was very good, but I tripped over some transalpine fusion. Lasagne with veal seemed a good idea at the time, but when it arrived, I could see that it was two layers of lasagne alternated with two layers of heart-stopping mushroom cream sauce, then an enormous slab of veal (about 7mm thick), then another lasagne/sauce foursome, then the whole thing drowned in more sauce, the lot covered with parmesan shavings. By comparison, the famed (but mainly apocryphal) Lanarkshire delicacy of deep-fried Mars bar is a model of calorific restraint.

After the small-town delight of Amberg, we took a train to Nürnberg to experience the huge Christmas market, and we can report that it was a huge glühwein-miasmatic rathausplatz of noise. It even spawned market stalls from Nürnberg's sister cities around the globe, though at least Atlanta and Glasgow restrained themselves from offering glühcoke or GlühBru respectively. As with our springtime munching in München, it reminded us that the smaller cities seem to do better. Our travels in Bavaria this year have led us to places the size of Durham, Northampton, Hereford and Chester, as well as the two big cities the size of Bristol and Greater Manchester. I think we did better than an average visitor to, say, Northampton. However, we finished off in style with a fine meal and a drink at Airbräu Flughafen München: yes, a brewery inside the airport (airside beyond passport control, Terminal 2). Once again, the quality was worlds away from the Rat and Baggage-handler offerings from BAA.

But when we returned, we were gasping for a nice piece of fish and some undead vegetables (and no sauerkraut!).

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