There’s not only Fischbrötchen (fish rolls) to be had in Hamburg, oh no. In each of Hamburg’s unique districts are different foodie wonders waiting to be discovered: plentiful breakfasts, board brunches and creamy cakes, to name but a few. Here are my Top 5 ‘where to eat’ picks to introduce you to the gastro scene on a first visit to the city:
1. HEJ PAPA
Highlight: arguably the best breakfast plates, ever
This little locale nestled away on the edge of the Neustadt area of Hamburg, is perhaps one of the city's best kept secrets from visiting tourists. Luckily for you though, I'm willing to share this rather special foodie tip. Hej Papa is a little piece of Scandi heaven in Hamburg. Stepping through the door you can be forgiven for thinking you may have teleported to Stockholm, thanks to its laid back, cool interior style comprising of soft grey and white tones set against wooden surfaces. The seating arrangements are an inviting set-up for solo diners too, with bigger tables to join if you're feeling social, or little window seats to curl up in if you fancy some 'me time' over breakfast with your favourite book.
Interiors aside though, it's the food that makes this establishment a standout. Run by a father/daughter duo, everything on offer here at Hej Papa is fresh and sourced locally, which results in a daily changing menu of foodie delights to surprise even regular frequenters of Hej Papa's four walls. One thing that doesn't change though is the outstanding breakfast which is only served on weekends. Close your eyes, think of everything you could want for brunch, and in Hej Papa it will appear. I opted for the large breakfast, which was a medley of everything my breakfast-loving heart desires: a basket of fresh breads, homemade pestos, an array of different meats and cheeses, a crunchy salad (which for once isn't just green leaves doused in dressing), fresh fruit, baked goats cheese melted onto mouthwatering pears with rosemary, and homemade orange quark with muesli sprinkled on top. If that isn't enough already, egg-lovers can get their hit too and order one on-top of all this if they wish. A word of warning: this is a local go-to on the weekends, so make sure to get there early or be willing to wait for a spot (no reservations can be made here). Luckily though this is where being a solo traveller has its perks because, more than likely, you'll be able to squeeze on to the edge of one of the long wooden tables even when the café is at its most busy.
2. CAFÉ CRISTAL
Highlight: a little piece of Portugual, to-go
It may be surprising to learn that Hamburg has a thriving Portugese district, sandwiched between Baumwall and Landungsbrücken. It's worth a little wander through, particularly to take in the enormity of the nearby St. Michael's Church. Whilst strolling the quarter's streets, make sure to stop by Café Cristal to pick up a pastry for the way. Here, the Portuguese custard tarts – Pastel de Nata – are so authentic that you may find yourself transported to Portugal after just one bite.
3. HATARI THE CORNER
Highlight: healthy breakfast boards for veggies and non-veggies alike
One of Hamburg's most beloved foodie hangouts, Hate Harry, has had a facelift and a name change to now become: Hatari the Corner. Whereas Hate Harry was geared more towards the evenings, Hatari is a place where you can drop by day or night and be sure to get some good, innovative grub (so, perfect for solos who don't enjoy eating alone in the evenings). The menu is extensive, and Hatari have tried to make it easier by limiting some options to different times of day, but simply, everything sounds so delicious that you're still likely to be stumped for a little before you decide on a dish.
It will be immediately noticeable if not already from the decor and clientele, then from the menu adorned with avocado, poached eggs, pulled pork and 'healthy bowls', that this is a decidedly hipster place. So, if you're allergic to hipster (who are you?!) then beware – but honestly, if you don't go then you're definitely missing out on a local Hamburg hotspot. There's a lot of hype around Hatari, but luckily the end result doesn't disappoint. I opted for the vegan breakfast served up on a rustic wooden board and an 'I love pink' smoothie. The board was so flavoursome that even non-vegans would be satisfied: smoked sweet chilli tofu, homemade jams and, the highlight, beetroot horseradish spread. I'm still pining for the spread. So head on over to Hatari at any time of day for an authentic Hamburg foodie hit.
4. FRANZ & FRIENDS
Highlight: Franzbrötchen done differently
One of Hamburg's local delicacies are its Franzbrötchen. I like to think of these sweet cinnamon pastries as the slightly squashed German version of a croissant. In fact, the sweet treats were undoubtedly influenced by their French counterparts, hence 'Franz' being part of their name (Französisch in German, means French). For modern twists on this classic, head to Franz & Friends in the main station's Wandelhalle. Here you'll find all kinds of flavours from nougat and pumpkin seed, to cherry. A standout, for sure, is the caramel variant – don't hesitate to pick up one of these bad boys!
5. LIEBES BISSCHEN
Highlight: chai lattes and fancy cake slices
No city guide would be complete without providing a place to stop off for a mid-afternoon dose of coffee and cake, now would it? Enter then Liebes Bisschen, in Hamburg's cosy and cutsie Ottensen district. The minimalist decor is decidedly stylish and makes sure the assortment of cakes take centre stage in the middle of the room. And, they're more than deserving of sitting in the spotlight – these cakes are pâtissier talent at its best.
The cupcakes look almost too good to eat, but it was the big fancy cakes that truly caught my eye – it was clear that to miss out on a slice of one of these would be to make a mistake. The wild forest fruit with white chocolate is quite simply to die for (and really, not too rich at all). The chai lattes are a real highlight too and are clearly homemade, rather than the all-to-often powder out of a can. Once you've stayed a while (staff don't pressure you to give up your seat as soon as you've finished sipping), a visit to Liebes Bisschen should most definitely be followed by a wander and some window shopping in the little streets around Altona station.