On a recent trip to Hamburg, a cancelled meeting and sunny skies offered a chance to play, “Could I live here?” If you’re unfamiliar with the rules of this game, it requires a clear head, comfortable footwear, two free hours and a neighbourhood worthy of deep culinary scrutiny.
On this particular occasion I was in the city’s Eppendorf district, which is close to the centre and the lake, and populated by very tall, well-to-do northern Germans. Eppendorf has a couple of main streets packed with shops and services but what makes the area special is its shady streets lined with elegant townhouses and apartments. There’s something about the density, the buildings being set back from the pavement and the scale of the apartments that makes you feel welcome – and soon has you peering at estate-agent windows. Could you live in a 160 sq m apartment with high ceilings, herringbone parquet floors, interconnecting salons and a balcony looking over a bountiful garden?
I could. Fifteen minutes into my tour I’d already picked out the street I could live on and two or three apartments that would be perfect for life in the Hanseatic hub. Now for round two: where would I eat and shop?
I turned onto one of Eppendorf’s main retail streets. It was midweek so it wasn’t particularly busy but there was enough life in the shops to give a sense of what it might be like when half the neighbourhood wasn’t in Mallorca or catching the last bit of snow in Lech. I passed a large bookshop, a couple of bakeries, two well-stocked kiosks, a butchers, a grocers and a fishmonger. And just as I was about to peek into a good-looking café, I bumped into a familiar face.
“Christoph, what are you doing here?” I said, surprised. “How curious to see you in little Eppendorf.”
“It’s even funnier seeing you here,” said Christoph. “When I’m not on the road, this is sometimes home.”
“Lucky you,” I said. “I was wandering around thinking about what Hamburg life could be like; given that you’re here, it must be pretty good.” We chatted for a little while – comparing Hamburg to Zürich and other cities – and decided that we should get together again in Paris; a meeting was long overdue.
I said goodbye and walked further down the main drag before turning into the Eppendorf branch of Lindner, the fine Berlin-based grocer. The counters were three deep with customers selecting charcuterie, salad, roast beef or prepared pasta, and completing their orders with dainty fruit tarts. The game was over: I could live in Eppendorf and I’d surely run up a dangerously large tab at Lindner. It made me wonder: why aren’t there similar small-scale, counter-based neighbourhood grocers like Lindner in Stockholm Oslo, Geneva or London? Could Lindner expand beyond northern Germany? For sure. Would it make more sense to borrow from its format and see more regional versions? No question.
For this second edition of our Drinking & Dining Directory we’ve surveyed the best in food, wine, coffee and pretty much anything else you’d like stocked in your pantry, while also assessing the best places to visit for a long lunch or dinner (see our Restaurant Awards on page 147). We’ve also interviewed the people making your commute a bit tastier, a stretch of California more bountiful and the weekend trip to the market that little bit more surprising.
If you want to share any recipe or top-table tips, we’re all ears. You can get in touch with this fine journal’s editor, Josh Fehnert, at firstname.lastname@example.org – or me at email@example.com. Guten appetit and thank you for your support.