29th April 2012

Habibi

24 Goltzstrasse, Berlin

Germany has become the largest foreign market for Turkish Airlines, and the change in population of which this is a symptom has had excellent results for vegetarians. Different types of places serving Turkish food have sprung up, the most basic of which is exemplified by Habibi. You walk in off the street and join a queue at the counter; when your turn comes say you want falafel, and when asked ‘Komplett?’ say ‘Ja!’ Your falafel, warm and of generous proportion, will come in a triangular piece of flat bread with tomato, cucumber, onions, a large pickle and sauce. Vegans should know that whereas Arabs use tahini for this purpose, Turkish sauces are based on yoghurt.  You hold the bread in a piece of grease proof paper, which you throw into the bin by the door as you walk out if you decide to stay in the cafe rather than munch your falafel as you walk down the street.  There are countless places like this in Germany, some of them outdoor stalls, all of them providing tasty and nutritious falafel. Amazingly, the one served at Habibi will set you back just €2.50!

The nearest U-Bahn is Nollendorfplatz.

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22nd April 2012

Yellow Sunshine

19 Wienerstrasse, Berlin

Located in  part of eastern Berlin that looks as though it has seen better days, this entirely vegetarian restaurant is run by people who give an air of being very committed. What better place to veg out on some junk food? The Hot Chili Burger comes on a roll of brown bread, the patty has a fine taste and texture, and comes with lettuce, tomato and a sauce of just the right heat. It is smaller than the serve of potato chips (pommes frites) I had assumed would be a side dish, which are accompanied by a moderately hot dip. The restaurant also offers many dishes that imitate meat. and while I can’t vouch for the organic beer available from the fridge the the fresh orange juice is of the blood red variety and its intense taste is excellent, going well with strongly flavoured food. This is a worthy restaurant, popular among vegetarians, that deserves support. But it occurs to me that there may be other ways forward for vegetarian food in this part of the world.

The nearest U-Bahn station is Goerlitzer Bahnhof.

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15th April 2012

Haus Hiltl

Sihlstrasse 28, Zurich, Switzerland

What could a self-service vegetarian restaurant in the land that invented muesli be like? Well, you pick up a tray and wander around trying to choose between dishes of hummus, mung beans, quorn, paneer curry, asparagus in sesame oil, beetroot, cucumber, potatoes, wasabi beans in their pods, carrots, mushrooms and several dozen others, both hot and cold, before taking your tray to a cashier who charges according to weight. Every one of the dishes I tried was fresh, attractively presented and extremely tasty. The restaurant also offers freshly squeezed juices, among them an apple juice bursting with flavour; other juices were of tropical fruits, which must have accumulated a fair few air miles on their way to Switzerland. At lunchtime the place is full of a mixed crowd of students and workers in suits for whom it is obviously a favourite. And despite the restaurant having been founded in 1898, at about the time that Bircher-Benner was perfecting his muesli, there’s not a bowl of moistened oats to be seen.

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