Things to do in Cologne

I was tasked with the challenge of finding an interesting destination for me and two girlfriends to visit on a budget… surprisingly difficult around Easter weekend. All three of us are well-travelled, but Germany seemed like a good bet, unglamorous perhaps but reasonably priced with a short flight time, ideal for just a couple of nights away.

Cologne

Cologne is a 2,000 year old city in the west of Germany, but much of the city was destroyed in World War II, leaving just a tiny area of historic streets remaining. A popular student city, Cologne has a large offering of cheap restaurants and bars, but few tourists so very quickly we felt immersed in the culture.

Cologne

To Stay

die Wohngemeinschaft – This well-known hostel is in the heart of the trendy Belgian Quarter and nearby to the attractions of the town centre. We were in the Danilo Bedroom, a stylish triple room with literary inspired decor. The room was extremely clean and fresh with quirky vintage furniture, subtle lighting and all the essential amenities. There are plenty of bathrooms, all well kept with modern facilities. Downstairs a lively bar is always full, serving reasonably priced drinks and snacks.

Cologne

To Eat and Drink

Ernst Kaffeerosterei – Without a doubt the best coffee in Cologne… we walked 35 minutes to find this caffeine mecca. Ernst roast their own beans and pour to perfection, serving smooth and rich coffee with a delicious flavour. The quiet hipster cafe is always full with students working and friends catching up, we stayed for a while sipping our coffee and munching on the soft and flaky pastries.

Meister Gerhard – This lively tapas bar has a feel-good atmosphere, and I can imagine spending many Friday nights here if I lived locally. Along with glasses of German Reisling, we enjoyed fine meats and cheeses, patatas bravas and well-seasoned vegetable salads. The perfect meal to feast on with a group of friends.

Salon Schmitz – The Salon Schmitz institution has a brasserie, restaurant, bar and ice-cream parlour. We stopped by at this eclectic cafe for a light lunch, which consisted of deliciously wholesome salads, freshly made quiche and comforting spiced lentil soup. I’ve heard their cheesecake is fantastic too, so leave room for dessert.

The Coffee Gang – The small Coffee Gang cafe is ideally located in the centre of Cologne. This speciality coffee shop uses Ernst beans and serves delicious coffee alongside a range of tempting cakes.

Toddy Tapper – We had to ask a few locals to find out about the best of Cologne’s cocktail scene. Toddy Tapper is barely signposted, like many prohibition bars, but inside everyone is having a good time. Sit at the bar and order a Perigord Paradox, made from Whisky, Walnut bitters and orange syrup.

Le Moissonnier – The only 2 Michelin star restaurant in Cologne is run by Liliane and Vincent Moissonnier who know all there is to know about the French brasserie style. This lovely restaurant serves creative cuisine by Eric Menchon and the 4-course menu with wine suggestions offers very good value for money.

Cologne

To Shop

Utensil – Found in the arty Ehrenfeld area, Utensil is run by Cologne designer Anna Lederer who sells simple everyday products with an emphasis on design. Utensil is surrounded by cute boutiques and cafes on Kornerstrasse Street… if you are in need of a caffeine kick head to the modern Van Dyck cafe.

Gold Kant – A great boutique for Scandi inspired homeware and stationery. We admired the beautiful displays for ages whilst wishing we had more space in our luggage!

How we Live – A new and vintage furniture and concept store offering a collection of stylish Scandinavian brands including HAY, house doctor and ferm living.

Cologne

To Do 

Kolner Dom – When you mention Cologne, it is the giant cathedral which springs to mind for most people. The magnificent twin spires rise high above the city, and inside the church is filled with religious art and treasures. For a work-out climb the 533 steps up the Dom’s South Tower to see panoramic views of the city down below.

Museum Ludwig – A large contemporary museum dedicated to modern art, including an impressive collection of Picasso paintings. There is currently an exhibition of Gerhard Richter’s new work, an artist who has been based in Cologne for the last 50 years. The paintings are bright and bold, a series of complex abstract compositions which are very much open to interpretation.

Claudius Therme – For something a little different head to Cologne’s thermal baths for an afternoon of relaxation. The natural thermal spring water is nourishing for the skin and the sauna complex will relieve stressed muscles. A retreat for wellness and health-conscious travellers.

Altstadt – Cologne’s tiny old town is wonderful to wander round, especially when you consider what it has survived. Relax with a beer by the river and photograph the pictoresque houses near St Martin’s Church.

Cologne

To Escape

Bonn – Just 20 minutes away on the train, Bonn is the perfect day trip escape from Cologne. Bonn was once the capital of West Germany and is remembered best as the composer Beethoven’s birthplace. Wander round the old town before stopping off for a Kölsch beer overlooking the Rhine River.

DS Automobiles Lunch at Club Gascon

Last week DS Automobiles invited me to a morning with their brand ambassador Pascal Aussignac. A select group of foodies were treated to an early morning tour of Smithfields meat market before joining him in the kitchen for a cooking masterclass.

DS Automobiles

DS Automobiles is the youngest automotive brand with a premium positioning of avant-garde spirit. The French car company has undergone great innovation since the original revolutionary DS cars were launched in Paris in the 60s. Proud of its French heritage and luxurious look, it seemed fitting for the brand to pair up with Chef Pascal Aussignac, the gastronomic talent behind London Michelin-starred restaurant Club Gascon.

DS Automobiles

After zooming across town in the slick new DS car to collect the special secret ingredient (Italian white tulips) we were back at the Club Gascon kitchen and ready to cook for our lunch. We stood in the small kitchen and learnt lots of interesting tips and techniques for French fine cooking.

DS Automobiles

At 1pm we sat down for a deliciously avant-garde 3-course meal with Chef Pascal Aussignac, eating the delicacies we had just learnt so much about in his kitchen. The menu included:

  • Landes White Asparague with Lemon Pulp and Spring Variations
  • Toasted Fennel, “Quinotto”, Trumpets & Tulip
  • Red Hot Chilli Berries

DS Automobiles

The menu was inspired and innovative. Using simple, seasonal ingredients Pascal produced beautiful and subtle plates of food, showcasing his skill and creativity.

First course was white asparagus, only in season for a couple of weeks of the year and easy to prepare if you know how. The flavour is so delicate you don’t need much else with them, but when Pascal offered a touch of truffle we couldn’t refuse!

DS Automobiles

Next up were the beautiful Springtime tulips, which taste not dissimilar to asparagus. Take out the bitter pollen in the centre and stuff with ingredients of your choice. Try to get Italian flowers, rather than those that have been mass grown in the Netherlands, as the Italian tulips have less pesticides on them.

DS Automobiles

Dessert was a clever creation using a reduction of red berries, floral herb ice-cream and tuille made from icing sugar and red pepper pulp. It was as delicious as it looked with a touch of spice contrasting with the sweet fruity flavours of spring.

It was a delight to be among the first media to learn about DS Automobiles’ partnership with the French Chef Pascal Aussignac and to hear about the search for 4 protégés that will take part in Taste London with him.

More information about the DS Automobiles here.

Things to do in Palma

Many would make the assumption that Palma has sunshine year-round. When we arrived for a weekend here in late March the weather was uncharacteristically wet, and suddenly our plans had to be altered.

Palma

Luckily there is plenty to do even if the climate disappoints, including gastronomic culinary experiences and thought-provoking art exhibitions. When the sun came out for our second day on the island we could enjoy the more traditional things to do in Palma, al fresco aperitifs and long walks round the picturesque old town.

Palma

To Eat

Marc Fosh – Marc Fosh is without a doubt the most famous chef on the island, and he has several restaurants in Palma to cater for every occasion. ‘Marc Fosh Restaurant’ is the most upmarket with the recognition of a Michelin-star, but despite its accolades is still affordable and welcoming. The light lunch menu features simple and stylish dishes that focus on the seasons. My spiced cauliflower main course was particularly memorable, a celebration of the vegetable with an impressive range of tastes and textures on the plate.

Tast – For casual and tasty tapas, Tast is a great place to stop for lunch. There are now a couple of restaurants both serving adventurous and inventive small dishes such as octopus with bacon or grilled asparagus served on a hot plate.

Es Raco des Teix – For a special lunch with spectacular views head out of town to the small town of Deia. Here you will find Es Raco des Teix, a traditional restaurant run by a husband and wife team. Chef Josef Sauerschell serves up hearty but elaborate recipes with a focus on meat. Sit on the terrace and enjoy the panoramic views while enjoying a delicious lunch and a glass of Mallorcan wine.

Can Joan de S’Aigo – Don’t leave Mallorca without trying the traditional pastries, ensaimadas have been made on the island since 1700 and are best with an espresso from Can Joan de S’Aigo.

Palma

To Drink

La Molienda – The only speciality coffee shop worth hunting down in Palma. La Molienda serves high quality speciality coffee roasted by Barcelona-based Right Side Coffee, alongside other guest roasters. Head in for weekend brunch and a perfectly poured flat white.

Cappuccino Sant Miquel – This renowned coffee chain has branches all over the city but the Sant Miquel site is easily the prettiest. Sit beneath the grand arches in the cobbled courtyard and sip a coffee or cocktail.

Palma

To Do

Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro – Found on the outskirts of town Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro is a must for art lovers. This is where the artist and his wife lived and worked from 1956 until he died in 1983. There is a big collection of Miro works on display as well as an approximation of the Miro studio set-up.

Med Winds – This Mallorcan brand designs and sells stylish clothes and accessories. The garments are made from luxurious materials in bright hues which suit the sunny island life.

Mercat de l’Olivar – Based in the heart of town this huge food market is worth wandering round to see and smell all the local produce. If you are peckish there are lots of little tapas bars and cafe stalls to linger at with a snack or drink.
Valldemossa – This pretty little town is the ideal day trip from Palma. Wander through the old fashioned streets and visit the beautiful 13th century monastry. There are lots of traditional bakery to pick up sweet treats and if you visit at the weekend you might catch the local market in action.

Palma

We stayed 30 minutes outside of Palma at the idyllic Castell Son Claret, read more about the hotel and 2 Michelin star restaurant here.