The traditional trading city of Frankfurt am Main opens its doors to the world, both in general and in culinary terms. Here in ‘Mainhattan’, although it may stand in the shadow of other major European cities, you will find fantastic cuisines that may be missing elsewhere. These exotic newcomers often blend with local traditions. Here are nine top tips – nine of our favourite Frankfurt restaurants.
Let’s look at kaiseki, or more precisely kaiseki-ryōri: this high art which is Japan’s equivalent of fine dining occasionally crops up outside Japan, for example in London (although even there, outlets are few and far between). In Germany, true kaiseki restaurants – which offer diners daily tasting menus – remain rare. Indeed, not all ‘kaiseki’ restaurants can compare with the artistically produced sequences of courses Japan knows and loves. These can be served in bowls or wooden boxes, comprise many disparate elements, and are often decorated with seasonal leaves, ferns or flowers. Yet Frankfurt has a first-class establishments to call its own: Nihonryori KEN in Sachsenhausen claims to have been first to bring Japanese haute cuisine to Germany. With its minimalist decor, this place would be at home in Japan – a low-key atmosphere with wooden tables and no frills lets the seven to nine-course menu shine, artistically showcased by the head chef.
Eat local at three very different establishments
At The Sakai, authenticity is also centre stage: the restaurant has been decked out according to the principle of wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic of intentional imperfection. Mood lighting, tables and chairs made from quality, seasoned wood plus splashes of blue, yellow and gold all make the environment suit Hiroshi Sakai’s culinary creations. This sushi master takes the Japanese art of fine dining literally: he embodies the Japanese principle of ‘using local ingredients’ with products from Frankfurt and surrounding area. The head chef prepares “classics with an experimental twist”, as he puts it, adapted to Frankfurt’s climate. He believes this is how Japanese cuisine tastes best.
On the subject of staying local: Frankfurt’s famous green sauce is prepared from seven different herbs: borage, chives, parsley, salad burnet, cress, chervil and sorrel. To find out more, we recommend you visit one of our favourite Frankfurt restaurants – the Solzer is a venerable institution which proves that you don’t need to go to the suburb of Sachsenhausen to find excellent ‘Grie Soss’ as the locals call this regional specialty. And to top it all off, it offers a cosy atmosphere pitched somewhere between garden shed and pub. Nearby, the Bornheimer Ratskeller with its whitewashed brick walls, low-hanging designer lighting and fresh flowers on the tables, presents a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Frankfurt establishment. Mario Furlanello won the Frankfurt Startup Award (Frankfurter Gründerpreis) for his concept. The menu offers typical Frankfurt cuisine with selected Italian home cooking plus distinctive creative details for a refined feel.
Favourite Frankfurt restaurant: Laid back and lovely
It’s laid back, so it really suits this city, but this modestly-named ‘bistro and bar’ Bidlabu does dish up edgy cuisine. For example, in winter you will find venison and red cabbage on the menu, or cima di rapa with egg yolk and truffles; in summer there’s fish of the day with courgette and saffron. A few select ingredients, pared down to the essentials, accompanied by a great selection of wines. What more do you need to win a place in the hearts of many Frankfurt residents? If you prefer a bit more of a spectacle, book a table at the Aureus. This restaurant in the Gold Museum, which also has a daytime café-bar, offers diners magnificent premises at the picturesque villa established by the historic firm Degussa, complete with trompe l’oeil murals, blue upholstered furniture, oak parquet flooring, silver cutlery and hand-blown glasses. The restaurant staff dress the part: their uniforms have gold thread running through them as they serve up pigeon with truffles or halibut in goose fat. Visitors with time on their hands can visit the Gold Museum and gift shop on the same site.
Here are some other addresses worth a visit: In 2018 the Restaurant Franziska opened in the rebuilt Henninger Turm, originally a grain tower and one of Frankfurt’s best-loved landmarks. Its creators call the concept ‘progressive German vintage cuisine’, featuring a revamped Frankfurt crown cake (Frankfurter Kranz) and other classic dishes – although it’s no secret many diners visit for the spectacular views. Panoramic windows all the way round give great views of the Frankfurt skyline and add a touch of glamour. This was noted by the cast of Skylines, who visited for the premiere of their Netflix series.
In 2019, several combined hotel/restaurants emerged and some of these have certainly got what it takes to become favourite Frankfurt eateries: The Lindley Lindenberg in the Ostend district of Frankfurt is a fusion of hotel and co-living – a ‘guest community’ with roof terrace, indoor herbarium, living room and several communal kitchens. There’s a similar cosy chic on the ground floor in the Leuchtendroter café-restaurant – the ‘upstart younger sister’ of the Michelin-starred Seven Swans restaurant. Its approach is radically local, as they grow their own produce – and serve exclusively vegetarian delicacies. Talking about little sisters: where do you think the Le Petit Royal, the first offshoot of the world-famous Grill Royal outside Berlin, is? In Frankfurt, of course! It is in the Ameron boutique hotel near the central station, where it delights guests and visitors alike. And what a great fit it is, with its relaxed mid-century elegance and unfussy interpretation of French cuisine.