Nestled on the banks of the river Neckar, between sloping green hills on both sides, Heidelberg is a breath-taking mixture of medieval and Baroque architecture. Heidelberg’s culinary scene is as impressive as its aesthetics, ranging from fine luxury dining to traditional pub fares to delicious international cuisines. Here we look at Heidelberg’s most outstanding venues.
Ai Portici stands out among the other great Italian restaurants in Heidelberg for the outstanding quality of its food and atmospheric decor. The restaurant only offers a small menu, but each dish is carefully prepared in the traditional Italian manner. Ai Portici also offers an excellent wine selection, each of which is individually selected and recommended by the restaurant’s owner Antonio Marino. The restaurant encourages a slow food culture, with guests encouraged to seek advice over their wine choices and to take time to truly enjoy their meal.
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For a touch of bygone class and charm, look no further than the Heidelberg Suites Patria, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on board a 1930s riverboat. The artistically-presented dishes prepared by chef Franco di Battista vary throughout the year, but you can expect they’ll all have exciting ingredients and fresh new flavor combinations. Specialties include fried scallops with fennel-lemon salad, and the saddle of hare in raspberry-pepper sauce. What makes the Patria truly stand out is its location along the Neckar river, which boast stunning views of the high-sloping banks with the town of Heidelberg rising to meet the castle at the top.
Restaurant Serai is a favourite among locals in Heidelberg. Veering away from the traditional German and European fare, Serai specializes in authentic Malaysian cuisine, as well as a number of other East Asian specialties. The restaurant has been run by owner Juliah Rais-Morres since 1998, and still retains a very personal vibe, with its carefully-selected ingredients and freshly prepared dishes giving all the advantages of delicious home cooking. Serai is an ideal option for diners with particular dietary requirements who do not wish to compromise on taste and quality. All gluten and lactose free dishes are marked and the restaurant runs a vegan buffet on the first Monday of every month.
Located in an idyllic, ivy-covered house with shutters and flowers at the windows, Restaurant zur Herrenmühle promises a quintessentially charming German experience. The restaurant falls into the category of Landhausküchen, roughly translating to ‘country cottage kitchen’. Both food and atmosphere are intended to be traditional, natural, and rustic. Zur Herrenmühle achieves this, while never settling for a less impressive quality. All dishes are unique and experiment with different flavor combinations, while still acknowledging their German and European roots. Some highlights include the carpaccio and baked Atlantic lobster, as well as the Jerusalem artichoke soup. The interior of the restaurant has an impressive yet comfortable ambience, with dark wood-panelled floors and walls, while vines and flowers surround the seating area in the garden.
Scharff’s Schlossweinstube has two outstanding features worth mentioning. The first is its team as Scharff’s is run by famed German chef Martin Scharff, proud owner of a Michelin star since 1991. The second is its location as the restaurant is set within the Heidelberg Castle walls, and as such is a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. Inside seating is set in several beautiful historic dining rooms hung with artworks, while the outside terrace affords excellent views of the old castle courtyard. The menu comprises mostly of traditional dishes with a twist, such as pigeon and quail with chervil, and smoked eel with cucumber and horseradish.
Veggieart is a hip little dining spot tucked away in Heidelberg, a cross somewhere between a café and a restaurant. Its key selling point is its unique menu focus: it specializes in Persian-inspired vegetarian and vegan food, and is another exciting example of Heidelberg’s international and experimental restaurant culture. The restaurant offers classic Persian saffron-infused rice with a range of rotating mains across the week; highlights include a walnut and pomegranate sauce with sweet chestnuts, and a spicy courgette and aubergine stew, both of which are spins on traditional Persian dishes. The restaurant also offers a range of pastries and cakes, making it an ideal hangout spot for the town’s university students and those seeking to expand their culinary experiences.
The Wirtshaus zum Nepomuk is located inside an 18th century townhouse in the heart of Heidelberg’s old town. Its namesake Johannes Nepomuk, who is the patron saint of bridges, ships and rivers, has a statue located on the banks of the river Neckar, where the restaurant is located. The cuisine is typically German with options that include a large selection of hearty, meat-based dishes, which are presented and served in an elegant manner.
Unlike some of the more upscale, fine-dining options to be found in Heidelberg, the Zum Roten Ochsen offers a lively, pub atmosphere with a cozy interior and busy tables. The restaurant building dates back to 1703, and has been under the current family’s ownership since 1839. The interior still retains a charming, historical atmosphere with plenty of original 19th century objects still on display, such as beer steins, drinking horns and trophies. The names of famous visitors such as Mark Twain, Marilyn Monroe and Franka Potente are to be found in the over thirty guestbooks, making the Zum Roten Ochsen a Heidelberg institution. A regular pianist who plays every evening at 7:30pm underscores the historical German ambiance.