One aspect of Munich’s contemporary foodscape that can get a bit lost in the city’s wurst-and-beer image is the modest vegetable. According to the Association of German Vegetarians (VEBU), there are about seven million vegetarians across Germany – one of the highest number of vegetarians in the European Union – with around 800,000 of those being vegan. This burgeoning movement has its roots in Germany’s late nineteenth-century Lebensreform, which advocated a back-to- nature lifestyle that included organic and healthy eating.
The first Reformhauses (health-food shops) opened more than a century ago as part of this movement, and today there are around 2,000 across the country. Traditional items used in German vegetarian and vegetable dishes include European staples such as turnips, potatoes, peas, onions, carrots, spinach, beans, broccoli, greens, cabbage and more, many of which have historically featured in Bavarian meat-free dishes including Käsespätzle (pasta with onion and cheese), Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes) and Apfelkrapfen (apple fritters), especially when the region was poorer and meat was a luxury. Perhaps the biggest sign of the trend’s popularity is that even traditionally meat-heavy events such as Oktoberfest and some of the Christmas Markets now offer vegan dishes and even vegan wine amongst a plethora of spit roasts, rotisserie chickens and pork sausages. In addition, an increasing number of upscale vegetarian and vegan eateries, such as Max Pett and Prinz Myshkin, sell meat-free versions of traditional dishes and international favourites.
One of the city’s oldest and most celebrated upscale vegetarian restaurants is Prinz Myshkin. Founded in 1984, it has since earned many accolades from international publications, including The New York Times (“an elegant break from traditional food") and Cosmopolitan ("among the best vegetarian restaurants"). Set in a former brewery, the impressively spacious eatery spans the contemporary and the historical with tall, vaulted ceilings, soft lighting and marble-top tables. It offers vegetarian (and a few vegan) takes on a global array of dishes, including spinach lasagne, vegetarian sushi and Indian curry diabolo, a specialty dish with spicy soy nuggets. The chef sources ingredients from the local market and there are changing daily lunch specials and an impressive range of mouth-watering desserts. So successful has the restaurant been that they have also opened a boutique hotel, Prinz Myshkin Parkhotel, set in the peaceful, well-heeled district of Obermenzing – and a new garden location that serves many of the same dishes, plus a few unique specials such as pumpkin curry and tagliatelle with black truffle.
Nicole Noli opened her first DearGoods store in 2012, in Munich’s Glockenbach neighbourhood. Drawing on what she calls the “three hearts” concept, from which she also created the shop’s logo, she aims to focus on products that are good for the environment, good for the workers making them and free from animal suffering. “There is so much exploitation in fashion and textile production and I wanted to try and find another way,” she says. “A way with fair wages and with a concern for animal welfare. Through my purely vegan concept I wanted to draw attention to this. The environment should also not be poisoned for fashion, which was the third aspect.” Today she runs two more stores in Munich – the most recent of which opened in January 2016 – as well one in Berlin and one in Essen. The stores, minimal, all-white spaces, look just like regular fashion boutiques but the chic clothing for men and women – think ‘leather jackets’ made entirely of cork – and the lifestyle products spanning towels, dishes, candles and bags, are all vegan.
This seasonal deli, established by Rüdiger Barth and Barbara Denk in 2014, is already one of the most popular in the city. With a firm commitment to local farms, the pair work with around 30 producers – beekeepers, butchers, bakers, distillers – from Upper and Lower Bavaria to provide customers with a full range of products. Inside the small but charming shop you can find shelves and vitrines containing handmade cheese, fine oils, organic milk and pesto, meats hunted in the region, fresh fruit and vegetables. Profiles of some of the suppliers are pinned to the walls and shelves so that the provenance of every item is transparent: ham and bacon from near Königsdorf, eggs and cheese from Fischbachau and fresh pasta from the Chiemgau. Visit at lunchtime and you can take advantage of their seasonal lunch specials – sandwiches, soups, salads – and there are also homemade cakes on sale too. It’s even possible to drop in and pick up a regional picnic basket if you want to take a day trip or bike ride into the surrounding countryside.
This discreet teahouse, inspired by ancient East Asian and Silk Road traditions, enjoys a peaceful and welcoming aesthetic that combines a Zen atmosphere with some good old German functionality. Owned and designed by Sandeh von Tucher, a landscape architect and ardent nature fan, the establishment’s calming interior and furnishings were influenced by famous architect and woodworker George Nakashima, as well as the distinctive rituals of Japanese tea culture. Inside you can find around 150 kinds of tea, spanning endless white and green teas from China, Oolong from Taiwan, Pu-erh tea from Yunnan, about 60 Japanese green teas from Hojicha to Gyokuro, Rooibos and botanical blends, and high-quality black teas from Darjeeling, Assam and Ceylon.
All of the teas are grown in their country of origin and all are organic and, where possible, fair trade too. The venue also sells accessories such as fine teapots, cups and tea caddies, and offers a daily changing menu that is vegan, uses organically farmed ingredients and spans delicious homemade cakes and desserts.