I think it’s fair to say that the Germans aren’t renowned for their cuisine in the way, say, the French or Italians are. So we were rather surprised when, on Easter Sunday in an out-of-the-way corner of Dortmund, Germany, we chanced upon one of the best culinary experiences we have ever had.
After a long day that had involved getting up at 5am and buying a plane, we had little energy left for faffing round with getting a subway into the centre of Dortmund for dinner. Being in the middle of nowhere in a hotel clearly oriented towards businessmen, we had just one choice of restaurant, and it was called Vetro. Its orange lights glowed invitingly from across the street, and we could see it from our hotel room window.
We basically had no idea what kind of food it served, but we got a good vibe as we stumbled wearily in at about 8pm. The place had a sophisticated atmosphere and we felt slightly under-dressed (having come to Germany dressed for flying aeroplanes, not dining in such classy establishments). We were kindly given English menus upon being seated, and we breathed a sigh of relief to find that the prices were not as steep as we might have guessed based on the quality of the restaurant decor.
We ordered drinks first, though we hadn’t been given a wine list or drinks menu. I asked for red wine, but they didn’t ask me which kind I wanted – they brought me the most enormous goldfish bowl of a glass of what turned out to be Chianti. It was wonderful, though there was rather too much of it. Lee had a very tall tankard of beer (when in Germany, and all that).
As we were celebrating both Easter Sunday and our recent acquisition of an aeroplane, we decided to forget about the expense and simply ordered whatever we wanted from the menu. While we were waiting for it to arrive, we were presented with a basket full of delicious fresh bread, along with the most mouthwatering garlicky/herby smooth cream cheese to go with it. In addition to this we were also brought some kalamata olives, and we were each given a little jar of hot lobster soup topped with an unidentified foam. Now I’m not a seafood fan in the slightest, and I’ve certainly never understood why lobster is so highly prized, but this soup was delicious. It didn’t taste particularly fishy, just warming and somehow interesting. Even Lee didn’t hate it! When we got the bill later, none of this was charged. I’ve never seen so many great freebies included with a meal before!
Lee ordered a burger, which came with three different sauces, chilli roasted onions and various other trimmings.
But it was my pasta that turned out to be the piece de resistance of the evening. I had ordered tagliatelle with truffle sauce and seared beef – marketed as ‘Perfect Pasta’, which gave one high expectations – and we were astonished when the waitress wheeled a trolley over to our table bearing an enormous hollowed-out Parmesan cheese. It must have been about a foot and a half in diameter and she immediately proceeded to ladle my pasta into it. She had evidently grated some of the inside of the cheese and was stirring the pasta and truffle sauce around in the Parmesan so that it would all get mixed together with the cheese.
Next, she twisted the tagliatelle onto a fork and put it, still twisted, onto the plate. Then she put slices of beef on top of each ball of pasta, grated a long shaving of Parmesan from inside the cheese, and put that on top too.
Then she grated half a truffle onto all that…
…and decorated the edge of the plate with some more of the truffle sauce. Such artistry!
Both our meals were top notch and needless to say, we had no room for dessert. We were bracing ourselves for an enormous bill, but the whole thing cost less than €25 a head. We left the restaurant buzzing from the experience (and perhaps a little tipsy) and couldn’t stop talking about it. It was pretty much the best restaurant meal I’ve ever had, and I certainly didn’t expect to come home from Germany saying that!