Dining by the Dom

Alter Wartesaal (Johannisstrasse 11, Cologne, Germany; phone 49 [0] 221-912 885-0 or visit www.wartesaal.de [in German only]): located adjacent to Cologne’s Hauptbahnhof, this fine restaurant is in the rail station’s old first-class lounge.

To get to the restaurant, exit the hauptbahnhof through the doors that face the Dom (Cologne’s cathedral). As you exit, the restaurant will be on your left. Due to the extensive construction in the area, you will have to take a lengthy and very roundabout path to get to the restaurant’s entrance. Don’t confuse this restaurant with the affiliated discotheque of the same name.

The restaurant’s interior furnishings and atmosphere harken back to the era of luxury rail travel early in the 20th century. The wait staff is dressed formally and, on the evening we visited in mid-May ’05, most of the patrons were nicely attired.

We appeared to be the only tourists and the only English speakers present. Fortunately, our waiter spoke English and even volunteered to translate the entire menu for us. Our cousin in Cologne (who recommended the restaurant) indicated that the restaurant is frequented by local businesspeople. The clientele appeared to be there to enjoy a fine meal in a quiet and refined setting followed by an hour or two of talk over wine.

The menu listed a relatively modest number of entrées, but the selection was quite varied. No particular style or focus was evident. A 3-course set menu was also offered. The wine list was more extensive and provided an excellent selection.

The food was well prepared and well presented. Portion sizes were typical for Europe. My wife had the set menu, I had an entrée and we shared a bottle of German wine, and all this cost us €72 (about $90). Yes, that’s a fair amount of money, but it was a good value and a great way to wrap up our trip to Germany. Credit cards were accepted.

This is a place to linger while enjoying the atmosphere and the experience. Relax and enjoy the view of the Dom though the windows that make up much of one side of this large restaurant.

If you can’t find time for a meal here, stop in for a drink at the elegant bar near the windows looking onto the Dom.

Charlotte, NC