Thursday, 17 March 2016

A long walk followed by a decent meal in my favourite restaurant...

If you're on Facebook and are not one of my pals, but just happened to have stumbled on this blog, then I've just been raving (on Facebook) about a restaurant here is Dusseldorf called Da Bruno. In fact, a few months back I wrote a glowing review of the place here on NoVisibleLycra – click here to read it.

You know what? It's odd because I like this restaurant so much that I've started to plan my trips around it. I pick a hotel nearby so I don't have to walk for miles and the one I've been staying in is under five minutes' walk away, less than when I was staying in the Friends Hotel at the other end of Karlstrasse, which is close to Dusseldorf's central railway station. In fact, credit to the people at Friends Hotel for recommending Da Bruno to me, I've never looked back.

From the top of Dusseldorf's 'Space Tower'.
The only reason I'm not staying in the Friends Hotel this time around is that I was never keen on the breakfast offering – it's not substantial enough, in my opinion, and they've sort of run out of space on which to put things. It's all a bit precarious in that sense and I never felt totally fulfilled when breakfast was over and it was time to face the day.

Where I am now is much better. The breakfasts are more inviting, the space in which they are served is cosy and, well, that's it. The food quality is better too. It's an all-round good experience. And as I've probably said already – possibly in the last post I wrote – the rooms here are better too.

So since I've been here – I arrived Tuesday – I've been obsessed with Da Bruno. So obsessed that on my first night, despite the fact that I got to the hotel around 10pm, I still walked there and managed to get a table. Last night they were fully booked when I turned up around 8pm – so I booked for tonight and then left, ending up in a Mercure Hotel restaurant and wishing I hadn't bothered. Although hats off to the waitress – Nicole – for top notch service.

I was one of two guests in the Mercure. I ordered goulash soup to start (which I suspect wasn't homemade – it was too much like dehydrated soup for my liking) and then followed up with grilled salmon (or fried, I can't remember) but either way it was under-cooked. I even considered mentioning this, but didn't want the chef gobbing on my food. I'm fine, by the way, no food poisoning, not like this time last year in Rio de Janiero when I went down with a dose of the squits. Not that I'm suggesting it was the food; it could have been anything, possibly even the fact that I went for a swim in Copacabana Bay – the famous Copacabana Beach no less. I remember reading about the quality of the seawater being piss poor, so it might have been that or the change of climate, who knows? Either way, the end result wasn't pleasant, I can tell you. Click here for more.

Goulash soup at the Mercure Hotel restaurant
When I find a good restaurant like Da Bruno, everything else pales into insignificance and I start to see the join in other establishments. At the Mercure, for example, there was the dehydrated soup and the under-cooked salmon (the wine, incidentally – Cabernet Sauvignon – was fine) but I can't help comparing. The Mercure bill was twice as much as I pay in Da Bruno and the food quality was nowhere near as good. A decent restaurant brings so many aspects of life into perspective as well as highlighting how crap most other restaurants are.

Last night, I walked into a place, sat down, perused the menu and realised immediately that it was a shit establishment. So what did I do? I picked up my mobile phone, started a mock conversation with nobody – I can act quite well – and then, getting up while still 'on the phone' I put my coat on, signalled in a feigned state of harassment that I had to go, and then continued my search for somewhere decent to eat. I walked around the block half a dozen times, turning down Korean, Japanese, Indian and Chinese restaurants before reaching the Mercure Hotel.

As I say, Nicole the waitress was the only redeeming feature so, after the soup and salmon, I declined dessert, made my excuses and left.

Salmon on a pile of spinach with rice at the Mercure – not the best
Today, once the business element of my day was over, I walked for over an hour across the city and back to my hotel in the early evening sunshine, and then to Da Bruno for the last time, although I'm still figuring out whether there's time to squeeze in one last visit before flying home. The problem is that Da Bruno is so good it's always packed.

The walk was wonderful as the weather's been fine: nice and sunny, but a little bit cold. I stopped off here and there in different shops – a couple of clothes stores, one or two supermarkets – I'm looking for Ronnefeldt teas but can't find them anywhere, and I'm also thinking about getting some German food products, like white drinking chocolate and a box of cereal. Wine is cheap here too so there's a few things on the agenda for tomorrow to kill time between 3pm and when my flight heads for home.

I walked for over an hour this evening...
Something that does piss me off about hotels is when they give their guests the impression that they're offering them something complimentary, but the reality is it will go on the bill like everything else. So there's the minibar, well, we all know that's not free, but what about that half bottle of wine on the desk, that inviting bottle of Pinot Noir? I was going to ask the woman on the front desk whether it was 'on the house', but I knew what her answer would be, so I'm leaving it well alone. Besides, I've had my glass of house red at Da Bruno and I'm feeling great so why go and ruin everything?

Last but not least, I've discovered a new chocolate bar, not that I'm making a regular habit of such things. It's just that they've got a big plate full of mini snacks like Twix and Kit Kat, opposite the front desk, but also among them is Balisto, a small 18.5g bar that I've never, ever seen in the UK. Anyway, just to say that they're fantastic and I'm glad they're not available in the UK as they could become habit forming.

In fact, while it sounds like I've been pigging out, I haven't been. I have a light breakfast, no tea even, and then there was the conference self-service lunch and lastly, Da Bruno. I've had just one glass of wine and now, hopefully, I'll get a decent night's sleep.

A Balisto bar – very tasty indeed!

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