A Sweet Spot for a Foodie Break
Lubeck is just a short train ride from Hamburg (you can fly from Heathrow) and is a fascinating place for a short break. A Unesco World Heritage site, known as the ‘Venice of the Baltic’, it’s on an island in the Trave river and is positively steeped in history as well as marzipan!
Marzipan. As a child, I hated that hard sweet layer on top of the Christmas cake! Not now though - I have discovered ‘proper’ marzipan. And to do so I visited the Niederegger marzipan factory in Lubeck, the home of marzipan. One of the reasons I have fallen totally in love with top quality marzipan is that it isn’t like the stuff I was given as a child. It actually tastes of almonds, and not just sugar! The mouth texture is looser, and the product is softer and far less sweet. It is seriously delicious!
Lubeck is medieval, and once through the historic Holstentor, (15th-century main gate) you can stroll around the pretty streets, visit the fascinating town hall, and even visit the marzipan museum upstairs in the 200-year-old Niederegger Café in one of the picturesque squares. The food there is fabulous, reasonably priced and you can further indulge a sweet tooth with the most amazing selection of cakes (not all almond-flavoured, but many are) and even almond- flavoured hot chocolate!
We had dinner in Schiffergesellschaft, one of the oldest restaurants in town. Originally a meeting place for ships’ captains, the medieval mercantile building in the city centre is a veritable shipping museum as well as a brilliant, atmospheric place to sample some excellent Baltic cuisine. Herrings abound (I was in herring heaven) and very generous portions are served, so be warned!
We stayed at the Radisson Blu, a short stroll from the centre with lovely river views, particularly at night with the town’s lights reflected on the water. But there are many hotels plus interesting and reasonably priced apartments to rent. I’m told Christmas markets are excellent, but the mass of tables outside the cafés by the river suggest it’s also great for summer breaks.
Nearer to home, as a totally new convert to ‘proper’ marzipan, I recommend anyone reading this who thinks they don’t like marzipan to rethink, and head to Waitrose, John Lewis, Lakeland or Ocado to get their hands on some Niederegger and taste it for yourself. Or, better still; book yourself a nice weekend in Lubeck!
What is marzipan?
Marzipan originates from the Orient, where it was enjoyed by caliphs and ladies of the harem. It reached Europe via the Crusaders and the trading centre of Venice. At first exclusively produced by pharmacists in Germany, it was considered a reputable medicine until the early 18th century. Only since 1714 have confectioners in Lubeck been permitted to produce it. Pre industrialisation of sugar beet, it was a delicacy enjoyed by the rich, but since the early 1800s, this affordable delicacy produced by Niederegger and others is enjoyed everywhere.