Pleasure on the river
One could call Philipp Elsbrock a returnee. As such, he naturally has a special view of Düsseldorf. The editor-in-chief of the gourmet section of the “Falstaff” magazine first studied general linguistics, Romance philology and philosophy at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf before his journalistic interests led him to the Henri Nannen School in Hamburg. Two years in Berlin political journalism followed, until Elsbrock first wrote occasionally and then permanently about enjoyment and the good life: as editor of the “Feinschmecker” based in Hamburg. The course was set for his later career at “Falstaff” based at Düsseldorf’s Carlsplatz – so Elsbrock returned to the Rhine after ten years. In the interview, Elsbrock talks about the wide range of culinary delights in his adopted homeland, the new way of enjoying good wine in a relaxed atmosphere, and his preference for life by the water.
You came back from the Elbe to the Rhine two years ago. How has your perception of Düsseldorf changed?
Well, I knew Düsseldorf from my student days. At that time I was out and about a lot at the Zakk, witnessed the last few years of the Unique Club. A fellow student was married to a Korean, and that’s how I came into contact with Asian food culture back then. When I later lived in Hamburg, I often went to ProWein in Düsseldorf. During the trade fair, I always spent evenings in top restaurants, which gave me the opportunity to explore the local gourmet scene. Nevertheless, when I moved back here, I got to know the city anew.
You have lived in Hamburg, Berlin and also for a year in Salamanca, which is known for its rich tapas culture. Where do you go out in Dusseldorf?
There are some places that I really like. In my opinion, the mixture of relaxed atmosphere and high quality standards in the Pink Pepper in the Steigenberger Parkhotel is remarkable. Benjamin Kriegel is an outstanding chef and, thanks to his wife Ramona Kriegel, his gourmet cuisine meets excellent service here.
But you won’t find sushi of this quality in any other German city like Maruyasu. The ramen bars and Korean restaurants are also fantastic. The cuisine and wine at Bar Olio are also of excellent quality. I recently discovered Rubens for myself, an Austrian on the Kaiserstrasse, where the culinary richness of Alpine cuisine is celebrated. You can get a main course under 20 euros at Em Brass, but they still have an exceptional wine list.
Casual fine drinking, so to speak?
Yes, this is a development that is also reflected elsewhere: Sebastian Georgi, the owner of the Pizzeria NineOfive on Ackerstraße, used to be a sommelier in top restaurants and recognized the signs of the times early on. It offers a casual concept in which Neapolitan pizza is accompanied by high quality wine.
And what do you think are the most interesting gastronomic innovations in Düsseldorf?
Bartender David Rippen has taken over the LiQ Bar, and the Berlin cult snack bar on Graf-Adolf-Platz in Düsseldorf is being breathed new life into by Fabian Veldmann and Toni Askitis. The two combine fries with good wine. As you can see, this principle is catching on everywhere.
Why did “Falstaff”, whose headquarters are in Vienna, set up its German branch in Düsseldorf? How important is the location for the magazine?
There are probably various reasons for this. On the one hand, the former “Falstaff” editor lived in Düsseldorf. In addition, there is the international airport and the fact that you can quickly get to the wine-growing regions from here. But of course the local food scene also plays a role. Appropriately enough, the publisher is located on Carlsplatz, right across from the Hinkel bakery. The fact that ProWein, the leading trade fair for wine and spirits, takes place in Düsseldorf is also a location advantage. Last but not least, my Viennese colleagues like Düsseldorf because for them it is synonymous with elegant fashion and an exciting art scene.
What would you miss if you left again?
The brewery culture. In the past, my colleagues and I used to take a taxi to the nearest brewery after ProWein, where you sometimes spend hours tasting wines. We simply needed a rustic nightcap, and a final Altbier served us well. You have to know: I like the Rhenish mentality. You sit down at someone’s table and start talking.
As the editor-in-chief, you see a lot, but you also have to keep coming up with new ideas. What inspires you?
It inspires me to meet people who put their heart and soul into a cause – for example when a chef goes in search of the very best ingredients. However, this does not necessarily have to take place in a culinary context, so it can just as easily be in art as in the kitchen. To put it more generally: I am inspired by people who have ideals and pursue them.
Where do you go when you want to switch off?
I like going to the Rhine. I was born in Duisburg and grew up on the Lower Rhine, for me the wide river radiates this pleasant calm. I love having a view over the water, in Hamburg I could walk from my office in St. Pauli to the port in two minutes. If I find time, we cycle to Kaiserswerth. With a little more time, we’ll get in the car and drive to the North Sea – from here you can be there in two hours!
Report by Ilona Marx and Sebastian Wolf (photos).
This contribution is funded by REACT-EU.