Friday 27 June | 2014
My friends and family love travelling in Europe, but none of them ever book a ticket to Germany. Down under, the tragedy is that few know anything about this brilliant and beautiful country, not beyond its bloody history and world leading cars that is.
While the tourism board of Germany sleeps, the bells ring out from Cologne’s gothic cathedral. At a colossal height of almost 160 metres (roughly twice Notre Dame), the UNESCO World Heritage recognised Kölner Dom is Germany’s most visited sight. It is majestic and imposing, does not fit in your camera frame, and today looks almost two dimensional against the clouded sky and stark contrast of its surroundings.
Apart from one of the largest churches in the world (that took over 600 years to build), what else does Cologne have?
It has Olivia Culinaria Italia, a brilliant and bustling lunch spot in the heart of the city.
We really miss the café food in Sydney – especially the modern salads loaded with vegetables, interesting grains and pulses, and elegant dressings. And while Olivia pitches itself as Culinaria Italia, we were feeling very at home seeing the familiar piles of tabbouleh, herbed couscous, zucchini fritters, smoked salmon wraps, green bean salads, stuffed sundried tomatoes, lime and chilli marinated chicken, and mini frittatas, to name just a few. There is really something for everyone here.
And indeed everyone is here, lined up in the narrow corridor and spilling out onto the street. Having missed out on the communal style seating areas upstairs, we found a quiet corner table outside on little back terrace.
Olivia is one of those places where it’s really difficult to decide which items will grace your plate. But I have a strategy for this: since everything is so fresh and flavourful, just point to whatever is in front of you. We recommend 3-4 choices, as the top quality ingredients drive the prices sky high (€31.80 for seven choices, enough for two people).
Today that meant the rare roast beef roll stuffed with rocket and parmesan splinters, a generous spoonful of pickled beetroot salad, and the smoked salmon timbale that began life as a vegetable frittata, then was smothered with herbed fresh cheese, stacked with salmon and finished with crisp cucumber, chives, cracked black pepper and pink peppercorns. Yes. Please.
Ciabatta bread is served on the house, but can take a while to arrive in the busy lunch hours. Although we are quite happy to skip the bread – Olivia demonstrates well that a life without refined carbohydrates can be just as satisfying.
The coffee is decent although very strong, so those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the delicious little complimentary cube of cake, packed with ground almonds. There are also semolina slices, tiramisu, and Italian themed tarts to dwell over.
Variety is the spice of life – and this charming little local institution.
Check out Olivia’s price list here: