by Jim Ferri
When most of us want to grab a bite to eat while shopping in the mall we often we head for the food court. There we wind up with a greasy hamburger and fries, or a not-so-enjoyable slice of pizza.
In some stores in Europe, however, grabbing a bite to eat while shopping can often mean dining on delicacies right in the department store itself, or enjoying a meal in a food hall, perhaps while buying groceries for that night’s dinner.
Whenever I visit a foreign city I often look for a food hall – or, at the very least, a supermarket – to get a sense of a city’s cuisine and culture. Some European food halls, such as that in Harrods in London, have actually become destinations unto themselves. At the other end of the European-food-hall spectrum are small food halls that serve surprisingly high-end meals in a market environment, perhaps right next to the produce stand across from the fishmonger.
The food halls listed below are unlike any we are accustomed to in North America, since each usually contains several restaurants or cafés where you can enjoy a gourmet meal while you’re out and about.
If you enjoy good food, the next time you’re in Europe visit some of these food halls and pamper your palate.
London: Harrods Food Hall
When Harrods first opened its doors nearly two centuries ago it was a wholesale grocery store that specialized in tea. Today it arguably houses the most famous food hall in the world. With its painted ceilings, ornate display cases and Old World ambience, it certainly is a feast for the eyes.
But the real feast begins when you sit down in one of its numerous restaurants or bars that serve just about anything you could crave. If you love seafood dine at the Caviar House Seafood Bar, the Oyster Bar or the Sea Grill. If you’re in the mood for meat, head for The Steakhouse. If you’re craving pizza, pull up a chair in the pizzeria…you get the idea. Just don’t look for bargains here, since you’ll be splurging on some of the most delectable foods served in London.
87-135 Brompton Road
London SW1X 7XL
Paris: Galleries Lafayette
You’re only a block away from the opera on the floor above the Men’s department when you sit down in the gourmet food hall of Galleries Lafayette. But if you’re looking for edible gifts, foodie souvenirs, goods for a picnic or a sit-down lunch or dinner you’ve come to the right place.
While most of the shoppers you’ll encounter in Harrods in London are non-English, about 60% percent’s of the shoppers in Lafayette’s food halls are Parisian. That’s because the store stocks more than 10,000 gourmet products, most of which are French, although you will see high-and goods or delicacies from all over the world.
And when you finally reach that moment when you feel you have to try some of the “merchandise,” step up to one of its tasting bars, place an order at one of its deli’s or sit down in one of its restaurants. This is a place stocked with a lot of deliciousness.
40 Boulevard Haussmann
The name KaDeWe is shorthand for Kaufhaus des Westens and the store is spectacular. On the sixth floor of this popular Berlin department store you’ll find an over-the-top gourmet food hall carrying almost any food you can imagine. But the real star of KaDeWe is its specialty restaurants, some of which provide counter service with others serving customers tableside. Here you can have a delectable gourmet lunch or dinner at a cost lower than that at a good restaurant.
Wander around the place and select a restaurant that specializes in the food you love. You’ll find restaurants dedicated to steaks, pasta, bouillabaisse, lamb, pork, seafood and other delectables all prepared before you while you sip a glass of wine, champagne or beer.
But before you settle down to the repast wander about the huge floor that’s larger than two football fields. There you’ll find 1,300 different varieties of cheeses, 400 different types of bread, thousands of different wines, etc. If you’re a lover of sausage you’ll find yourself in heaven here – among its 1,200 wursts and smoked meats are sausages from every region of Germany.
Dallmayr is a luxury food hall and delicatessen that’s been serving European royalty for more than three centuries. Come here and you’ll get the royal treatment yourself in Dallmayr’s delicatessen, café-bar or in its Michelin-starred restaurant on the second floor.
Considered one of the city’s premier delicatessens (if not the premier one), it’s located in an elegant 19th-century building right behind the Rathaus (Townhall) on Marienplatz. In it you’ll find all sorts of different foods ranging from traditional sausages to exotic fruits and everything in between. In these beautiful surroundings you’ll find some of Munich’s most sophisticated consumers, all lured by high-quality produce such as vine-ripened tomatoes just flown in from Morocco.
80331 Munich, Germany
Stockholm: Östermalm Food Hall
A few months ago I was told about the Östermalm Food Hall while I was in Stockholm. At first I had a bit of difficulty finding it in the city’s warren of streets but once I was able to make my way to it found that it was everything I wanted.
Östermalm is a real Old World food hall set inside a beautiful medieval brick building, and it’s filled with lots of different stands serving gourmet products. It’s a great place to eat.
Inside it you’ll find butchers, fishmongers, deli’s and other food purveyors, some of which have their own little restaurants. Here you’re assured of getting your food from as close to the source as you possibly can, something driven home by the number of moose and reindeer heads hanging above many of the stalls. Although most of the stands and their products are Swedish, there are other specialties offered as well, such as those from Italy, Spain and Lebanon.
Visiting it one afternoon I stopped in a little café inside and had a coffee and a slice of delicious lemon-meringue pie for 67 Kroner, about $10, a good value in a city that tends to be a slightly more expensive than some other European capitals. Be aware that the place is so popular you’ll find it crowded even at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Stockholm 114 39