Hannover is, in all honesty, one of the worst places I’ve ever been. The “city” in Lower Saxony isn’t really anything of the sort, more a vague lump of ring roads and industrial estates meshed with a ginormous fairground. Combined, it makes for the least charming place this side of Milton Keynes.
If you’re unfortunate enough to get stuck there though, I suffered a few very bad meals so you don’t have to. Do not try the Mongolian barbecues (all-you-can-eat food poisoning), steer clear of the Greek restaurants (glorified dirty kebab shops), reconsider that moral objection to McDonald’s and accept stumping up the 20-odd Euro cab fare to the centre of town if you actually want to eat anything vaguely satisfying.
In Hannover centre (which is roughly the size of a Brighton beach hut), there are actually a couple of not-totally-shit places to eat. Maybe it’s got some more accomplished gastronomic establishments and I was too stupid to find them, but a good starting point is the Brauhaus Ernst August. It’s a well-known, beer hall-style bar and restaurant that also happens to have an amazingly naff club tacked on for good measure. Being hungry, pissed and in Germany, I grabbed a nice frumpy pork knuckle. Rubbish in any other city, bloody heaven in Hannover.
For a (slightly) more refined experience, Meiers Lebenslust was probably the pick of the eateries I sampled. Most importantly, it’s got an on-site brewery, so you can get appropriately sozzled before eating a still slightly backward take on food.. But after a week of currywurst, it was actually all rather good – no wonder the local cabbie nodded with approval when I asked for my lift there. To start, there was this simple yet comforting clear soup, which came with little meatballs and vaguely discernible traces of vegetable – a rarity in this part of the world.
As a main, I went with the house speciality – crispy duck. Again, it was simple but satisfying. The duck itself was impressively crispy, with more meat hidden under the tasty skin than you find in most Chinese restaurants. Potatoes were potatoes and red cabbage was red cabbage, but the little dumpling was an absolute delight, impossibly fluffy and reason to try the dish even if you don’t really like duck. The powerful gravy also stood out as being kind of accomplished in its own way. No, the Michelin man won’t be ankling round any time soon, but it was all very nice.
Apologies, dear reader, if I slightly misled you. The honest answer to “where’s the best restaurant in Hannover?” is probably “anywhere in Hamburg” but at least know you’ve got two places to start and a realistic expectation of disappointment.
Finally, a tip: when you’re leaving Hannover (which will probably be the happiest moment you spend there), know that the departure lounge for UK flights is tiny. If you want to settle down and have something to eat or drink, your only real option is before security, which flies in the face of usual airport logic. If I remember rightly, there’s actually a rather nice bar/cafe before security serving fresh-looking sandwiches and plenty of beer.