The Middle Eastern restaurant Chiche has a peripatetic past in the capital
Photo: Pierre Matgé
Travel is not an option for many of us right now, but food and books can still take us to different times and places. Luxembourg Times literary critic Rose Edwards takes you on a tour from ancient Rome to modern China to enjoy her favorite bites (and books).
The tavern is a cozy, family-run Italian restaurant in the heart of Grevenmacher. The red gingham tablecloths and wood paneling with quirky village decorations are a welcome sight any time of year knowing you are about to eat hearty, authentic Italian food and lots of it. The fresh pasta and seasonal specialties will keep you warm on the coldest winter days, and if you can make room for the homemade desserts, you will be spoiled.
This is also a great base from which to see the Roman remains of the Moselle region. The vineyards that climb the sides of the river valley have been here since Roman times. A short drive across the river to Germany brings you to the Temple of Mercury in the woods above Tawern or to the reconstructed Roman Villa Borg.
Lindsey Davis’ Falco and Albia series offer mysterious, humorous Roman romp and a shrewd eye for historical details. They offer riddles, murder at its most terrible, and a strikingly personal idea of the ancient world. Her books can be read as stand-alone books, and The Iron Hand of Mars and A Body In The Bath House are held in Germany and England, respectively, if you want to immerse yourself in Europe under Roman rule.
La Taverna, 20 Route de Thionville, 6791 Grevenmacher.
Down between the winding cobblestone streets of the Grund, in the shadow of the Haute Ville, Boxwood Have you covered for schnitzel, hash browns, spaetzle and apple strudel. Perfect after a winter walk through the rain-washed Petrusse Park or from the heights of the old town past Clausen and the Neumünster Abbey, you will be pleasantly warmed up by the comfortably furnished interior and the calming Austrian-German house specialties.
If it’s too miserable to go, these books will fit in your purse: Dream Story (Traumenovella) by aptly named Arther Schnitzler, a surreal, proto-Freudian novella about a husband who is shocked to discover his wife once dreamed of One another man is on his honeymoon and then flees into the night in Vienna to get caught up in the shadowy world of secret societies and masked orgies. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because it was adopted by Stanley Kubrick in the 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut.)
Or if you like your novels about Vienna to be less silly and hauntingly more existential, Jenny Erpenbeck’s Aller Tage Abend follows the five different “lives” of a single woman as she drifts through the 20th century and dies at various points in her life only to be revived to explore another branch of possible fates.
Bosso, 7 Bisserweg, 1238 Luxembourg
For those of us who miss our trans-European train journeys, Brasserie Op der Gare Clemency offers a nostalgic setting for an afternoon coffee and cake or dinner in a warmly restored setting. Located in the renovated 19th century train station in Clemency, the brasserie shows its history with wooden cabins with luggage racks and pictures of the building as a work station.
The old railway line is now a bicycle route along the Belgian border, while a playground in the form of a medieval fortress provides a playground for children and traditional Luxembourg and Polish specialties ensure satisfactory fare. The pierogis deserve special mention, while Gromperekichelcher and Kniddelen sit alongside pasta and burger options for those who prefer more familiar cuisine.
Combine it with a reread of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express for those of you who enjoy cozy Whodunnits, or try Eva Hoffman’s memoir Lost in Translation: Living in a New Language (nothing to do with the film Sophia Coppola) for a story of Hoffman’s meditation on learning to live life in different languages and how to build a home when part of you always feels like a stranger will be a familiar area for many.
Brasserie Op der Gare, 1, Rue de la Gare, 4966 Clemency
Sitting at the crossroads of east and west Chiche! started life as a social enterprise, a pop-up restaurant where newly arrived refugees could gain work and language experience in order to enter the Luxembourg hospitality sector. Now based in Limpertsberg, Chiche! offers a selection of delicious Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, served amid upcycled furniture and decorations, adding an eclectic feel to the large interior space.
The most fun is coming in a group of three or more people and just ordering mezze for the table. For around € 30 per person you have the pleasure of bringing plate by plate to your table, everything more delicious than the last. A sister site is in Esch-Alzette.
The peripatetic nature of the story that Chiche brought! In On the Road to Baghdad, a strange but wonderful Picaresque novel by the Turkish author Güneli Gün, being is reproduced. Gün’s heroine, who retells Turkish folklore and stories from the Arabian Nights, crosses a Middle East made of myth and history and slips through time to learn that our fate is stranger than anything we could have predicted and that we only have ourselves ourselves, no matter what companions we might make.
Chiche !, 20 Avenue Pasteur, 2310 Luxembourg
Xinjiang restaurant is a very special place for me. Located right on a quiet side street off Rue de Strasbourg, it’s unassuming, family-run, with friendly service and the most delicious dapanji (spicy chicken with potatoes and hand-cut noodles). Walk past the decorative fish tank, sit at a simple table, and order. The seasoned barbecue lamb is a street food favorite, while dried fried green beans are a classic side.
Order a dapanji for two or a main course per person shared with bowls of cooked rice. I was first brought here by friends from my time as a Chinese student in London, and I have a huge affection for these types of restaurants wherever I find them: the steamed-up windows, the calm Chinese customers, and the authentic taste that doesn’t can be faked.
The Xinjiang region of China at the eastern end of the ancient Silk Road is in the news for the Chinese state’s suppression of the Uyghur Muslim population. If you’re looking for a book exploring the history of this disputed region, Peter Hopkirk’s Foreign Devils on the Silk Road unpacks the Colonial War, in which Europeans pillaged the rich art history of the Silk Road, and the Chinese response. I’ll add my own nostalgic pick: The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature, edited by Joseph SM Lau and Howard Goldblatt. This volume is the handbook for all students of 20th century Chinese literature. The content is amazing in its variety and scope and will fascinate anyone interested in Chinese history and culture.
Xinjiang Restaurant, 97 Rue Adolphe Fischer, 1521 Luxembourg
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