Review: Restaurant Alter Keller and a Day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

Every Buzzfeed article about “26 Real Life Disney Locations” or “13 Most Beautiful Towns In The World” or “7 Best-Preserved European Medieval Towns” will include the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber on their list. This beautiful town is a key part of the famous German ‘Romantic Road’, a route which will take you through some of the quaintest small towns of southern Germany.

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After a few weeks of visiting larger cities, K and I were ready for a slice of small town life lived at a slower pace. Rothenburg was the obvious choice for two days of ridiculously picturesque living and immersion into another era. After a three hour train trip from our last stop in Munich (two train changes!), we arrived at this picturesque town. With every step from the train station to our little Airbnb studio in the attic of an old townhouse, I found myself falling in love with the cheerfully colourful town.

A highlight over the two days of our stay was going on the Night Watchman’s Tour, a late-night tour of the old city recounting stories of the glory days of Rothenburg’s past – and some of its less reputable history as well. We made friends with a number of extremely friendly cats in the town, and given that we were there to rest and relax away from big city living, we also treated ourselves to a 90-minute massage at ‘Wellness Massage’ for a very cheap $75 AUD per person.

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Given that we had splurged on the massages, we decided to be a bit kinder to our travel budget by preparing most of our meals in our little studio with some help from the local supermarket. We did treat ourselves to one meal out though – at Alter Keller, a traditional Bavarian pub not far from our studio.

It’s interesting to note that a number of restaurants were closed in the month of November – as a slow trading period between the heights of summer and the Christmas season, many shopkeepers and restauranters choose to take their breaks at that time. Our first choice for dining out was closed for this reason, but luckily Alter Keller stepped up and offered us a pretty excellent meal.

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It was most definitely evident on our arrival that we were dining in low season. We were the first diners in the restaurant for lunch, and in the time that we were there, only two other groups came in for a meal. With such low traffic during the day, I expect that they make the most of their night-time trade with the locals.

Hacker-Pschorr, 3.30 Euro
Hacker-Pschorr, 3.30 Euro

An Apfelschorle for me, as per my habit when dining in Germany. I still love that combination of bubbles and slightly less sweet apple juice, and do hope to buy a Sodastream when I return to Australia so that I can make myself apfelschorle any time I want! K had a Hacker-Pschorr beer, which he found more savoury and less sweet than the Augustiner beers that he had been having in Munich.

Kalbsrollbraten, mit Champignonrahmsosse und hausgemachte spatzle, 13.80 Euro
Kalbsrollbraten, mit Champignonrahmsosse und hausgemachte spatzle, 13.80 Euro

The benefit of travelling as a couple is that if you can’t decide which of two meals to order, you can always split the difference and order one of each to share! The first meal we ordered was a Kalbsrollbraten, or a veal roast with mushroom sauce and spätzle. This was actually the first time that we had tried spätzle while in Germany, and I found it surprisingly eggy, reminding me of Chinese egg noodles. Though it was a bit plain by itself, it worked extremely well with the rich creamy and slightly peppery mushroom sauce which came with the tender veal roast.

Saftgulasch vom Bayerischen Weiderind mit hausgemachten Servittenknodel und Krautsalad, 13.80 Euro
Saftgulasch vom Bayerischen Weiderind mit hausgemachten Servittenknodel und Krautsalad, 13.80 Euro

The second meal we ordered was a rich and savoury Gulash made of tender and flavourful local beef, served with two slices of bread dumplings and a side salad. The salad (pictured below) was actually a sweet and tart sauerkraut accompanied with a few limp lettuce leaves – unremarkable. The gulash was another thing all together, with the most delicious rich meaty sauce that had me wishing for another ladleful of sauce to eat with some fresh crusty bread.

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Alter Keller is pretty good as far as restaurants go in an extremely touristy town like Rothenburg. They serve up a hearty and decent meal at a reasonable price, in a quaint and traditional wood-panelled Bavarian restaurant. I’d love to see what it’s like at the peak of tourist season though – whether they manage to maintain their standard of cooking, and whether the atmosphere in the pub is made more convivial.

As for Rothenburg the town itself, it’s so ridiculously picturesque that it really does deserve to be on those Buzzfeed ‘best of’ lists. I wouldn’t mind visiting again – perhaps next time as part of a driving holiday where we’ll visit all the different German towns on the Romantic Road.

Restaurant Alter Keller is located at 8 Alter Keller, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

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