Russian lunch at Veranda Restaurant in Holzgerlingen…

This morning, Bill was occupied bottling his latest homebrew, while I was occupied by a nap and a nightmare.  When I woke up, it was early afternoon and there were a lot of clouds in the sky.  Bill asked me what I wanted to do today.  I took a look at the clouds and decided today was the day to try Veranda Restaurant in Holzgerlingen.

The sign out front.  On Sundays, there’s plenty of parking.

Although today was the first time we’d ever tried this restaurant, we have actually eaten in the venue before.  In May 2016, Bill and I went there when it was called Ocean’s First.  It was a seafood restaurant in those days and boasted a very nice looking terrace.  Since it’s on the third floor of an office building, it has kind of a nice view of a rather industrial part of Holzgerlingen.  Ocean’s First abruptly ceased operations a few months after our visit, though, much to our chagrin.  We really enjoyed our one dinner there.

A few months ago, my German friend Susanne alerted me to the restaurant’s new incarnation.  Veranda Restaurant specializes in Russian cuisine…  Well, if I’m honest, it’s more like cuisines of the former Soviet Union.  There are Russian, Ukranian, Georgian, and even Uzbek specialties on the menu.  During the workweek, it appears that they also offer some choices that are more for German businesspeople.  I checked their Facebook and noticed that they are open on Sundays from 11:00am until 10:00pm.  Since it was getting a little late for lunch, I suggested that we visit.

Come on in!

We arrived at the restaurant at about 2:30pm or so.  There were a few folks there, including one guy who used to work in Bill’s office, but was later moved.  It was a little awkward when we first walked in.  A young lady was sitting by a computer and seemed surprised to see us.  Then an older lady who didn’t speak any English came out of the kitchen.  They both encouraged us to get the brunch buffet, which runs 23 euros and is all you can eat, complete with drinks.  But I looked at what was on the tables and decided I’d rather order off the menu.

The older lady seemed a little concerned at that, although it was permissible.  I think she was worried we wouldn’t understand the menu, although they had one in English.  Then she handed us the barbecue menu, which is offered at certain times during the week (after 2:00pm on Sundays and after 5:00pm on weekdays).  I said, “Shashlik!” and her eyes lit up.  She asked if I speak Russian.  I don’t… only a few words, mostly consisting of curse words I learned in Armenia.  I learned Armenian in Armenia, which even seemed to confuse Armenians, who wondered why I’d learn Armenian when Russian is so much more portable.  But I do know a few words of Russian… and it turned out that made a difference.

So we sat down inside, only because it looked like it might rain.  I probably would have preferred to sit outside, since they were playing manic electro dance music in English that lent little to the ambiance.  If it had been Russian dance music, maybe it would have been slightly more authentic.

Bill makes a decision… the menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of choices.  They had everything from Russian to Uzbek specialties.


I’m always a little nervous about new restaurants, especially when there are a lot of selections on the menu that include the dreaded mushroom.  I figured I was pretty safe with pork BBQ (shashlik), which came with lavash (flatbread, kind of like very thin tortilla) and raw onions.  I got a side of shashlik sauce to go with it (extra charge of two euros).  Bill went with a Georgian chicken dish that came with a spicy pepper sauce.  He also got a side of roasted potatoes, which we shared.

We also split a bottle of Spanish red wine and sparkling water.  I was a little surprised that they didn’t have any Georgian or Armenian wines on the menu, but then they can be kind of hard to get and probably wouldn’t sell that well anyway.  People in the west are only now learning how good Caucasian wines are.  Because Bill was chatting with his former co-worker, the proprietor had me try the wine.  She lit up when I said, “Spasiba” (Russian for “thank you”).

It took awhile for lunch to be ready, but it was well worth the wait…

This was a complimentary “amuse”.  Basically like a very fancy style tuna salad, with potatoes, carrots, peppers, fish, eggs, and a very light application of mayonnaise.  It was very good, albeit a little filling.  

While we waited for our main courses, Bill and I discussed a possible trip to Armenia soon.  A friend of mine has been visiting this week and has me all excited about how much Yerevan has changed since I lived there from 1995-97.  My former Peace Corps student is now a director at Peace Corps Armenia and my very first Armenian teacher is now in charge of language training for the new Volunteers.  Naturally, I want to go back and see them, but I also want to see how much Yerevan has changed… and maybe show Bill where I spent two difficult but worthwhile years in my youth.  Maybe we will be able to go in October.  We’ll see.

Bill’s delicious Georgian chicken… it was perfectly roasted, very moist, and so different!  And the sauce that came with it was delightful!  The roasted potatoes were extra, but worth the addition, especially since we shared them.  

My shashlik… I saw the chef take the pork out on the veranda to grill it.  It was plenty of pork, perfectly cooked and juicy.  If I’d wanted to, I could have ordered pork with vegetables, barbecued chicken, lamb or beef.  They also had barbecued vegetables.


There were a few tempting looking desserts on the menu, but I was too full to consider them.  Also, by the time we finished eating, we were the only ones left in the restaurant.  Our total bill came to about 62 euros before the tip, but one can certainly get in and out of there for significantly less money.  Prices are very reasonable.  I do hope more people discover this gem in Holzgerlingen.  The food is good; the service is attentive and warm; and it’s such a nice change from Greek, Italian, and German food.

I think Veranda might have a better chance at staying in business than Ocean’s First did, mainly because Ocean’s First was selling fish and didn’t have freezers; therefore they depended on what could be delivered locally.  The food was very good–especially the huge lobster I had there– but I think it didn’t offer enough different stuff to attract people from all over and business was too slow.  Veranda is truly different because it’s Russian/ former Soviet Union food.  That makes it unique and, perhaps, gives it more of a chance at long term success.

If you’re looking for a change and don’t mind a drive to Holzgerlingen, I would highly recommend Veranda.  And if you speak a little Russian, you will score points!  The proprietor lit up again as I said “Do svidaniya!” on the way out.  I may have to add to my vocabulary besides Russian cuss words.  Incidentally, the young lady we saw behind the computer waited on us and spoke some English, so really, language should not be a barrier!  I just think maybe that restaurant doesn’t get a lot of Americans… yet.


Having a humdinger of a hummer at Ocean’s First in Holzgerlingen… (now closed)

Ocean’s First is now permanently closed.  🙁  It is now a Russian/Former Soviet Union inspired restaurant called Veranda.  

I am always grateful when someone who reads this blog passes along restaurant suggestions to me.  A couple of weeks ago, someone in the Stuttgart Friends 2.0 Facebook group left me a comment on one of my more recent reviews.  They had visited Ocean’s First, a seafood restaurant in Holzgerlingen, and highly recommended it.  I checked out the restaurant’s Web site and saved the link, making a mental note to try it out.

I grew up in the Tidewater region of Virginia and I love good seafood.  But now I live in a country that is mostly landlocked.  The one part of Germany that is near the sea is way up north and I live way down south, where finding a decent seafood restaurant is difficult.  So I was definitely ready for last night’s adventure, which we planned on the spur of the moment Friday night.  Bill said calling there was an exercise in humor.  After Bill made the reservation in his passable German, the guy at the restaurant confirmed it in perfect English.


You can’t miss the sign.

We arrived a little bit early for our 7:00pm reservation.  I quickly noticed the sign for Ocean’s First, but was a little puzzled by the location.  There were two parking spots specifically marked for restaurant patrons, but we were obviously at a corporate building of some sort.  We went into the building, where there was another sign for the restaurant advertising specials.  Then I saw that Ocean’s First was located on the third floor. We took the elevator up.  Voila!

Ocean’s First is a pretty cool little place.  The interior is decorated to sort of resemble an aquarium.  A couple of the walls have rippled textures that could be waves or fish, depending on your perspective.  Blue green lights make them look more like water.  The candle holders look like sea creatures.  I want to say they resemble anemones or maybe sponges.  There’s a bar without any stools that serves as a centerpiece at the front of the restaurant.  Outside, is a very large, wraparound terrace that offers nice views of the admittedly industrial looking surroundings.  Festive Latin flavored music was playing.  I immediately recognized the first songs as being by Zucchero, an Italian singer who recently put out an album he made during a series of live concerts in Cuba.  The Cuban album is what was playing last night.

There was one small group at the restaurant when we arrived.  They were sitting outside.  Bill and I were shown to a two top table by the window.  It happened to be right in the sun, but we decided to stay there because we knew the sun would eventually go down.

The waiter was a very friendly guy who had a good sense of humor and spoke excellent English.  He’s probably the one Bill spoke to on the phone.  Dressed in jeans and a denim shirt, our waiter was the very picture of understated style.  I wore a dress and Bill wore slacks and a button down shirt, but it would have been perfectly okay to dress casually.  That’s what I will do next time.

Clipboards!  How novel!

Our menus came to us on little clipboards and we didn’t have the chance to look at them before we were asked if we wanted aperitifs.  I ordered a glass of bubbly– turned out to be a nice Crémant.  Bill had a Campari on the rocks.  We checked out the menu, which features fish dishes as well as a few choices for those who don’t like seafood.  There was also a list of specials on a chalkboard across the room.

The sun was in my face, but we were later rewarded with a lovely sunset.

The waiter explained what was available last night which, to be honest, is mostly fish that isn’t hard to find in this part of Germany.  He made a point of telling us that the fish is fresh, not frozen.  So don’t go to Ocean’s First expecting to have halibut or sea bass or any other fish that you wouldn’t normally see in these parts.  Because they don’t freeze their fish, Ocean’s First doesn’t actually have a whole lot of fish that can survive a long journey from the ocean.  Last night, they had dorade, zander, salmon, tuna, shrimp and hummer (lobster).

I started with a tuna tartar with avocado creme and sesame seeds.  Bill decided to have the Serrano ham and Manchego cheese tapas.  For our main courses, Bill had a tuna steak special with horseradish flavored mashed potatoes.  I went with the hummer, mainly because that’s not something I see that often in Germany.  I had to laugh when I ordered the lobster as hummer, mainly because the slang term “hummer” means something rather obscene in English.  Bill ordered a nice bottle of Italian white wine and sparkling water to go with our meals.

As we were waiting, another server brought us a small paper bag with slices of black olive bread a tray of olive oil and Kosher salt.  A few more people came in and were seated.  Bill went to the men’s room and came back with the picture below…

Yet another funny brand name that means something different and possibly inappropriate to English speakers…

Bread and oil.

And a lovely white from Italy that was just slightly effervescent.

This was my tuna tartar with avocado creme.  It was very good, though I wish the fish had been a little more chilled.  The avocado creme matched the fish very well, though I was kind of reminded of La Cocina Mexicana’s guacamole.  However, since this was not supposed to be guacamole, it was fine!    

Bill loved his Serrano ham and Manchego cheese tapas.  There are several kinds of tapas offered and they come in several sizes.  When we come back to Ocean’s First, we will have to order a few of them instead of doing the traditional main courses.  Tapas are fun!


Our dinner proceeded at a leisurely pace.  This was a good thing, since I had no idea what I was about to be faced with when my hummer finally arrived…

Behold!  A very large crustacean!  It’s a little disconcerting to be served a trough of food, especially when you’re supposed to be ladylike.  Fortunately, I never claimed to be a lady.  I was pretty nervous about eating this, but it actually wasn’t as huge as it seemed.  I was given special tools to break into the lobster and did my best to eat it without making a huge mess.  I did comment to Bill that a bib might have come in handy.  This dish came with a side of drawn butter and salted new potatoes!  I certainly couldn’t eat everything, but I did manage most of the lobster and a bit of the salad and potatoes.  Our funny waiter explained that in Germany, a lobster is small, while a hummer is large.  I will keep that in mind for the future.

Bill’s tuna looked rather plain in comparison to my lobster, but he really enjoyed his dish.  The tuna was perfectly seared and not overcooked.  The potatoes, which were flavored with horseradish, were also a hit.  The waiter had suggested them, pronouncing them “awesome”.  I think Bill agrees.

The sun finally went down at about 8:30 or so…

Post dinner digestion.


Next came dessert, which I was surprised I could even consider.

I had warm chocolate cake with cherry sorbet.  We thought maybe this would end up being the dreaded lava cake, but it wasn’t.  It tasted like it might have been a flourless chocolate cake with the lava smeared on top of it.  This was very nice, though I think I liked Bill’s choice more…

Bill had an almond cake that came with an “orange carpaccio”.  Although the cake tasted kind of like something that would be offered in the autumn, Bill really enjoyed it.  The cake was light, not too sweet, and moist.  

Finally, it was time for the bill.  It was presented to us in a cute little treasure chest, along with a business card and a couple of Milka chocolates.

I was actually expecting the bill to be higher than this, though the price of the lobster was more than I was expecting.  There is no printed price of the lobster in the menu; you get charged the market price.  Yesterday, that was 64,90.  Ouch!


Bill paid our friendly server and we got up to leave.  I made a stop in the ladies room and realized that in order to use the mirror, I’d need a step stool.  Whoever installed it must have been about six feet tall!  No matter.  At least I could see the top of my head and my eyes, right?  And for those who are wondering, there was no Happy End in the ladies room.  😉

I stopped to rummage through my purse and a man who looked like a chef came out of what was probably a break room.  He smiled broadly at us and asked it we enjoyed our meal.  I was happy to say we did.  Chefs rarely get to see the reactions people have to their creations, so it was nice to be able to thank him for a job well done.


We had a great time at Ocean’s First and I’m sure we’ll be back.  Next time, I will not be as extravagant, unless I’m really craving lobster!  But it’s nice to know that if I ever do want a hummer while we’re living here, I can get it in Holzgerlingen!  Aside from that, it’s not so often that dinner out involves both a hummer and a “Happy End”.  😉