Traditional Tyrolean cuisine is dense, rich and has a hell of a lot of meat and dairy in it. So when meandering through Innsbruck, the capital of the Austrian state of Tyrol, you’ll see restaurant menus celebrating dishes such as Kasspatzln (egg noodles baked in cheese), Gröstl (a fried hash of bacon, potatoes and onion with an egg on top), Knödel (sweet or savoury dumplings), and butter-heavy cakes and pastries with equally umlauted names.
Top of the list of local delicacies is Speck, a distinctively juniper-flavoured fatty ham, the vast overconsumption of which once left my younger brother projectile vomiting for two days. This was many moons ago, and he’s since become a committed vegetarian, but just the word Speck is enough to conjure up shudders in my family.
Times have changed, and generally Austria, which like Germany has held a long-standing passion for all things ‘green’, has become a little more welcoming to those who don’t eat meat. But still, dishearteningly, everywhere you go you see menus offering endless meals made from animals’ body parts and their secretions.
We definitely weren’t in Innsbruck for the food. But, having taken a break from our usual self-catering places during a train trip around Europe, we were staying in a hotel to visit this stunning Alpine city and knew we’d have to make more of an effort to eat well.
The Green Flamingo was an absolute treasure. I’d like to say we serendipitously stumbled across this vegan restaurant, started in 2019 by Danish Kaspar and his Dutch partner Kim, but it’s in a tucked-away location and we were led there by the Happy Cow app.
Just beyond the main streets of Innsbruck, it greets you with a wonderfully green exterior covered in vines, and offers the choice of sitting inside or out on a rooftop terrace. It was a balmy evening, so we sat outside.
Though a little off the beaten track, the place was packed, so I was glad we’d booked. But the spaced-out tables and abundant plant life growing in containers (gleaming tomatoes and peppers, for example) on the roof around us – not to mention the sunset-kissed mountain peaks in the near distance – made for a laid-back atmosphere, with no sense of crowding at all.
The staff were great too. Whereas much of the Innsbruck hospitality industry seems to run on passing trade, with frequently desultory service, the waiters here were friendly and helpful.
So to the food. I can never resist summer rolls with peanut dip on a menu, so that was me sorted for a starter, and my partner ate the ‘We love cows’ quesadilla. Mine was really good, and his folded tortilla with melty vegan cheese, refried beans and Mexican spices looked and tasted amazing.
As a main, I can recommend the Lego Döner Plate – a DIY meal that presents you with an assortment of fresh vegetables and vegan döner ‘meat’, as well as a wrap and fries, which you put together as you please (I opted for eating separate items rather than stuffing all into the wrap). My partner ate the ‘Kevin likes Bacon’ burger. He’s a man who really knows his plant-based burgers and he declared this one superb.
It was really good food for sure, but for me the best thing about the Green Flamingo was its mere existence as an oasis of calm and veganism in the midst of all that animal consumption in Innsbruck. I felt at home.