The Veddeler Fischgaststätte is surrounded by fences, rubble and mountains of sand, excavators roar on the other side of the street. For more than a year now, the cult restaurant has been at the centre of a building site, there was a time when restaurateur Marion Göttsche feared for its survival. However, the people of Hamburg have no desire to give up their fried fish. Local politicians have converged there for large meetings, twenty-somethings organised fish flashmobs on Facebook. Guests are now queuing up again.
Photos: Malte Spindler
Looks like you've forgotten to put knives on the table?
Naw, we don't have any! Fish is eaten here with two forks.
Why is that?
When the restaurant was founded in 1932, there were no fish-knives here. So they just laid two forks. Ever tried it? It works a treat.
It's not even 11 o' clock. Who eats fried fish at this time of day?
Mostly older people, who get up at five in the morning and are hungry again by this time (laughs). I couldn't face it either.
I've heard that only true-blue regulars are permitted to sit in the “box” – the table right at the front beside the counter. How much fried fish do I have to eat before I'm allowed a seat there?
You would have to come regularly every week, for about two months, then I would say “okay”, right?
Who comes here to eat fish?
Well, traditionally dungarees and suits always rubbed shoulders here. Sadly, though, the older regulars are gradually dying off. Until recently we used to get the old married couples in overalls who brought their own onions and sliced them over the fish. Generally speaking, the guests are getting younger.
Why is that?
I've moved with the times, now we even serve fishburgers. The young crowd really love that. When the restaurant was on the verge of bankruptcy at the beginning of the year, some of them even made an appeal on Facebook. However, that brought in so many people that I actually had to close my doors. Our stove can't fry that much at a time.
It looks pretty ancient …
That's the pride of our restaurant, dates back to 1947! It's loved and cared for and only touched with velvet gloves.
May I ask how old you are?
Is that important?
Rüdiger (the chef), shut your ears … I was born in Berlin in 1960. I did Religious Studies at university there to go into teaching, then taught to start with and later on worked as an executive secretary in the Diakonie, a Christian charitable organisation. They call it being in the service of humanity. I'm really doing that here in Hamburg, as well: services to humanity, but with fried fish
Had you ever had anything to do with fried fish before you did this?
Never in my life. I shouldn't really give this away to anyone, but I don't eat fish (laughs).
I must admit, neither do I.
That made it hard for me to start with, I wasn't from the trade. But “learning by doing”, that's what I always say. The Matthes family, who started the business back in the day, gave us a brief induction and showed us the most important things. And of course the aim was to do the right thing by its long heritage. The fish restaurant was their life.
And you, what do you do when you're not in the restaurant?
Oh, a lot of things. I play tennis, cycle a lot, like to be with people and I travel. (Looks at the clock) No offence, but I really have to get something done now, otherwise there'll be no mountains of potato salad for the guests, right?
Okay, thank you and bye-bye!