The Frankfurt Book Fair happens every year in October, and if you are a seasoned campaigner at this event, or any other of the international trade shows the massive complex hosts every year, then finding a good place to eat in the evening is something of a lottery. Most hotel bars and restaurants will start to get packed out by Fair attendees from seven o’clock onwards, and the more popular venues (such as the US Sports restaurant at the Marriott or the over-rated Casablanca bar) will be over-run quickly, even if you stake out your space in advance.
One of the best Chinese restaurants is within a stone’s throw of the Sofitel (about 8 minutes’ walk from the main entrance to the Fair) but is so perfectly camouflaged that you will be hard-pressed to notice it. Situated over the road when you turn left out of the Sofitel on Westendstrasse, the China Restaurant Palms Garden is located in the lobby plaza of a grey, anonymous-looking business building, right next to the hotel. On the outside there are no lights or advertising boards, and the first time I went there I thought we were trying to break into a closed office building! Going through the central doors leads you into a marbled court, complete with fountains and palm trees, where several retail outlets and eateries serve the office personnel who work in the floors above.
The Palms Garden is a sumptuous restaurant, you can choose to sit outside in the plaza near the trees (where the larger round tables make excellent places to entertain a large group of clients),or find a more intimate booth in the restaurant inside. Decoration is lavish, with authentically painted silk and tissue screens, carved black lacquered woodwork and plush red velvet featuring throughout. You can even take a break from convention-related conversation by gazing at one of the fish tanks housing ornamental specimens (that don’t, thankfully, feature on the menu).
Food is a mix between the traditional Chinese restaurant fare that is served in most establishments in the West, but also includes a lot of authentic dishes to appeal to the large number of international visitors that come to the city. Don’t be tempted to keep up with the trade delegations wolfing down more unusual items, there is plenty on the menu to appeal to all tastes.
Prices are outstanding, a full dinner plus wine and good German weissbier for four came to under sixty euros, so even if you are writing off the bill on expenses you can enjoy yourself with a clear conscience! The quality of food is superb and service is extremely fast, although sometimes you can wait for some of the ordered dishes to arrive. Another nice touch is that you will get mints, towels and fruit segments after your meal to freshen your palate . . . I’ve seen this die out in restaurants in the UK as they seem more eager to get you out of the door and server new diners. At the Palms Garden however you won’t feel hurried after an excellent meal, and will be smug in the knowledge of having discovered somewhere that not many of the seasoned sales reps know about.