This is one of the best vegan restaurants in Europe, according to Forbes

And it's in the last place you'd expect.

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Most telling about Lafleur, a restaurant of expected beauty and finesse in the heart of Europe’s financial capital, is that when the restaurateur insisted on adding lobster to the tasting menu during a recent dinner, a group of international food writers resisted. We were there for the vegetables.

It’s extraordinary for a German city that is (incorrectly) perceived as a bit stuffy, a place of gray suits and skyscrapers. Everyone goes crazy for the white asparagus that pops up in the gardens in April and May. But an entire, elegantly conceived tasting menu of all-vegan dishes at a two-star Michelin? Seems like a hard sell in a city that gives its name to a sausage.

Yet chef Andreas Krolik has been reaping success for nearly a decade. When he opened Lafleur in 2014, he vowed to offer a vegan menu (alongside a more traditional, omnivorous one) that would be as rigorous and delicious as the traditional fine-dining progressions of premium meats and hand-picked seafood. The stars were not long in coming, along with an impressive 19 Gault & Millau points.

A Plant-based philosophy

Although a minority of Lafleur’s diners opt for the plant-based tasting menu, his dishes – cauliflower with curry, piquillo bell pepper, salted lemon and wild herbs; two types of spicy carrots in carrot-kimchi broth, carrot green cream, spring onion, Bruchenbrücken chickpeas and macadamia nut crunch – have an intensity, depth and complexity that eclipse what many chefs do with animal proteins.

It helps that Lafleur’s dining room has a close connection to nature. (The restaurant’s name comes from one of the owner’s favorite Bordeaux wines, which of course is included in the deep wine list.) It’s in the green heart of the city, its Palmengarten, nearly 50 acres containing 13,000 plant species. The research section of the nearby affiliated Botanical Garden is especially fascinating, full of plants that can either kill you or cure you, depending on how much you consume.

Fortunately, none of Lafleur’s dishes fall into that category. The marinated asparagus is accompanied by a refined version of Frankfurt’s prized salsa verde (a creamy, herbal concoction often served with sausage or potatoes, as in the city’s charming Kleinmarkthall).

The mushrooms come from producer Mathias Kroll, who grows them in the basement of a former Yugoslavian wrestling club. Last year, Krolik was awarded the Relais & Châteaux Trophy for Ethical Cuisine.

Frankfurt’s gastronomic eclecticism

The restaurant is one of the many reasons why it is worth a stopover in Frankfurt, a city through whose airport most European travelers pass at some point. It is home to people from some 180 countries, making it one of the most diverse cities in Europe. Approximately half of the population was born elsewhere. Its cuisine reflects this, from the refined French fare of Erno’s Bistro (an institution since 1974) to the modern Tel Aviv ambience and Israeli fare of Bar Shuka (try the mushroom falafel).

Residents are quick to tell you that their “new old town” was modeled after archival images of the buildings that stood before the city was nearly razed to the ground during World War II. It’s charming. More recently, Frankfurt was an early techno hub and the birthplace of Eurodance musicians like Snap (from “The Power”). A group of artists now organize bohemian evening parties by the river.