A former cigarette factory does not seem the most obvious place to have an evening meal, but Yenidze in Dresden is not your average cigarette factory.
Looking like a multi-storey mosque in the Moorish Revival style, the Yenidze Tobacco and Cigarette Factory was first opened in 1909. The building has a huge, decorated dome and ornate chimneys designed to look like minarets. Falling into long disuse after the Second World War, the building is now an office block and restaurant.
However, skirting the exotic exterior, the restaurant is not easy to locate. The grand main entrance to the building is shut up, and the only way in appears to be a rather unprepossessing gateway, leading to a short flight of steps and a small backdoor. A small sign displays a menu card, otherwise I might not have had the nerve to venture further, but whether the sign is still valid or a relic of a decade past, it is not easy to tell.
Slightly daunted, I go in. The doorway reveals a short, undecorated corridor, ending at a small lift. If in doubt, go to the top. I press the button for the top floor and, rather to my surprise, the lift whirrs into action.
When the lift stops, I am pleasantly surprised to find myself in what appears to be a circular restaurant housed within the dome of the old factory; tables and chairs; tablecloths and cutlery. However, there is not a single diner in sight, nor any staff on duty. I am still not sure that I haven’t stumbled upon something that closed years beforehand.
I call out tentatively, which has the effect of producing a middle-aged woman from a back room:
“What do you want?”
“Are you open?” I ask nervously.
“We’re full,” is the rather unexpected reply.
My gaze across the empty tables must have voiced my doubt of this claim, because it is followed up with:
I am shown to a small staircase leading to the floor below. Little did I realise it, but that short staircase was like a wardrobe to Narnia.
Here, there was not only a restaurant, but a busy, open-air, rooftop restaurant, with glorious panoramic views across the entire Dresden skyline. Here, there were customers and uniformed waitresses; plates of food and tankards of beer. I was guided to a table, with a view looking out towards the Elbe. It was beyond my expectations as a place to eat.
I was conventional in my choice of food: schnitzel, washed down with a big pint of beer. The early evening atmosphere was very peaceful. Above me the huge dome and tapering minarets of the building were within touching distance; below, the streets and houses of Dresden a different world. It felt like I was floating on a magic carpet, alone amongst the clouds in a One Thousand and One Nights fantasy.
I finished my food, and watched the sun begin to descend beyond the horizon. By the time I reached my hotel, it had begun to rain. Return to reality.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny recommends a meal at Yenidze.