Our fine dining exploration would not be fulfilled without a voyage to Germany, the country in Europe with the most Michelin 3-star restaurants besides France.

About the Chef

The chef, Joachim Wissler, was awarded the chef of the year by the “Feinschmecker” (“the Gourmet”) in 2005. Originality and variety are the characteristics of Joachim Wissler’s cuisine. He harmonises high-quality ingredients to create original dishes in diverse variations.
About the Restaurant

The restaurant is situated in a 5-star luxury Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. Nestled in beautiful surroundings, the restaurant offers a wonderful view of Cologne.

About Our Meal

We both ordered the deluxe 7-course tasting menu. Before the first course, we were served amuse-bouche consisted of four items. The first one was peanut butter sandwich with caviar. This mini sandwich was topped with green pea purée, peanut, berries and a thin strip of lemon peel. The second one was pork sausage with crushed pecan. The sausage was very nice, especially its crispy casing.

The third one was tuna and almond mousse with orange and spice sauce. The fruity and lightly spiced sauce was very refreshing; perfect as an amuse-bouche. The fourth one was a filet of mackerel covered in mushroom foam with cucumber, green apple and tapioca underneath. It was a complex dish with an innovative mixture of ingredients and an interesting combination of texture. These hors d’oeuvres were accompanied by a glass of bubbly Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé

We still have not started the first course yet, but the inventive cooking style was very obvious foreshadowing an exciting meal ahead. The sommelier suggested a bottle of Weisser Burgunder, Im Sonnenschein 2004 , a very dry white wine with a nutty note from Siebeldingen.

Our first course was carpaccio of scallops, placed on top of a stylish geometrical shape of steamed hazelnut milk enclosed with olive oil. It also came with few “heart mussels” on the side. Heart mussels are similar to surf clams (Hokkigai), but smaller in size, with a yellowish instead of red tip. This was a very sophisticated dish in terms of its ingredients and presentation. The nutty sweet sauce was very light complementing the moist scallop perfectly. The heart mussels provided the texture element while the steamed hazelnut milk demonstrated Chef Wissler’s originality. This dish was definitely a masterpiece!

Our second course was fried turbot with oyster resting on top of diced cucumbers and tapioca in a Champagne sauce. The meaty turbot, the delicate oyster, and the crunchy cucumber, this course had a great textural contrast. The champagne sauce was mild in flavour, highlighting the quality of ingredients without masking their natural flavours.

Our third course was a soup of butternut squash with a layer of parsley and spinach at the bottom garnished with a few shavings of white truffle from Alba! And that wasn’t it, there was an egg yolk and ham jelly cubes floating in the centre! The soup was quite foamy on top but creamy in the middle. Complex but delicious!

A glass of Riesling Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz 2000 was served to us for our next course — a foie gras dish. From its unique appearance, it looked like shaved parmesan, but it was actually a stack of finely shaved foie gras terrine topped with black truffles. It was such a creative and wonderful combination to match the dish with green apple sauce. The terrine tends to be too rich, but refreshing green apple sauce cuts through the richness. Moreover, the finely shaved terrine provided a unique texture, which just melted on our tongue. Absolutely stunning! The terrine was meticulously stacked. It was so fragile that it completely fell apart upon a gentle touch. How interesting!

We had a different main course, cod and venison. The cod came with cubes of veal lung. It was strange to have fish and lung together, but those two definitely provided a unique textural contrast. The cod was very meaty and rich in flavour. The venison dish was quite ordinary except that the accompanying fried bone marrow balls were very tasty, slight crispy outside with a gelatinous centre. This course was paired with a Tuscany wine, Capannelle Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 ; smoky and blackcurrant aroma with good acidity.

Next came two rectangular boards of elegantly prepared assortment of cheese. The server also placed two strips of cheese menu on both sides of the rectangular boards, served as labels for each type of cheese. We were also instructed to eat them from bottom to top, right to left. What a unique and clever presentation!

Our dessert course consisted of three dishes. The first dish was mocha cake covered with a thin layer of gold, topped with pineapple ice cream. Mocha was very rich and strong; yet the pineapple flavour carried through the dish, resulting in a delightful dessert. The second dish was Persimmon with oddly matched coconut sorbet inside, in a citrus and champagne soup. This dish was a failure: Persimmon was not ripened enough and the soup was extremely sour that we could not take another sip. The last dish was dark chocolate soufflé with green apple cubes. I didn’t know the bitter dark chocolate and the acidic green apple would make such a lovely pair.

As usual, various petits-fours were served to finish our meal. Overall, the tasting menu clearly showed the creativity and imagination of this ambitious chef. As always, innovation requires a lot of experimentation and hence, some dishes were brilliant, but some were rather odd.

About the Service

The service was extremely professional. All the servers are required to wear a white glove before any contact with silverwares in the dining room. In addition, all the tablecloths were pressed by a hot iron prior to each service.

Most of the servers speak English, sufficient to communicate and to explain each dish.

Practical Information

Restaurant Vendome
Schlosshotel Bensberg
D-51429 Bergisch Gladbach (15km e ast of Cologne)
tel: +49 (0) 2204 420

www.schlossbensberg.com/en/gourmetrestaurant_vendome_stern

Open Wednesday to Sunday, both lunch and dinner.
Holidays two weeks in February and three weeks in July.

5-Course Tasting Menu: €120
10+ Course Tasting Menu: €190
À la carte menu: About €40 appetizer and €50 main course

Useful Tips

If you want a luxury holiday to accompany your extraordinary meal, you could stay in this hotel, Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg, which costs around €300 per night. It has a sister hotel nearby, Schlosshotel Lerbach, which was the home of the Michelin 3-star restaurant, Dieter Müller.

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