To me, it’s always seemed something of an irony that, although Germany has more Michelin 3-star restaurants than any other country in Europe, except France, it rarely seems to appear on Foodie’s radar. And I’m as guilty as anyone else of helping to create that irony. After all, before this trip, I’d visited only five of the eleven Michelin 3-stars in Germany – and I consider myself among the most committed and enthusiastic fine dine foodies in the world. What’s worse is that even this trip wasn’t specially planned – I just happened to be visiting some vineyards along the Mosel River, and I realised our route took us very close to the place that’s the subject of this review.
Anyway, whatever the reasons for my being here, the fact is that I am here – at a restaurant which is part of an elegant country lodging surrounded by woodland. The red and gold décor gives the place a classic feel to the point of being passé, but every table is flooded by natural light and looks out onto a pretty garden scene. The effect is to create a peaceful and relaxed ambience – the perfect setting for enjoying a long lunch!
The kitchen is now run by Clemens Rambichler, the right-hand man of Chef Helmut Thieltges, who – over a period of some 40 years – transformed this countryside dining room into a world class restaurant. When Chef Thieltges sadly passed away in July last year, Clemens was his natural successor – ably supported by his wife, who manages the front of house operation. This is a role that’s nothing if not time-consuming, so it was impressive that she actually took time out to visit our table a few times during our meal. Which brings us neatly to. . .
It’s the kind of food that I just can’t have enough of!
. . . our lunch, which began with an oyster marinated in mojito, with a refreshing hint of lime and peppermint. This was accompanied by some other nibbles, which I enjoyed while sipping at my glass of Ruinart blanc de blanc, and keenly anticipating their signature “beef gateaux”. I’d ordered it along with the tasting menu, as I’d been told it was a ‘can’t miss’ dish. When it arrived, it consisted of three simple ingredients – potato, beef, and caviar – and was rather cutely presented in the shape of a pie. The base of this ‘pie’ was Rösti, layered with beef tenderloin tartare and generously topped with Imperial Gold caviar! It looked gorgeous, and its taste lived up to the promise of its looks. The tartare was enriched by the natural saltiness of the caviar, while the rösti added a delicious crunchiness. It’s the kind of food that I just can’t have enough of!
And there was more caviar to come, with the tasting menu. All of this was excellent, but, for me, the highlight was the langoustine course, which came in two versions – raw and cooked. First up was a disk of langoustine carpaccio, surrounded by a generous amount of caviar in a cream sauce. And the balance of flavours was truly remarkable – the overtones of lime acidity did a great job of enhancing the already bright “flavour of the sea” which exploded from these little black pearls. It was so good that I didn’t leave even the smallest drop of caviar sauce on the plate. I also loved the way they had prepared the langoustine – neither fully chopped nor sliced too thin – so that it had a beautiful, silky texture while retaining a good bite. Marinated in lime and hazelnut oil, it was deliciously aromatic, while it was served at the perfect temperature – chilled enough to bring out the freshness, without being overly cold. Is this the perfect langoustine carpaccio? It’s got my vote!
The second serving of langoustine was grilled and served with a sauce of mango and Beurre Bordier sauce! If I needed more evidence (which I didn’t) that this was a restaurant that always sourced top-notch ingredients, this was it – I’ve rarely seen langoustine this size. And it was simply beautifully cooked – not only did the whole tail come easily from the shell, but every bite was juicy, and the sauce was superbly balanced with fruity and savoury flavours “yin-yanging” on my palate. It was so delicious, I could have drunk the lot! And let’s not forget the oriental flavour of the ginger sautéed cabbage – that was extremely enjoyable, too.
Another great course in this long tasting menu worth highlighting was the meat course – a small parcel of steamed pigeon and foie wrapped in cabbage, together with seared pigeon and foie served in black truffle sauce. The pigeon was soft and moist, while the foie was silky and rich. Clearly, a lot of thought and skill had gone into creating the dish, which provided a fun contrast between the steamed and the seared version. It was the kind of indulgent course that I’d been craving for a while – its power lying in its great depth of flavours. And the mash on the side was every bit as good as Robuchon’s – warm, buttery and creamy.
Despite the fact that it had been a very full lunch, there was still room to savour the two desserts – one a refreshingly fruity dish of strawberries and rhubarb, and the other a chocolate and coffee tart. Both were wonderfully done. Then, to conclude our session of lunchtime extravagance, we were served a two-tiered tray of petits fours.
It’s a bargain!
If ever there was a Michelin 3-star meal that’s a bargain, this has to be it! Not only was the service smooth, and the dining ambience outstanding, but – even in my most picky of moods – I couldn’t find even the smallest fault with any of the dishes in this 6-course tasting menu. Yet it cost about half as much as a similar standard of meal in Paris. What’s more, the price of the room here (according to the brochure) is a fraction of what you’d pay in some 5-star hotels in Paris. I found myself thinking that it was a shame our plan left us with only an afternoon to spare. Next time, we’ll stay the night. And there will be a next time!