After noma we took a large taxi back into mid-town Copenhagen to experience MR – Mads Refslund’s fine restaurant.
After a short cab ride through snowy Copenhagen (and finishing off our brilliant doggy bags) we arrived at the hotel Nimb at the Tivoli where the one star Restaurant Herman is located. The Nimb is clearly one of the best hotels in town and had been reopened as the New Nimb in May 2008 along with its gourmet restaurant Herman. Soon in 2009 Herman did receive its first Michelin star.
It’s been some time – but my memories are still so vivid. It was great fun – and not only that – it was also unusual, surprising and entertaining. Unusual because six diners visited six restaurants in the course of one night in one city (well, not really as Holte is not part of CPH). Surprising because some dishes were clearly pushing the border. Entertaining because I had great company and discussed many insights on the culinary scene with them (you know what I mean)…
£48 for a five course Michelin star menu – Andy Hayler has shown us how this works in last Sunday’s Telegraph issue. But, you have to travel quite a bit back and forth in the UK (637 miles to be precise). Fuel bill added on top this might not be a true bargain…
In the end, this is exactly what I am after when not hunting down stellar culinary treasures – I want good to very good food at a reasonable price, maybe not for every day but for every other. Therefore I start a new category which will include some hidden gems with a very good price-quality relationship and regionally inspired cuisine.
To start with here’s one of my favourite restaurants in Germany: Landgasthof Adler in Rosenberg.
Lunches at fine dining places can be difficult. Well, difficult in the sense that some restaurants serve only business lunches with a limited offering at a very reasonable price. While I appreciate that and am always curious to get a small bite on the cuisine’s menu it has an inevitable danger: given the price tag it is naturally hard to offer the same product quality as in the evening when the same amount of courses cost you about 2-3 times the lunch price. On the one hand I like that because it could lead to serving more regional products off the beaten path. On the other hand I expect execution to be at the same level as in the evening such that any award will still shine through.
Keeping that in mind it is very well possible to draw some conclusions from a 4 course business lunch. So recently I had a lunch meeting at Villa Merton in Frankfurt after Hans Horberth had left (yes, the last stone of the 2008 chef domino in Germany). Young sous chef Matthias Schmidt had taken over mid 2008 and kept the Michelin star but received a one point downgrade in the Gault Millau (now at 15 points). The last visits under Horberth were quite disappointing as the cuisine was soulless food, like catering food created to be easily assembled in a large lot. So interesting to see how the new chef would do…
At Burg Wernberg, that’s different – since the Conrad family has leased the Burg from Wernberg in 1992 and opened the Hotel Burg Wernberg in 1998 after extensive renovation. Jürgen Benker was the first chef de cuisine and Christian Jürgens the second. Jürgens began to further developed his potential at the Burg and is now regarded as one of the next potential three star candidates. After Jürgens signed to the Althoff Group in mid 2008 Conrad could “persuade” Thomas Kellermann from the Vitrum in Berlin to become the new chef de cuisine at the Burg.
Ha, this is not a Frankfurt restaurant strictly speaking, you might say and you are right. Großfeld’s Gastraum der Sinne is located in Dorheim, a part of Friedberg about 20 minutes from Frankfurt. But, my files files intend to give you some orientation on your journey to culinary delights when you are in and around Frankfurt. Maybe the “around” enlargement is due to the fact that in Frankfurt itself good fine dining is rather rare.
Not only since the recent financial crisis eating out and especially fine dining has been very difficult in Frankfurt. Why one is tempted to ask? In a city (previously) full of wealthy investment bankers, consultants and the like one would think of plenty of money pouring into gastronomy which in turn could lead to an increase in food quality on average. It turns out that in fact prices are (still) very high on the one star level (about €110 for 5-7 courses for what you get a nice “small” menu at most of the three star places) and the average quality below the starred restaurants is generally perceived as quite poor – some exemptions will be covered in separate later post….
Reasons? I can only suspect that the normal Frankfurt fine diner is more of a business client who wants a decent lunch or dinner and is not that much interested in breathtaking experiences which could interrupt the flow of business. One piece of evidence is that three of the one star places are closed on the weekend (Erno’s Bistro, Francais, Villa Merton). Only outside of Frankfurt, about 20 mins south, Juan Amador has successfully established a high-end restaurant now carrying three stars.
The pittoresque village of Baiersbronn is a gourmet treasure – in-midst of the Black Forest you can find seven Michelin stars – three for Harald Wohlfahrt at Schwarzwaldstube in the Hotel Traube Tonbach, three for Claus-Peter Lumpp at the Bareiss (promoted in November 2007) and one for Jörg Sackmann in the Restaurant Schlossberg in the family-owned Hotel Sackmann. More than in Bergisch-Gladbach which hosts two three star chefs (Nils Henkel and Joachim Wissler) and, well, I haven’t done the math, maybe with nearly the same stars per capita ratio as in San Sebastian. Quite remarkable.