Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Restaurants in Germany
As in many other parts of the world, the cuisine scene in Germany naturally seems to split into two -- the Cuisine Bourgeois that serves the traditional, often pork-or-veal-based regional dishes and the Fine Dining restaurants that are equal to some of the best in the world. The chefs in the latter generally train in French-style top class cuisine, then often adapt their traditional German bourgeois recipes to turn them into magnificent, silver-service creations.
Most restaurants will also offer excellent German wines, of which the whites are particularly notable. Grown along the banks of many south-western rivers like the Rhine and the Mosel, these are often noteworthy for their strong fruit bouquet. But with the advent of the EEC you will find excellent Burgundies and Bordeaux on most wine lists also, with the German Sekt, as "bubbly" is known in that country, supplemented by fine champagnes from France. Let us take you on a gastronomic voyage of discovery to some German restaurants that are truly outstanding.
Restaurant die Ente Von Lehel
Wiesbaden is one of Germany's most famous holiday centers. It's the place where you will find Europe's 'Rich and Famous' at play, so it's only natural that this is also the place where fine hotels and restaurants are located. Arguably the most elegant of the former is the Hotel Nassauer Hof , which was already famous when Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevski came to play roulette at the hotel's casino in the l800's. These days the diners you find there might be Helmut Kohl, Lee Iacocca, Liza Minelli, Tony Bennett or Mikhail Gorbachov and wife Raisa.
Bombed and burned in WWII, the hotel was splendidly rebuilt to again offer its spacious rooms and faultless service. It also features a Michelin-rated silver-service restaurant with the picturesque name of Die Ente Von Lehel (The Duck of Lehel). The orchestration of this restaurant is under the baton of Executive Chef Herbert Langendorf who trained in some of this country's best restaurants.
The dining room, appropriately decorated with decoy ducks is set on two levels, with white tablecloths contrasting with the blue-themed walls and dark carpet. There is a giant mural dome over the dining room and you'll never guess what this features -- ducks! And duck is also well represented on the menu. If you like this dish, cooked to perfection and with parchment-thin, deliciously crispy skin -- the ultimate test for any chef -- then this is the dish to order here. But don't restrict yourself to duck. There are some marvelous alternatives.
The dining room offers starters like Rabbit in Aspic with Winter Salad and Sliced Potatoes, Pickled Salmon with Dill sauce and Potato Pancakes or 'Steinpilz' Ravioli in Herbal sauce. (A Steinpilz is a yellow boletus mushroom popular in German cooking). Soups range from Franconian Potato Soup to a hearty Casserole of Salmon and Pike-Perch.
Entrees are mainly based on local dishes -- Noisettes of Suckling Pig in a Caraway and Ale sauce, served with Red Cabbage, Apple and Dumplings and Veal Liver Saut»ed in Herbs with Chive sauce, Pureed Onion and Dumplings being just two examples of a mouth-watering selection. The dessert selection is also formidable, with our vote going to the Pear Souffl» Tart with Walnut Ice-cream, Grapes and Vanilla sauce which dish, in itself enough to delight your tastebuds, is even further enhanced by a glass of Silvaner Eiswein, pressed from grapes that have almost turned to raisins and therefore deliciously sweet and fruity.
This brings me to the winelist. To sum it up, it would be hard to find better anywhere. It starts with the best of the local district wines, broadens out to the wines of the Rhine, Mosel, Saar and then spreads right through the rest of the German wine regions before covering the finest of France. Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary and America are also represented, and there is even the Russian "bubbly," Krimskoje Krimsekt, which is amazingly popular with Germans, though wine experts in other countries find it hard to figure out why.
The Black Forest in Germany is not an area where you would normally look for a Gourmet restaurant. All the more reason therefore, to be delighted at discovering the Restaurant Bareiss (2 Michelin stars), located in a modern, luxurious resort hotel that is renowned for its style and innovation. This, the most stylish of the three restaurants in this hotel, offers the silver-service dining and romantic ambiance. Expect the best, and you will not be disappointed.
Executive Chef Claus-Peter Lumpp's 'Ausbildung' (training) was at restaurants that read like a 'who's Who' of Europe's most prestigious dining venues. His training at the Restaurant Victorian in Dusseldorf, Restaurant Petermanns Kunststuben in Zurich, Heinz Winklers Restaurant 'Tantris' in Munich, and subsequently with Andre Jaeger at the Rheinhotel Fischerzunft in Schaffhausen, with Ezio Santin at the Antica Osteria del Ponte, and with Alain Ducasse at his 3-star restaurant at Monte Carlo, combines to provide a pedigree that is a hard act to follow. So is his cuisine, rated by Gault & Millau as among the ten best in Germany.
The dining room, which looks out on to meadow and forest, is a picture of elegance. The silver candlesticks, silken drapes, comfortable velour-covered chairs with armrests, marble fireplace all add to the ambiance and set the stage for the superb meal you will have here. Try the Smoked Free-range Salmon with Blinis and Imperial Caviar as an appetizer, perhaps followed with an Asparagus Risotto and Grilled John Dory. As a main course we always like milk-fed veal in Germany, and so a thin Veal Scallop served on Tomato Fondue and Pesto sauce will be a classic dish to try and is one that we always enjoy. For dessert, we recommend a house- specialty, Baked Leaves of Chocolate with Nougat and Orange sauce, a perfect combination of complementary flavors.
And the winelist is as impressive as the cuisine. One does not find many country hotels with over 20,000 bottles in the cellar, but you'll find them here -- and what a superb selection!
Needless to say there is a full range of German wines from all regions and the restaurant not only separates them into classifications, but also into vintages. French wineries are also fully represented, but there is also an excellent range from Italy, a good choice from Spain and California, and even three superb Australian wines, including Penfold's Grange which is considerably less expensive at this German restaurant than it would be if ordered in Australia.
Restaurant Heinz Winkler
Just across the German border 60kms from Salzburg, the little town of Aschau is not only a stepping-off point to see the marvelous Castle that Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria built on an island in the Chiemsee Lake. It is also home to the Residenz Heinz Winkler, hotel and restaurant of the outstanding German Chef who has created one of the finest country hotels, with a dining room to match.
Winkler's Resort-hotel is legendary -- designed like a private villa set around a colorful courtyard, the establishment has been a favorite of Kings Juan Carlos of Spain and Carl Gustav of Sweden, Presidents Scheel of Germany and Bush of USA, and international tycoons like Banker John D. Rockefeller, Gianni Agnelli, Head of Fiat, and actors like Jean Paul Belmondo and Brooke Shields. This is the kind of place one dreams of using as a base for exploring one of the prettiest, most photogenic parts of Germany. To be in the region and not to stay and dine here is a serious omission indeed.
Winkler is a master at preparing Bavarian regional specialties. The dining room sets the style with candles and flowers on tables, large comfortable chairs with armrests, a pleasing color scheme of off-white walls and beamed ceilings, square-patterned floor coverings and just the right amount of greenery created through the use of potted plants.
Many of his dishes are German classics prepared with the sort of finesse one expects to find used by the three-Michelin-star Master Chefs of France. For example a starter of marinated Gooseliver with Nuts and Raspberry Coulis will be a truly memorable start to a brilliant Menu Degustation that is followed by Veal Sweetbread Ravioli in Parsley, and five other small courses that will give you a true insight into this great Chef's superb competence.
But the A La Carte dishes are equally tempting. Try the Smoked Eel with Potatoes and Cucumber Dressing, the Consomm» with Pistou, the Gnocchi with Caviar and Chive-Sauce, Turbot on a Bed of Spinach, or Loin of Venison in a Pastry Crust with Pistachios and Port Wine Sauce. For a dessert, Cottage Cheese Dumplings with Stewed Prunes are a German classic. A full range of German and French wines, supplemented by smaller selections of other European vintages are also available at this restaurant.
Restaurant Dieter Muller at Schlosshotel Lerbach
In the countryside a mere 25 kilometers from Cologne-Bonn Airport, the Castle Hotel Lerbach is one of these delightful European get-away-from-it-all boutique hotels. This one is further enhanced by being home to the Restaurant Dieter Muller, a "Relais Gourmand." As a member of this group which offers one of the highest standards of cuisine in Europe, the Restaurant Dieter Muller attracts visitors like fashion designer Wolfgang Joop, German Foreign Secretary Hans-Dietrich Genscher, soprano Edda Moser and stars of sport, music and stage like Tina Turner, Johnny Logan, Sally Oldfield and German football hero Rudi Voller.
The setting is an absolute delight -- a classic ivy-decked 'Stately Home' set in a 70 acre park with tennis courts, fish ponds, jogging and walking tracks and forested hillsides. The building's records date back to May 1384 when Lerbach Castle, named after the stream that still runs through the park, passed into the ownership of the knight, Sir Johann Von Hoenen. Changing hands many times during its history, it became the Castle Hotel Lerbach in 1992.
The restaurant itself is comfortable, traditional, and has large picture windows looking across to the picture-postcard countryside that surrounds the establishment. Today it has three Michelin stars and is under the direction of Dieter Muller, one of Germany's most respected and experienced chefs.
After training at the prestigious Schweizerhof Restaurant in Berne and then at the Schweizer Stuben in Wertheim, one of Germany's top restaurants, Muller opened his restaurant at the Schlosshotel Lerbach. Muller is so prominent a figure on the German culinary scene that, in the early '90's he represented German cuisine as guest chef in mainland USA, Hawaii, Japan and Australia, in the process absorbing some of the influences of these areas into his outstanding dishes.
At the Restaurant Dieter Muller he has created new standards with appetizers like Filet of Red Mullet served on Potato Salad with a Vinaigrette of Balsamico, Lobster on Marinated Vegetables with Noodles of Olives and Pineseeds, and Roasted Scallops on Stewed Banyules-Onions with Couscous. Main course dishes are equally creative. Try Tripe with Croquettes of Calf's Head on a Crepe of Herbs with Truffled Leek, or perhaps Crepinette from the Etouffe-Pigeon with a slice of Black Pudding, Green Asparagus and a Sauce of Truffles. His desserts are equally interesting. We recommend his house specialty, the Trilogy of Valrhona Chocolate with Citrus Fruits, or for those who like a little taste of various sweet delights, his Composition of Desserts a la Dieter Muller.
The wine list here, like those of most better German restaurants, covers the spectrum of German and French wines, but also extends to a more limited selection from California, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Austria and as far away as New Zealand.
Tucked between field and forest, one finds an oasis of quality and luxury that the top echelon of German society uses as its private hideaway. One such destination in Bavaria's Black Forest is the Hotel Traube Tonbach with its remarkable Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube. This draws gourmets from all over Germany, nearby Austria and even Switzerland and France. And the reason? Its Executive Chef, Harald Wohlfahrt, one of the youngest 3-Michelin Star chefs in Europe, makes dining here an occasion indeed.
Wohlfahrt, born in l955 trained with some of Germany's best chefs subsequently rounding out his training with Alain Chapel near Lyon before returning to Germany to take up his position at the Restaurant Schwarzwaldstube. The restaurant over which he rules so effectively is also one of the most attractive in Germany.
Large panoramic windows framed by elegant curtains look across at meadow and forest. The high ceilings are beamed with carved timber beams in the traditional German manner and are a special feature of this restaurant. So are the chairs which have a most interesting shape -- carved timber backs on to which padded facings and armrests are upholstered in very attractive blue and silver floral design. The blue and gray theme continues through to the carpets, and there are flowers on the tables to complement the sparkle of silver. The chandeliers, too, are carefully designed in crystal and metal, the whole effect being one of quiet, stylish elegance.
Harald Wohlfahrt is a master at classic French cuisine. If you think that only the French know how to prepare Foie Gras, try the Marinated Goose Liver with Green Peppercorns and Madeira Aspic. But he is also no slouch at handling the influence of Asian flavors that is sweeping Europe. An example is his Steamed Lobster on Strips of Leek with Mild Lemongrass sauce. Another of his signature creations is Tournedos of Angus Beef Fillet with a crust of Gratineed Boletus Mushrooms and a sauce of Mild Barolo Vinegar. Souffle-lovers will marvel at his Grand Marnier Souffle with a Parfait of Citrus Fruits.
The winelist is formidable, with a very wide selection of German and French wines broken into regional offerings. There are also Italian, Spanish and Californian wines available, with just one Merlot Del Ticino Bianco representing Switzerland. There is a full spectrum of prices as well as vintages, with the former ranging from under 20DM for a half bottle of Burkheimer Feuerberg to a bottle of 1949 Chateau Haut-Brion at 2810DM.
Walter and Cherie Glaser are a truly global writing and photography team based "Down Under" in Melbourne, Australia.