The number 13 is unlucky for many, but proved to be a happy number for the girl and I on our recent European holiday.
You see, it was the total number of Michelin Stars we collected as we toured through Amsterdam and broader Germany. Many were planned, a few were not and almost all were excellent.
It takes a lot of planning to do a driving tour of a country, you need to work out how far you can drive in a day, where you’re going to be and most importantly where you are going to stay and eat. It’s not something I’m naturally great at, so we were amazed that everything came together as well as it did!
Ostensibly though, we were visiting Germany to satisfy the girl’s curiosity about ‘Documenta’ a modern art exhibition that runs every five years in a little town in Germany called Kassel. So small in fact, there were no Michelin Starred restaurants nearby, so it was one of the few nights where we didn’t stuff our faces with high quality food!
This post will be a summary of our trip, but there will be detailed posts of each of the restaurants to come over the next few months; and I will add links as they come online.
While we had planned to do a driving tour of Germany, it was much more cost effective to fly into Amsterdam; which gave us the opportunity to get over our jet lag before hitting the autobahns of the Deutschland! We’d not planned any meals at all for the first few days in Amsterdam, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that our hotel’s restaurant was in fact a recipient of a Michelin Star!
Located in the historical Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam, a former palace in the groovy Red Light District, the One Michelin Star Bridges by Ron Blaauw was perhaps the biggest surprise of our trip.
We opted for the six course tasting menu that kicked off with an inventive quartet of amuse bouche that definitely set the scene for a memorable meal. Celery miso mayonnaise with potato & madeleines with beetroot providing memorable and exciting flavours for the palate.
Chef Ron Blaauw’s approach to his cuisine was inventive and quite beautifully plated; with excellent marriage between the food presentation and the plates themselves. With sublime use of flavours, textures and colours, the visually stunning food was challenging and rewarding. Roleaux of Black Pollock gave intense flavours of the sea; where Scallop Tiradito balanced sweet and sharp sauces perfectly against the delicately poached scallop and North Sea crab. Veal Sweetbread with kale and bacon vinaigrette was a revelation, perhaps the best version of sweetbreads I’ve had all year.
The tasting menu was very well rounded, and took us on a culinary journey of flavours, let down ever so slightly by a main of USA steak Inca style with red mojo and a a taco of veal cheek that I didn’t like at all; a visually pretty and incredibly tasty dessert quickly put the slight disappointment aside and finished off the meal in spectacular fashion.
The destination that I had been most excited about was the Two Michelin Starred Restaurant Tim Raue in Berlin; which was also rated as #48 in the Worlds50Best restaurants. So excited in fact, that I’d chosen Tim Raue as the location for my birthday dinner!
We were the first to arrive at the restaurant, a few minutes before opening; as you’d expect from such a restaurant, there was quickly a queue of people, all vociferously stating their excitement about visiting a #worlds50best restaurant. I loved that the dining room was quite relaxed in comparison to many other top 50 restaurants, it was cool and the staff were superb.
Tim Raue’s gig is infusing Asian flavours into his cooking, in fact, it was a trip to Hong Kong that really inspired the chef to greater heights and eventually his global recognition. Perhaps it was the fact we live in Honkers and eat lots of Asian fusion, or the fact that we’d had huge expectations going into the meal, but I was rather disappointed overall. Sure, there were a couple of amazing dishes (in particular the pork knuckle in Suckling Pig) but mostly I found an excessive amount of heat in the dishes, that really destroyed my palate and overpowered the other, more delicate flavours presented.
In the Imperial Caviar dish, the caviar was lost when you added the chilli infused quinoa; the dish that followed had huge potential, but the subtle flavour of the Hamachi was lost in the jade sauce; there was a powerful hit of ginger in the Hong Kong Gai Lan, killing the flavour of the plump oyster. I’m going to have a lot more to say when I publish the full post.
We made our way to Leipzig, which truth be told was not an exciting place to visit; we pretty much only stopped there to visit one of the region’s top restaurants Falco, bestowed with Two Michelin Stars and a chef recognised as Germany’s top chef in 2016 by Gault Millau.
With a philosophy of unpretentious creative and modern, Falco was right up there with the best meals we had in Germany, in fact, it was the girl’s most memorable meal. We knew that we were in for something a little different when we noted what the staff were wearing; essentially track suits, with relaxed and friendly attitudes to match! While there was technically an a la carte menu available, we were steered towards the tasting menu, which ended up being sublime!
There were no less than six amuse bouche brought to the table to snack on to start our meal, all amazing; in particular the corget with truffle cream and the beetroot with caviar! The girl and I started our journey with different options for the tasting menu; the Hampton$ was my choice and it was beautifully presented and quite delicious, a huge hit of caviar mixed with chanterelles and raspberry vinegar; Bondage was a mix of beef and langoustine with a wasabi sauce that cleverly balanced the heat and sweetness; Attention Bloody! was insanely flavoured Ox Wagyu that was a highlight, although I didn’t love the accompanying cabbage.
Our petite four was perhaps the most interesting of our trip, presented on a pair of haviana’s!
The creativity and insanity of chef Peter Maria Schnurr shone through with the inventive flavour combinations, as well as the strange names of the dishes! As an interesting side note, Chef Peter was the chef of our very first Michelin experience years ago at Berlin’s The First Floor!
I never realised how many castles were scattered throughout Germany! Almost every town that we passed and most places we stopped, we were able to view beautiful old castles, churches and villages. Amazing!
Our next stop was Munich, a city that we’d arranged to spend most of our time and therefore had a night spare (well, unplanned). This free night was quickly taken up with a visit to the One Michelin Starred Acquerello, an Italian restaurant located in a plush suburb of Munich!
The first thing I noticed when we took our seats was how garish the interior of the restaurant was; with pastel colours and a setting that did in no way screamed Michelin! An Italian restaurant, Acquerello was quite an interesting stop for us; with a philosophy of bringing back those childhood memories with warming and traditional cuisine.
We kept it simple and chose from the a la carte menu; the girl starting with beef fassona, a tartare and carpaccio combined, the presentation beautiful and the beef, prepared two ways tender and sweet. I’d chosen a zucchini flower that had been tempura and then combined with a saffron foam and king prawn. I wasn’t a fan of the girls fagottini, the tomato sauce being too powerful for my palate (even bacon bits couldn’t help); however, my tagliolini with chanterelles, parsley foam and veal jus was a masterpiece of Italian cooking and just incredible.
It was our quickest and cheapest fine dining meal of the trip, and a welcome relief to my wallet; which was about to be hit hard for our next meal!
Easily my favourite meal for our European jaunt was the Two Michelin Starred Tantris, also in Munich. For a restaurant that’s almost as old as I am, and still decorated in its original 70’s kitsch design, Tantris is as well known for its interior as it is for its amazing food. Orange carpeted ceilings and a design that has probably gone in and our of fashion a dozen times in forty years; but no doubt back in the zeitgeist right now!
Head Chef Hans Hass has made a name for himself by producing incredible food over a long period of time; naturally, we’d chosen the eight course tasting menu, which to be honest had so many highlights, I rated it as one of the finest meals I’ve had.
Highlights included the variation of salmon with tomatoes and yuzu, deliciously intelligent use of tomatoes for umami that paired with the textures of sweet salmon; the sauce/bisque that came with the red lobster with broad beans was literally mind blowing, intensely sweet and balanced oh-so-well with the expertly cooked lobster; the lemon grass sauce that accompanied the confit of dover sole was another triumph, supremely well balanced again and scrumptious; main of rosé roasted lamb chops left a lasting impression, the tender sweet lamb prepared two ways was also a clear winner!
Service at Tantris was a step above the majority of Michelin restaurants we’ve visited; I particularly loved that the waiter talked me into the paired apple juices, which coincidentally matched the colouring of the girl’s wine pairings!
My only question about Tantris is what the heck would it need to do to achieve it’s third star? The meal was faultless…
We travelled all the way to the Black Forest for our next meal; which was prepared for us in a 700 year old building by Germany’s only female Two Michelin Starred chef. Restaurant Douce Steiner was recommended to us from a German buddy and it didn’t disappoint; the the main issues being around communication, pretty much no-one was fluent in English, with Chef Douce and one of the waiters able to communicate with us. It made for an interesting meal 🙂
The philosophy of the restaurant is to use the five senses to provide access to indulgence; a feat that was largely met, especially once we got into the later dishes. Another eight course tasting menu, the meal started with a series of amuse bouche, the best being scallops in a carrot sauce and parsley puree.
Before we got to the good stuff, there were a couple of so-so dishes that were largely forgettable; the foie gras with preserved lemon and artichoke was lacking depth of flavour and the crispy courgette flour with aubergine puree and tapenade was never going to appeal to me (liking neither tapenade or aubergine). However, once we hit the middle dishes, the quality of the kitchen shone through!
Exquisitely cooked pollock served with caviar and a beurre blanc was a highlight, the flavours combining with the visual appeal of the dish well enough to hit the philosophical brief; langoustines wrapped in cabbage served with a wonderful sauce that was foamed really hit the spot; considerable skill was on display with quail wrapped around pigeon with both birds cooked to perfection, broad bean ravioli accompanying surprisingly well.
While I did like the restaurant, and there were a couple of dishes that really hit the high notes, we’d cancelled a three star place a few hundred kilometres away in another part of the Black Forest; I’m thinking I’d have preferred my original choice.
Our last unplanned meal of the trip was at the simply amazing One Michelin Starred Ox & Klee in Cologne. One of the most modern restaurants we’d visited, the styling was very much in alignment with cool Copenhagen. And after a quick chat with Head Chef Daniel Gottschlich, who’d informed us that he was about to surprise and delight us with the days ingredients, I was very much reminded of the top Nordic style restaurants I’ve visited.
The tasting menu only restaurant had options ranging from four to nine courses; we opted for the five course tasting, which started with an array of small bites that hit on all the tastes; salty was a lye roll, spicy zucchini tartare with peanut essence, sweet oven celery with beet herb crisps, fat was trout with pumpkin oil, umami was cheese crisps with red beet gel and truffle, bitter was grapefruit-vanilla jelly and sour was calamansi fruit with passionfruit honey. The collective of tastes and textures quite amazing!
This was an exciting meal, starting with Veal that had a mushroom dashi with bags of flavour and texture from a tempura spring leek; Eifeler Tomato was different textures and combinations of tomato with parsley puree, intensely flavoured with umami; main of Hanging Tender was expertly cooked beef covered in garlic chips for sweetness, contrasted against sea buckthorn.
Five courses was just the right amount of food, but we were also given the restaurant’s signature dish of maggi-egg, a creamy conception that included tumeric, lovage and crispy bacon on top of the foamy egg. It was superb.
We left the joint feeling like we’d come across a future top fifty restaurant!
If you’re not aware, Cologne is home to world50best restaurant number 47, Vendome. We’d actually managed to score a room in Scholss Bensberg, the hotel that houses Vendome and an actual castle (so cool) – but alas, the night of our visit to Cologne was the final night of their summer holiday – so we missed out on Vendome by one day!
Our very last meal on our holiday was back in Amsterdam, and after a long day in the car heading to our last destination, we were super stoked to dine in the Two Michelin Starred Bord’Eau. The restaurant fortunately housed in our hotel, which made the trip for dinner quite easy!
It was also arguably our best meal on our trip, competing with Tantris for the mantle; Richard van Oostenbrugge’s eight course tasting menu was a triumph from beginning to end, with incredibly refined and tasty food presented throughout. Upon reflection, the combination of picture pretty dishes and sublime flavours probably made Bord’eau the highlight of the trip culinary wise (I’m sure I will change my mind many times!). Importantly, we were informed that two star chef Richard van Oostenbrugge would be leaving the restaurant at the end of the year, so our trip was amazing timing.
While each of the dishes was memorable in their own way, it was a pre-dessert, that wasn’t noted on the menu, that the restaurant’s most famous for; the Apple was the most amazing version of blown sugar I’ve ever seen. Looking just like an invisible apple, with half eaten ‘core’ the dish was both stunning and delicious!
Before we got to the apple though, we had some amazing food along the journey; Mackerel lightly marinated with quinoa was light, delicate, pretty and delicious; Veal tartare was presented uniquely inside an edible bone, the tartare mixing with creme fraiche and topped with caviar; Langoustine poached in duck fat, then served with ‘katsuobushi albufera’ or tuna flakes was as good as it sounded, the flakes soaking up the accompanying sauce that was orgasmically good!
The setting of the restaurant was on one of the oldest canals in Amasterdam, and we amused ourselves throughout dinner watching the many boat loads of drunken locals and even more inebriated tourists cruising the canals… Hours of fun.
Our two weeks of travel was amazing; our car for touring was a very respectable Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q4, a luxury SUV that saw speeds up to 199 kmph on the German Autobahn!
It was our first ever driving holiday and perhaps our most draining and enjoyable; but it did get us thinking….
A driving holiday through Spain?