What the heck is in Leipzig?
Well, as it turns out, Leipzig is not the most exciting of German cities; possibly due to a couple of factors… It was almost bombed out of existence during World War II, then had the misfortune to find itself part of the East German (and therefore Soviet) side of the wall once the war ended.
It would be enough to stifle the economic development of any city, especially one that’s been a major European trade route since the Holy Roman Empire.
So, the legitimate question is why pick Leipzig as a stop on our grand German driving tour?
Well, that question can be answered with one word…
More specifically, Falco’s award-winning head chef Peter Maria Schnurr; a man who was responsible for putting Leipzig on the culinary map by being awarded 2 Michelin Stars. With a reputation for being a passionate chef who speaks his mind, Chef Schnurr was recognised as Germany’s best chef in 2016 by the prestigious GaultMillau.
It was very quickly clear that we were in for a different experience; once we stepped onto the 27th floor of the Westin Hotel, crazy artwork was plastered all over the walls. Sitting at the bar waiting for the dining room to open, incredibly relaxed wait staff were happy to engage in conversation. What really set Falco’s waiters apart was their very casual attire, which included tracksuit like apparel that they confirmed was super comfy to work in.
When it was time to be escorted to the dining room, seriously bizarre artwork was on display; a statute of a racing car driver skeleton the most striking. The colourful artwork matched the casual feeling dining room well; which I suspect was partly in place to distract from the rather bleak outlook from the expansive view from our table.
Unsurprisingly, like most high-end fine dining restaurants, Falco offered a single tasting menu option (although we did find out that if pressed, they could do a la carte). What was most intriguing about the menu was the layout, presentation and naming convention of the courses to be presented. The titles pretty much gave nothing away, but thankfully a list of some of the ingredients was presented alongside the strange titles!
For the second time on our German trip, our amuse bouche came presented as a plethora of small dishes all presented at once; very reminiscent of our Pierre Gagnaire Parisian experience. I particularly loved the crispy courgette with truffle cream, a subtle umami hit with a crunchy texture. Asian influence was on display with a green bean salad with a satay sauce, the sweet and slightly crunchy peanut sauce was super tasty.
Even though it was a tasting menu, there were several options throughout, which meant that we could mix and match our meal somewhat. The girl decided to start with the Hamachi Yellowfin Mackerel; a thin slice of the slightly oily and smokey fish sat on a bed of buttermilk seaweed puree and was finished with some pickled daikon. The overarching feeling of freshness shone through, and delicately balanced flavours ensured a wonderful start to the meal.
I’d chosen the strangely named Hamptson$ – which was a completely overloaded and complex dish that should not have worked at all… But strangely did. The base of the dish was a Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), then was covered with a tartare of chanterelles, strips of lardo, toasted brown bread and asparagus tips; a scoop of Royal Premium caviar and gold leaf finished the presentation. Textures played on the palate, sweetness shone throughout and the caviar provided a salty hit – I soon found myself picking up the tin can it was presented in and licking-up the last remnants of caviar.
We found the Bondage to be simply amazing; veal tongue was wrapped around expertly roasted langoustine then covered in toasted seeds and finished with a green shiso wasabi ganache. The wasabi was beautifully sweet against the unusual ‘surf & turf’ mix, the earthy tongue and the sweet langoustine a weirdly enticing match; an ever so subtle heat coming from the sauce, showing restraint in the heat department and ensuring perfect balance.
Iceland Cod was next, and while not having the refined visual appeal of the previous dish, there was a clear purpose in its composition. Expertly cooked deep sea cod was incredibly flaky and robustly flavoured with the addition of a pepper puree and a Nage of tomato seed oil. Continuing the blend of meat and fish, there were small pieces of pork that helped to enhance the flavour of the dish, as well as a contrasting and chewy texture.
You don’t often see melon and parsley combined, but that’s what we were given as a small palate cleanser; made all the more strange with the addition of Tabasco for heat. It was very strange, but certainly helped smash the palate clean!
I’m assuming that Attention Bloody! related to the state in which the Wagyu Ox Flat-Iron was presented. The extremely rare and exquisitely cooked beef was incredibly tender, and very full flavoured. The seasoning was spot on, really helping bring out the natural meaty flavour of the Ox Wagyu, and a sticky jus ensured that there was an earthy umami hit from some truffle. I wasn’t so enamoured by the accompanying parsnip puree and crispy cabbage, but it didn’t bother me too much because that beef was so spectacular.
Pre-dessert was pretty damn bizarre, in line with the setting of the restaurant; however, the imagry was clearly in line with having a ‘sweet tooth’! It was a little bit of fun and the inclusion of soft marshmallow and coke jelly left a pleasant lingering taste in the mouth.
Of course, after such a whimsical and interesting meal, dessert would close with a bang! Called Burning Spider, splashes of red and white dominated. Dehydrated raspberry sat alongside raspberry granita, giving sharpness to the dish; a soft an unctuous hit came from lemon curd meringue and soft fennel ice cream. I loved the use of soft and sharp flavours against cold and room temperature components, the fennel shining through.
There was one last surprise for us; a blue havaiana was placed down with a couple of creamy ice balls and a stabiliser of edible ‘sawdust’. It was pretty strange I have to say, but definitely a talking point and extremely memorable way to finish the meal.
I really enjoyed our meal at Falco, and while I didn’t love every single component of the meal, it was certainly memorable. The girl was very very happy with the meal overall, some of the flavours and ingredients that had not excited me as much (the parsnip puree with the Wagyu) sat very well on her palate. Certainly, there was nothing wrong with the skill of the chef or the cooking, more just a few elements that I’d have happily skipped.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the sommelier, who completely blew the girl away with some of the recommendations; a white with the Wagyu and a Sake to pair with the langoustine, and was happy to chat and share some interesting information about the city. Completely outside of expectations, but they left an indelible impression on the girl, as did the overall service on the night.
I’m almost certain that we will never travel back through Leipzig, it’s not really a place that’s front of mind when travelling to Germany. But I tell you this, if you’re ever within a couple of hundred kilometres of the place, Falco is definitely worth a detour.