Recently, Berkeley Square Barbarian was treated to a phenomenal ten-course dinner with wine-pairing by two-starred restaurant Lafleur. To be precise, only Mr B was, because he’s currently on a consultancy assignment in Frankfurt for up to one year, while Ms B goes about her business in London, and we usually only see each other on the weekends. Ms B was not very pleased, as you can imagine, but tough luck.
From 2018, Lafleur will be part of the exclusive association Les Grandes Tables Du Monde, which includes 172 of the world’s best restaurants. It is already part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux group, which is comprised of some 500 luxury hotels and restaurants worldwide.
These two photos are (c) Lafleur, other photos (c) BSqB.
At the moment, Lafleur boasts 18 of 20 possible points by Gault & Millau, more than any other restaurant in Hesse.
It is one of 38 two-star restaurants in Germany (besides eleven three-star and 233 one-star ones – yes, Germany is an often overlooked gastronomic super-power) and the sister restaurant of Tiger-Gourmetrestaurant, half an hour’s walk away, also owned by Tiger Palmen Gruppe. Tiger-Gourmetrestaurant had been awarded its second Michelin star in 2013, while its chef was Andreas Krolik, who is now Lafleur’s chef. Within the year he joined Lafleur (2015), it was awarded its second star, which was the third time a restaurant Andreas was the executive chef of, gained a second Michelin star, the first one being Park-Restaurant in Baden-Baden in 2010. Despite just having been crowned Germany’s Chef of the Year 2017 by Gault Millau, he remains an incredibly modest, down-to-earth person, and would of course never say so, but there have been plenty of rumours in the hospitality industry for some time now that Lafleur might be on its way straight to a third star, joining an exclusive club of just over 100 gourmet havens worldwide.
Lafleur is open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday and for lunch from Wednesday to Friday (lunch from €52). In the evenings the restaurant offers an a la carte menu (starters €32-€58, mains €50- €68, desserts €23-€25) and there are four- to seven-course tasting menus (€145 to €175; vegan from €128 for four to €148 for six courses). Very reasonably priced, considering the high standard.
Named after the famous vineyard Chateau Lafleur in Pomerol, the 40-seat restaurant is beautifully located in a perfectly renovated Bauhaus-style building next to the famous Palmengarten park in Frankfurt’s elegant Westend quarter. When I arrived at 7pm, I was greeted by the two seasoned, friendly, unusually calm and pleasant, at times subtly entertaining managers, Miguel Martin, who is also the sommelier, and Philipp Guenther, who has recently joined the team. I was immediately led to the kitchen and introduced to the maestro himself, Andreas Krolik, who walked me through the evening’s ten course menu, which was customised to showcase his cuisine in all its variety and at its best, including three courses from the vegan menu. There was time for a quick photo, then Andreas went back to supervise his team and work his magic. He is very closely involved in everything that goes on in his kitchen, and even still puts every single hot dish on the plate himself.
I was led back to my table, offered a glass of champagne, and the incredibly knowledgeable Miguel discussed the wine-pairing of the evening and my preferences with me, made recommendations, and was very patient in answering all questions, adding an anecdote here and there over the course of the evening. High-end cuisine is a small world, and all the main actors here had worked together in different parts of the world before. Miguel told me about his recollections of a young but extraordinarily talented and ambitious sous-chef called Andreas Krolik some 20 years ago at a different venue.
We decided to pair most of the dishes with a wine, but make sure that each glass was only filled with very little wine, in order to ensure that my senses were still going to be fully enlisted by the time we reached the tenth course. (It turned out early on that Miguel’s understanding of ‘very little’ was a rather generous one, mainly driven by the endeavour to make sure that each glass contained a sufficient amount of wine in order to be able to fully unfold its exquisite flavours.)
Andreas describes his cuisine as contemporary classic, strongly influenced by French and Mediterranean traditions. He is known for his ample use of intensive essences and his focus on extremely high-quality ingredients.
He says he doesn’t want to have people guessing what they are having on their plates, wants his dishes to be easily understood. At the same time, all dishes are highly sophisticated and require an enormous depth and variety of skills to prepare to perfection.
While his focus is on taste, never on wow effect or looks, it is even more amazing how fabulous each dish looks. The Michelin guide inspectors highly commended the presentation of all dishes during their visits.
Andreas, who likes to go on fishing holidays with his family in Norway for two weeks every summer, is also known as one of the leading seafood experts in Germany. The family time out there in the nature is so sacred to him, that he hasn’t yet managed to visit Esben Holmboe Bang’s Maaemo (the Barbarians only made it to Maaemo’s lesser sibling Ekeberg Restaurant earlier this year, post here, but Maaemo is definitely on the list).
Since 2014 Lafleur offers a six-course vegan menu, which is chosen by about one quarter of guests, many of whom like their steak or foie gras on another day. Andreas remains the only German starred chef with a completely vegan menu. It was interesting hearing from him how challenging it was for him initially to make do completely without any animal products, and how it spurned his creativity, also adding to his non-vegan dishes.
The evening started with a small but delightful amuse-bouche of potato miso soup with miso seaweed foam, served with a savoury vegetable praline.
At the same time, two small loaves of bread were served (baked earlier that day at well-known Dottenfelderhof, Bad Vilbel, my favourite was the rye bread with caraway) with French raw milk butter, Sicilian olive oil with an intense peppery and slightly grassy taste, and pink kosher salt from Australia’s Murray River, which has a mysterious and exciting zing, stemming from a mix of trace minerals not found in sea salt, including sulfur, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
And then the first of the ten courses of the evening arrived: char tartare, beetroot tartare, potato ice cream, char fume, apple, horse radish, fish roe, and borscht, elegantly paired with a fruity, minerally 2015 Rudolf Fuerst Riesling pur mineral from Frankonia, which lasted well through the next course, for which it also was a fine match. I was particularly fascinated by the potato ice cream, made from a heritage variety with a full, slightly sweet taste, but all elements of the dish combined very nicely, and the char tartare was the best fish tartare I ever had (and I love my seafood tartare). The two little blobs of borscht below the bits of apple were highly potent and besides adding to the looks, contributed a lot to the overall taste.
I was still pondering the tastes of my first course in my mind, when the second course arrived, Andreas’ first example of a vegan course: lamb’s lettuce, Jerusalem artichoke (the root vegetable stemming from a certain type of sunflower, no relation of the common artichoke), thin slices of garden radish, trevisano, pears in sweet alcoholic pepper sauce, truffled Jerusalem artichoke pear ice cream, and some edible flowers. I have to admit, that while I do not mind a nice side salad with my meat, I never thought of salad as a course in its own right, and certainly nothing to be talked about. However, the explosion of flavours that accompanied this dish was out of this world, and the looks were stunning. Another time Andreas’ ice cream played its magic on me.
Course No. 3 was the first major course and – as it happens – one of the chef’s signature dishes: raw, lightly marinated langoustine, imperial caviar, burrata cheese ice cream, pink grapefruit, chicory, Marcona almond and Salty Fingers, paired with a 2015 Knipser ‘Kalkmergel’ Silvaner trocken, with its minerally, slightly smoky tastes of yellow pear, guava. I was immediately taken in by the langoustine, not just the surprisingly strong and pleasant taste, but also the unusual texture and looks. With regards to imperial caviar, can’t really go wrong with that, and cheese ice cream (burrata is made from mozzarella and cream)? More, please! It was also my first encounter with the slightly bitter, salty taste and crunchy texture of Salty Fingers®, one of the few trademarked raw ingredients frequently used in Michelin-starred cuisine (but rather pricey at £5 for 15g). These little green hollow sticks are a type of tropical edible leaf from a sea bean.
The fourth course was another vegan one: confit egg plant, zucchini and green beans in Piquillo jus with summer savory, olives, and capers, paired with a fabulous 2003 ‘Gaston Hochar’ white from Lebanon’s foremost estate Chateau Musar, who regularly receive top rankings worldwide for their produce. The texture of the green beans, olives, and capers, and the richness of the confit egg plant made a passionate meat lover like myself immediately forget that not only did this dish miss a meat constituent, it was made completely without the use of any animal products. Following a number of documentaries about the food industry, Ms B and I had discussed cutting down on meat many times during the past few years (with some, rather limited, success). Such vegan masterpieces make me think life without animal products can be just as fulfilling as the life of a meat eater (and certainly a whole lot better for the environment and the animals).
The next course (#5) was a large, single, pan-fried, dived scallop with macadamia rice crunch, mussel nage with Ponzu, roll of pointed cabbage, fermented yuzu, roe cream, and shiitake, paired with a 2015 Macon-Verze Domaines Leflaive Chardonnay from the Burgundy region with minerally tastes of caramelised lemon and green apple. I was particularly impressed by the interplay between citric flavours of the Ponzu and fermented yuzu with the seafood components and the hearty taste of cabbage. As expected, the scallop had been prepared to perfection, with just the right texture, and the macadamia rice crunch fit in nicely too.
Course number 6 was a mind-blowingly delicious, large, glazed, braised lamb shoulder with mustard seed jus, Tropea onion marmalade, pumpkin, parmesan gnocchi, and leek pesto, paired with a 1997 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Hauts Doix” from Burgundy, in my view the oenological highlight of the evening. Its taste of bacon fat, acid and fig was an ideal match. Those of you, who regularly read this blog, know that I’m not a huge fan of lamb and usually avoid it, where I can, but I was very pleased that I had followed Mr Krolik’s recommendation and didn’t miss out on this dish, one of the highlights of the evening.
Perhaps the largest, heaviest dish of the evening, it was followed by a tiny, light venison bouillon with venison dumpling and a quail egg yolk, which prepared the setting for my absolute favourite of the evening, another one of Andreas’ signature dishes (course #8): saddle of venison from Hessian hunt, with brioche-rapeseed crust and ravioli from organic goose liver, vinegar plum sauce, carrot, celeriac, boletus, and umeboshi, paired with a 2000 Connetable Talbot Saint-Julien from the Medoc region of the Bordeaux. I adored everything about this dish and my wife keeps telling me that there is no need to talk about it at length at any opportunity, when meeting friends or when at home in London over the weekend. The taste and texture of the meat were pure perfection. I loved how the waiter elegantly poured the sauce over it in a ceremony that lasted some twenty seconds. Umeboshi go so much better with venison than lingonberries. The goose liver raviolo was bursting with flavours and went very well with the porcino.
Obviously, a ten-course dinner has to have two dessert courses, and course number nine was the first dessert of the evening: chestnut, apple, lingonberry and pecan nut with honey and goat’s cream cheese ice cream (the 2nd cheese ice cream of the evening after the burrata one earlier), paired with 7.5% Dr. Loosen 2015 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett dessert wine, the cheapest wine of the evening, coming at a very reasonable €19 in the supermarket, but nonetheless an exquisite match for the fruity dessert.
The final course of the evening consisted of caramelised pineapple, pink grapefruit, sesame chocolate ganache, grapefruit ice cream with coconut and stock of mango and passionfruit, paired with a Hungarian 2008 Disznoko Tokaji dessert wine, made of dried Furmint grapes exposed to botrytis rot.
Tokaji has long been Hungary’s most famous wine region and the national anthem thanks god that he dropped sweet nectar into the vineyards of the region. I was a particular fan of the pina colada sorbet praline. Both dessert dishes were among the best-looking dishes of the evening.
After the last course, it was 10:30pm by now, with just one more petit four to find its way to my table, Andreas Krolik sat down with me to share a glass of wine and talk food. Listening to him telling stories like when he went on a family holiday with his parents as a 15-year old at a nice hotel and ended up spending the whole week working in the kitchen (out of his own volition, to improve his cooking skills), or how his parents, despite being fully employed, ran their own small farm on the side, with him helping out and learning about food, how he paid a visit to the Fat Duck with its edible wall paper while in London and talked food with Heston, listening to these stories was what I became a food blogger for. And the lovely food. Of course.
Towards the end of the evening, Andreas made a remark that stayed with me. He said how he enjoys cooking, because “there is nothing better you can do to your body than enjoying a high-quality meal.”
UPDATE 14.11.2017 – New Michelin Guide Germany confirms Lafleur will continue to hold two stars.