£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. Well, whereas many German foodies know this place I guess not that many have been there due to the somehow remote location about 90 minutes from Stuttgart.
Situated in a former post station* in Rosenberg the Adler was sold to the church in near Ellwangen in 1468 and belongs to the Bauer family since 1858. Josef Bauer took over the Landgasthof in 1972 and renovated the Adler step-by-step now exactly signaling the marriage of traditionalism and modernism.
After parking the car (hard to reach with public transportation) next to the Linde tree in front of the house (planted in 1877) one enters a special world as immediately after stepping in one is exposed to a rather modern room in pure white to the left. Then an old stairway reminds you again of the rather old building. One level up bright colours spring to your eye as the hall has been painted mostly in green in combination with blue which is continued in the first dining room (Professor Alfred Lutz’ handwriting, a local designer). Note that there is no tablecloth on the white lacquer tables – I still somehow struggle with that. But in a sense it is pure and straightforward (like the cuisine).
There is a second dining room in pure white with black Bauhaus chairs (with tablecloth) mostly used on busy weekends.
To be honest the Landgasthof is actually two restaurants in one as the menu includes both regional specialties (like Schwäbischer Rostbraten, braised roastbeef served with onions, Spätzle and the like) and, yes, gourmet cuisine also with a regional touch in terms of products. For a lunch on a typical Sunday you have local pensioners enjoying their Rostbraten and others indulging in a multi-course menu. This mix together with a special warm-hearty service in a truly unique interior makes the Adler so special. Every bit seems natural – the usual tata of fine dining places is just not present.
Back to our menu: whereas I had the feeling that the surprise menu became repetitive I was eating a la carte on my last meals there. But after some time I asked Mrs Bauer (who heads the service brigade) what the four course menu (€58!) would have in stock for us – I heard about new dishes and we followed her suggestion.
Amuses are always traditional – we once had a curry wurst made of zander served on leek. This time Bauer started with a liver dumpling in intense beef broth – simple, delicious, meaty and just very good. Second, lentils with Wiener and Spätzle (Linsen mit Saitenwürschtle – to be very precise) – maybe the best interpretation of this classic I have had so far. The lentils were a bit al dente, yet creamy and formed nice textural contrast to the Wiener whose casing had exactly the right strength (firm – “knackig” if you want). The Spätzle had some roasted breadcrumbs on top which added depth. Everything homemade, of course, a benchmark dish for this region.
First course: aspic of foie gras with pig’s feet and green asparagus. I am not a big fan of aspic but this one clearly demonstrated that the aspic can be useful indeed. The creamy, slightly sweet and rich foie gras (masterly prepared as a terrine from a very good produce) formed a wonderful accord with the rustic pigs feet. The aspic was there just in the right dimension not to let the pigs feet dominate the foie. This accord was supported by a small slices of bacon wrapped around the aspic and the terrine. On top of that accord the asparagus widened the flavour spectrum by adding herbal and fresh notes. Interestingly, the small salad of beet root leaves had a significant textural effect without which the dish would have been incomplete. Intelligent, yummy and excellent.
The second course was clearly the star of the night: tomato – tomato – tomato. When we ordered I was a bit disappointed that Bauer’s vegetable salad (a homage to Bras) was not on the menu any more. Mrs Bauer assured me that I simply had to wait for the tomato. This was simply fantastic and maybe the most intense tomato interpretation I have eaten so far (have only seen Amador’s tomato salad once which he served for some middle east guests…). Poor cod – impeccably prepared, juicy and crispy at the same time – he simply did not receive the attention he would normally deserve. Interestingly, the fish was the neutral element which was needed from time to time to clear your palate while degustating this wonderful dish.
The main plate consisted of red and yellow rather sweet cherry tomatoes, large red and yellow flesh tomatoes and some red vine tomatoes topped with a salad of wild herbs, some pesto and tomato air. A part there was a warm gazpacho-like tomato soup with basil and a white and red tomato mousse. Every element served a distinct purpose of accelerating your palate (the intense, slightly hot soup), slowing it down (the mousse) and demonstrating the full array of tomato aroma on the main plate. Again, the salad provided a bit of crunch. A very clever, refined dish made of the very best tomatoes both from local and Italian producers – outstanding. Even after one week this dish is still on my mind…
Our main course was duck with celery and chantarelle risotto. At first this looks somehow disappointing, especially after the tomato parade. But, the surprising element was the celery – it was cooked al dente and then layered like a mille-feuille and thus preserved its al dente texture paired with depth. Really good and a very intense celery aroma. The duck itself was cooked sous-vide I suppose and then carefully roasted, again the flavour of the product was king. Bauer is famous for his almost liquid truffled potato puree but this risotto came close. Very good to excellent.
A small pre-dessert: a hot mango pudding – wow, excellent.
Dessert: hazelnut soufflé with berries and elderflavour ice cream. Again, it was the flavour intensity of the berries in a bath of campagne and elder which caught my breath – just an excellent dessert.
It’s only 1* cuisine but has been awarded 18 points – and, indeed, I see the overall experience on the upper level of 1*. The products (and their flavours) were astonishingly good, the dishes are clearly composed without any unnecessary elements. The tomato dish – as the earlier vegetable salad dish – evoked emotions and I felt like having never eaten real tomatoes so far. Simply amazing and touching.
So, this is by far the best restaurant in a 90 minutes radius from Stuttgart and worth any trip when in this area. Maybe it is not worth coming to Germany only for this gem, but it makes a good addition when travelling in the south. The whole experience, interior and the informal, family-like service makes this so special.
In a way, when reading the Sportsman reviews of my friends (here, here and here) I have the feeling that the Adler is somehow similar in approach, atmosphere, product-quality, obsession of the chef and surprising combinations… Could be a German Sportsman…
Can’t wait to be back!
* Historically the first taverns (Gasthäuser) were located in post stations where the post horsemen changed horses, could receive a hearty meal (and some drinks) and take shelter at night.