Harald Wohlfahrt in his restaurant Schwarzwaldstube. Photo: DPA.
German cuisine may not be as internationally renowned among gourmands as French fare, but the country still has its share of three-star bistos that can't be missed.
The latest ‘bible' of fine dining, the Michelin Guide, was published for 2017 last week, with Germany overall gaining a record number of stars. All ten of its three-star establishments from last year held onto their places in the top level of ratings, with no new additions.
You won't find any of these places in Berlin, Munich, or Frankfurt, so as Michelin says, visiting them may have to entail “a special journey”.
This eatery is one of two three-star restaurants located in the small Black Forest town of Baiersbronn, which has been called one of the “world's most unexpected restaurant capitals” by the New York Times
Michelin describes the head chef Claus-Peter Lumpp as having “rigour” and a “painstaking attention to detail”, elevating the cooking to “an art form”. A sample menu includes the French classic foie gras as well as roe deer “from the Bareiss hunting grounds”.
The second three-star winner situated in this hidden gem of the fine dining world, Schwarzwaldstube boasts that they offer a “once in a lifetime experience”, and has held onto its three stars over more than 20 years.
The restaurant offers “twists on time-honoured classics” by chef Harald Wohlfahrt, Michelin writes. Their sommelier Stéphane Gass is dubbed a “walking dictionary of wine” by the guide as well.
This Bavarian restaurant in a small town along Lake Tegernsee near the Austrian border offers “sophisticated and rustic cuisine”, inspired by both international and regional dishes.
The head chef Christian Jürgens uses local products, like char from the lake, and the restaurant website describes him as a “pleasure hunter and aroma collector”.
“Jürgens has developed his own expressive style that marries his ideas, his feel for contrasts and combinations and his self-evident culinary craftsmanship to perfection,” Michelin writes. “As you would expect with cuisine of this quality, the restaurant boasts a classy decor and a consummately professional front-of-house team to match.”
This restaurant is the newest to the list of three-star establishments, having only launched in 2015, earning three stars in the same year. Chef Kevin Fehling is also a fresh-faced addition at only 39 years old.
The concept of the restaurant is unique: it consists of one long, winding table that seats just 20 people - so booking a reservation in advance is sure to be competitive. And diners can then watch the chefs as they prepare “international ingredients to perfection before their eyes,” Michelin writes.
5. La Vie, Osnabrück (Lower Saxony)
Situated in the heart of Old Town Osnabrück, La Vie is run led by chef Thomas Bühner - who in fact studied under chef Wohlfahrt from Schwarzwaldstube. He learned from the best.
La Vie aims to be avant-garde and creative, using a low-temperature method of cooking Bühner describes as “take your foot off the gas”. His creations include an octopus dish with kimchi and a wild boar emulsion, or étouffée pigeon with caramelized pumpkin juice.
“A multitude of ingredients, a wealth of aromas and a wide range of preparation methods coupled with artful presentation make his creative cuisine a real pleasure,” Michelin writes of the chef.
6. Aqua, Wolfsburg (Lower Saxony)
This restaurant lies in the heart of Volkswagen country, with its headquarters and the world's largest car plant. Perhaps it's that new car smell that drove up an appetite for fine cuisine, establishing this three-star location in the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
“The modern, creative notes forming an integral part of his expressive and fully flavoured dishes and never seeking to dazzle or dissemble,” Michelin writes of chef Sven Elverfeld. “The elegant service is also beyond reproach.”
7. Vendôme, Bergisch Gladbach (Nordrhein-Westfalen)
Bensberg Palace hotel. Photo: DPA.
Just outside Cologne, this restaurant is a great chance for others in the Rhineland area to sample three-star worthy food. Plus it's located inside a grand castle - Bensberg Palace - that dates back to the 1700s.
Chef Joachim Wissler exemplifies the genre of “new German cuisine”, blending together the classic and modern.
“It is no exaggeration to call Joachim Wissler one of the most creative chefs in Germany. His mastery is apparent in every single dish he makes,” Michelin writes.
This regally decorated venue in a small, southwestern town specializes in classic French cuisine. It first received a star more than 30 years ago and has been holding three stars since 2000. Chef Helmut Thieltges gives the restaurant an at-home feel amid the elegant style with his own family “ever present, help[ing] to create the pleasing atmosphere”, according to Michelin.
“It is the produce that is the star, the undisputed centrepiece of his timeless classic cuisine, beautifully and skilfully presented on the plate.“
Right at the border with both Luxembourg and France, Victor's Fine Dining is run by couple Christian and Yildiz Bau from within a Renaissance castle and hotel. With Christian, the chef, from Baden.Württemberg and Yildiz born in Istanbul, the meals also reflect an international palette of classic Western and Eastern elements, “from Paris to Tokyo”, as the website describes.
That means your multi-course meal could include lobster-claw sushi as well as a French-style duck dish with hazelnuts.
“Christian and Yildiz Bau - a couple of true gourmets - run their restaurant with genuine passion and commitment,” writes Michelin.
Another French cuisine restaurant along the border, GästeHaus Klaus Erfort offers diners the chance to “understand flavours in a new way” and have an “unforgettable taste experience” inside of a white villa. The pleasant ambience also includes a terrace with a view of English-style gardens.
“The floor-to-ceiling windows afford you a glimpse of Klaus Erfort's temple to classic French cuisine even before you enter this wonderful white villa,” Michelin writes. “The food is impeccable and the preparation perfect.”