From Bavaria to the Black Forest

Sunday, July 06th , 2014

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In Munich, Dallmayr is a two-star Michelin restaurant located in a department store. I have to say that I struggled to understand its rating, as did a local foodie who I accompanied there. The meal was decent enough, but it was quite expensive for what it was. I felt similarly about the one star Italian restaurant Acquarello, which had some pretty dishes but a very high bill to match.  

I fared much better at Heinz Winkler, where I had two meals on successive nights. This was a restaurant that had three stars when I visited it last, and there were plenty of dishes still at a very strong three star level. Indeed, other than the bread, and perhaps the desserts if I am harsh, essentially everything that we ate was of three star standard, including several dishes that were simply magnificent. It is hard to understand why its third star has not been re-granted (this has happened before on a few occasions in other cases). Whatever its rating, I highly recommend that you go there to try some superb cooking in a glorious alpine setting (its terrace is pictured). It is barely an hour from Munich.

Moving on to the Black Forest, Schwarzwaldstube and Bareiss, both three star establishments, were on excellent form. We stayed at Bareiss this time, which is a lovely hotel at the bottom of a picturesque pine tree-clad valley. The food there is unashamedly classical, based on top quality ingredients and impeccable cooking technique. My meal at Schwarzwaldstube was even better than I remember my prior meals there, and was another fine example of top class culinary technique, in this case backed up by world-class service as well.  

Uberfahrt is the newest three star Michelin restaurant in Germany, located in a hotel in the very pretty lake Tegernsee, south of Munich. I enjoyed my meal here, but for me it seemed well short of “true” three star standard, more of a mid-ranking two star restaurant. I had a similar impression of the last restaurant in Germany that was promoted to three stars, La Belle Epqoue

Indeed the last couple of years have seen a series of three star promotions, only a few of which I really understand. In 2014 the three star places added were Uberfahrt (which I scored 17/20) Kichisen (17/20), Assiette Champenoise (17/20), De Leest (17/20), Sushi Shikon (18/20), Eight (17/20), Bo Innovation (13/20), DiverXO (19/20) and Reale (16/20).  In 2013 the new three stars were Vague d’Or (17/20), Quique Dacosta (16/20), Nakashima (17/20), Azurmendi (20/20), Piazza Duomo (14/20) and La Belle Epoque (17/20). So, out of fifteen new three star restaurants added in the last two years, there are only two that I would regard as “true” three stars, Azurmendi and DiverXO, plus Sushi Shikon, which is certainly as good as most other 3 star sushi places  (I have some difficulty scoring sushi places higher than 18/20 given their somewhat limited intervention with the ingredients). Indeed on several recent visits to new three stars I have enjoyed two-star restaurants nearby more: Crayeres was clearly superior to Assiette Champenoise, Bord’eau was better than De Leest, Heinz Winkler better than Uberfahrt, Chevre d’Or better than Vague d’Or, Jacobs better than Belle Epoque.

I am not sure why this should be. Maybe Michelin feels under pressure to announce new three-star places in order to sell more guides, or at least generate headlines, or perhaps their standards are slipping. Certainly the example of Crayeres v Assiette Champenoise illustrates that even when they decide to anoint a new three star in a given city, they cannot even pick the right one (I am hardly alone in this view). There have always been controversial Michelin decisions, but for me the last two years clutch of picks at the three star level have, in general, been worryingly dubious.        

Anyway, with the visit to Uberfahrt I have been to all 110 three star Michelin restaurants in the world. I first completed this tour in 2004, when there were just 49 such establishments, all in Europe. I caught up again in 2008, by which time Michelin had begun its international expansion to the USA, Japan and China, and again in 2010 and 2012. Now the Michelin three star balance has clearly shifted, with ten USA three stars (9% of the total), seven in China (6%), twenty-eight in Japan (25%) and sixty-five in Europe (60%).  The next Michelin guide is not now due until the end of September, so I can have a little rest over the summer.