The only Michelin starred Italian restaurant in Munich, Acquarello opened in 1994, its chef and owner being Mario Gamba. After his professional training at Hotel Palace in St. Moritz, Mr Gamba worked under Alain Chapel in France and later on for Heinz Winkler at Tantris. Together with Winkler, Mario Gamba opened the restaurant Tristan in Puerto Portals on Majorca, which was awarded two Michelin stars under his management. He worked briefly with the legendary Gaultiero Marchesi in Milan, and then opened Acquarello. In 2000 it was awarded a Michelin Star, which it has retained ever since.
The restaurant is in a smart area of Munich, with an attractive leafy terrace in addition to the main dining room. Around 55 diners can be seated at any one time. Set menus were available at €79 (£64) and €98 (£80), and there was a cheap lunch menu at €49 (£40). The a la carte can work out quite expensive, as we shall see. The wine list was mostly, but not exclusively, Italian. Example wines included Lugana Molin cantina Provenza 2012 at €39 for a wine that you can find in the high street for €13, Planeta Syrah 2006 at €89 compared to a retail price of €29, and La Poja Allegrini 2008 at €139 for a wine that will set you back €68 in a shop. Water was €4.50 for a half litre bottle.
An amuse-bouche of asparagus espuma, served cold, was presented with potato and olives. This was light and quite summery, the asparagus flavour quite concentrated; a pleasant start to the meal (14/20). A pretty starter plate presented an array of nine little pieces of tuna (€31), each topped with a different garnish, alongside a few slivers of broad beans. The variations on the garnishes were: cucumber, red pepper, apple, mustard, chive, pumpkin, salsa verde, lemon mayonnaise and caper. All very elaborate, though the tuna itself was pleasant rather than memorable (14/20). White and green asparagus (€36) was served with sherry foam, poached quail egg and morels. The asparagus itself was of good quality and the morels worked well, but the sherry foam was rather watery (14/20).
The pasta course raised the level by a notch. Potato and wild mushroom ravioli (€26) with parsley foam and morel sauce was not visually appealing, but the morel sauce was quite intense and the potato flavour was good, the pasta tender (16/20). Scampi faggotini (€26) with bergamot foam and Granny Smith relish had good pasta, shellfish with pleasant sweetness, the apple adding some useful acidity (15/20).
Red mullet (€43) was presented in a courgette flower, served on a tomato ragout with peas and a saffron sauce. The fish was nicely cooked, the peas rather lacking in flavour and a touch too hard, while in terms of balance there was a lot of tomato ragout relative to the other dish elements (14/20). Better was Nantais duck (€41) served with mustard sauce, red onion confit and celeriac puree. The duck was served as breast, confit leg and its liver with a raspberry to provide balance. The duck had excellent flavour and the celeriac puree was lovely, with smooth texture and deep flavour (easily 16/20).
For dessert, pineapple carpaccio (€18) with papaya came with a trio of sorbets: passion fruit, raspberry and pineapple. The passion fruit sorbet was a little grainy, the others good, though the pineapple itself was rather lacking in flavour (14/20). Coffee came with disc of orange crisp topped with pistachio, which in practice was rather like eating dry marmalade, and also a chocolate that was dominated by spearmint flavour.
Service was friendly but not particularly well organised. Wine topping up was erratic at best, and there was an unexplained and very long wait at one point between courses. The bill, with a bottle of good but hardly excessive German Riesling, no pre-dinner drinks and a dessert to share, came to €164 (£133) per person before tip. This seemed like an awful lot of money for the standard of food that arrived. The presentation of dishes was attractive, and the food was perfectly pleasant, but at this price level I would hope for something pretty special, and certainly for better service than we experienced. If you went for the set menu and shared a bottle of modest wine then a typical bill would come to around £100 a head all in.