Auberge de l'Ill

2 Rue de Colonges, Illhaeusern, France

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Chef interview

Marc Haeberlin is head chef of the Auberge de l'Ill, one of the prettiest three-star restaurants, on the bank of a river in a village in Alsace.

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This would get my vote as the prettiest setting for any restaurant. Nestling on a bank of the river Ill, just by a bridge and overlooking some of the lovely old buildings of this picturesque village.  Guests sit out in the open for drinks and coffee under the weeping willows, which is a truly enchanting experience. There are now rooms here also, which are fine if costly. Sadly the Auberge has hit that all too common decline that afflicts a lot of three star places after a time. We had a distinct sense of being processed, and our most recent meal (June 2002) was a sad decline from our previous visit six years earlier. Here are notes on the most recent meal.

The first warning sign was when they were completely unable to deal with my request for a glass of dessert wine with my foie gras starter (hardly a bizarre idea in France). I ordered a half bottle at the start of the meal but only the main white wine arrived. When I pointed this out the waitress went off to confer and eventually turned up with the wine, then offered some to my wife (who was having a different starter) and then forgot to pour my wife's wine altogether.  In general they seemed slightly understaffed and a little harried throughout. Bread was a simple white roll or a similar one with poppy seeds; this was under-salted and really not that good (14/20). Amuse-bouche consisted of a little quiche Lorraine with light pastry (19/20) a tuile with pistachio (15/20) and a sliver of toast with herring and onion (15/20), so overall maybe 17/20 for the amuse-bouches.

My starter was one of the specialities of the place, a goose foie gras terrine with truffle. This took simplicity in presentation to a new level, with just three slabs of roughly served pate and a slice of brioche. The terrine was fine with a rough texture and certainly had some truffles, but this was really only 16/20. My wife had red mullet with three nicely cooked langoustines each resting on a slice of artichoke. The mullet was timed well but was a pale imitation of the fine mullet we had just eaten in Germany, and was topped with a spoonful of artichoke puree with pepper. There was also a simple side salad with French dressing, topped with artichoke crisps (17/20).

The main course was shared, and had wild turbot filleted at the table and presented in a pool of remarkably dull, watery red pepper sauce, plus a half pepper hollowed out and filled with chewy squid and some finely chopped Mediterranean vegetables, garnished with a sprig of Rosemary. I would mark the sauce as about 11/20, the fish as perhaps 16/20, correctly cooked but having no great flavour. The vegetables were the best element of the dish, which was overall again very weak for food at these prices.

Cheese was also below par, by no means all in perfect condition; they even made the unforgivable error of putting out an unripe Munster, here in the heart of Alsace, with the village of Munster just a few miles down the road. The only element of the meal that was above 1 star level was an old classic here, the crepes with griottes. At this time of year the cherries in France are stunning, and here they were cooked in a crepe filled with crème vanille, which is flambéed in Cherry brandy at the table (a bit of a cliché but it works here) and served with some additional cherries.  This was cooked perfectly and had great cherries (20/20). Coffee then reverted to the barely 1 star level that was the feature of this meal, with a few modest petit fours. Overall, a sad reflection of former glories, which we experienced in 1996 (they used to have a pet stork but even that is no more – maybe it has gone in search of better food).

Further reviews: 14th Jun 2018 | 23rd Oct 2015 | 23rd Jun 1996

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User comments

  • Lawrence Coon

    My wife and I have been to many many Michelin star restaurants this has to be the worst. Not only did they not give us the table we requested they were visibly disturbed that we did not want an appertiff outside. Our table was terrible then they moved us to a one that was worse. The food marginal at best and the main course piegon was raw just horrible. Never go back.

  • Dan

    I was here for my birthday less than a month ago. I am no culinary expert so I enjoyed reading the expert review above, but at the very least I must say that the service seemed perfect. If anything, they seemed over-staffed; we, a group of 3, were served by 3 waiters plus the sommelier. There were always staff present to attend to us and without the level of snobbery one might find at some of these restaurants. And meeting the chef was a nice treat as well. I must admit, the fish was nothing spectacular and the pastries the same. But aside from that, it was mostly quite good indeed. And the small birthday cake they gave me was delicious. I wouldn't call this place good value, but at least for someone who doesn't live too far away, it was most certainly worth the trip.

  • Stefan

    Bad bad worst! Terrible to say that when you spent a small fortune on a meal and went to a restaurant you have been looking forward to go to for a long time. We ordered Le Menu Haberlin from the main menu and got something completely different 3 of seven meals was the same as we ordered. The waiters were sloppy and tired old men. They just threw the plate at us, the garnish was not presented as it was meant to be, it hardly stayed on the plate. They must had the worst day of there life that day. Not even close to one star. The sommelier and the cheese guy was very nice. But that don´t make a three star restaurant. We were there October 07 so hopefully it´s better now! I´ts to easy to get and keep stars in southern Europe..... I could name 10 more things that was terrible that day but above is enough.

  • David Tymm

    Visited here in June on the hottest night of the year in June when the air-conditioning had broken. No matter; fabulous jaw-droppingly good food and quite superb service. We explained to the Sommelier that we were two blokes on a motorbike trip and were not planning to the plunder the fabulous wine list as I'm sure many visitors do. He obliged by suggesting a couple of bottles substantially less expensive than the ones I had chosen. At the end of the meal as the temperature began to soar, I asked if he knew what a "Cleansing Ale" was, he winked and said "Of course, I'll bring you one out on the terrace". I've been to many "starred" places but this must be the friendliest. The tasting menu + drinks worked out about £175 each. A lot of money yes but we left thinking that - all in all - it is actually really good value for money.

  • Tariq Khan

    Andy I think you caught them on a bad day. We have been to the restaurant 5 times between 2005-2007. It has been a wonderful experience everytime. The service has been warm & they do seem to have a lot of repeat guests. They expanded the restaurant last year so there is much more capacity. The location and ambiance is still just as special. A word on the attached hotel. Yes it is a little pricey but the attentiveness & warmth of the staff more than make up for this. The hotel is run by the son-in-law of the restaurant owner - he is an absolute gentleman.