The setting of Jacobs is a merchant’s house, now a boutique hotel, built in the late 18th century. It is on the banks of the river Elbe in Hamburg, with a shady terrace directly on the river bank. The Elbe is very much a working river, so you are more likely to see a container ship sailing by the window than a picturesque sailboat, but the terrace on a summer’s day was nonetheless an agreeable spot for a drink. The main dining room has a high ceiling, large generously spaced tables and windows overlooking the river. Jacobs was awarded a first Michelin star in 1998, and its second star in 2011, under the guidance of its head chef Thomas Martin. It offered a series of different tasting menus, from €99 to €134 (£115).
The wine list had over 900 wines on offer, including 150 champagnes and 250 German wines. It even had obscure hidden gems such as 1972 Chateau Musar. Wines included the lovely JJ Prum 2002 Spatlese at €85 for a wine that costs around €34 in a shop, Caymus 1997 at €165 for a wine that retails at €94, and Clos St Hune 2004 at €290 for a wine that will set you back €177 in a shop. The sommelier was particularly good, very knowledgeable and friendly. Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and included rolls of rye, white bread and walnut bread, all with good texture (17/20).
A nibble of duck breast was served with a cold sauce of dill, celery, cucumber and apple. The sauce had terrific depth of flavour, and was a clean and neat accompaniment to the duck (18/20). A tartare of beef cornet with crème fraiche had a delicate cornet and lovely rich beef flavour (18/20). Tomato and mozzarella came on a delicate crisp, the tomato flavour very deep (17/20).
The first formal dish of the meal was crab with asparagus, cucumber and cabbage, with dots of herb oil and French dressing. The crab had remarkably good flavour, the dressing showing good classical technique (18/20). This was followed by a poached egg on a macaroni base, with chanterelles, broccoli, ham and celeriac sauce. Again the technique here was of an extremely high standard, the egg’s richness combining well with the earthiness of the lovely celeriac sauce, the superb pasta giving some texture to the dish (easily 18/20).
John Dory came with an intense pressed tomato, a sauce of saffron and bay leaf, tapenade, lemon zest and basil leaves. The fish was carefully cooked, the lemon zest providing some freshness to counter the tapenade, the sauce very well made and avoiding the over-metallic taste that saffron can have (17/20).
Even better was turbot from a large 4kg fish, carved at the tableside and served with beurre blanc, carrots, baby cep and onion. The turbot had magnificent flavour, the beurre blanc had lovely balance, and the flavour of the vegetables was extremely impressive, the mushroom in particular (19/20 may be too mean a score for this dish).
Venison was served with a mash flavoured with ginger, along with cabbage and turnip, with a rich reduction of the cooking juices, with some freshly grated horseradish on the side. The deer was impeccably cooked and had deep flavour, balanced nicely by the root vegetables, the sauce having deep flavour, the horseradish providing some bite (18/20).
A pre-dessert of gin, cucumber and strawberry seemed a bit of an afterthought after all this superb technique, though I find it hard to judge as I am not a fan of gin. A dessert of exotic fruits showed that the pastry section could deliver, with pineapple, honey melon, watermelon, cocoa sorbet and mango and mango and tamarind sorbet. This was a refreshing and prettily presented dish (18/20).
Also lovely was a modern take on cheesecake, prettily presented with lemon yoghurt, lemon ice and calamansi fruit surrounding the central cheesecake, which had a delicate base and excellent flavour (18/20). A large dessert trolley now appeared, bearing a huge array of petit fours and a selection of ice creams. Amongst the choices was an impeccably made financier, a raspberry tart, passion fruit chocolate and a doughnut of which Homer Simpson would most certainly have approved.
Service was absolutely superb, the staff delightful. The bill came to €260 (£225) a head, but that was with plenty of serious wine and a supplementary dish. If you restricted yourself to a modest wine then a more typical bill would be perhaps £140 a head including coffee and service. I thought that this was a superb meal, showcasing very high-grade ingredients and showing strong classical cooking technique, with dishes attractively presented and tasting terrific. There are plenty of worse three star Michelin restaurants than this one, and is yet another example of the high standards of restaurants to be found in Germany. I would return in a heartbeat.