The lavish Adlon hotel is over a century old. This flagship restaurant at the hotel gained a second Michelin star in 2012 under Hendrik Otto, who has been the head chef here since 2010. He previously worked at the Hotel Traube Tonbach in the Black Forest, and was head chef of starred restaurants La Vision in Cologne and Vitrum in Berlin before moving here.
The extensive wine list ranged in price from €29 to €12,000 and had a reasonable range of coverage in terms of countries, with a page of Spanish wines as well as a token Chilean wine to complement the classics of France, plus of course a good selection from Germany. Example wines were St Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett at €69 for a wine that can be found in the high street for €26, Ridge Lytton Springs 2008 at €84 compared to a shop price of €50, and the lovely Jermann Were Dreams 2011 at a quite fair €98 for a wine that retails at €61. At the flashy end of the list, the superb Coche-Dury Rougeots 2009 was €430 for a wine that will set you back €368 in a shop, and Etienne Sauzet Bienvenue Batard Montrachet was €480 for a wine that retails at €341. There was not a great deal of choice below €80.
The restaurant is located on the first floor of the hotel, which itself is within a short distance of the Brandenburg Gate, the iconic symbol of Berlin. The dining room is traditional, with wood panelling, thick carpet and numerous bookcases along the walls. It was free of music, with pleasingly subdued noise levels. Tables along one wall of the dining room have a view out directly over the Brandenburg Gate itself.
There was a range of tasting menu options, in addition to a full à la carte menu. Four courses were €120, eight courses €170. A plate of initial nibbles comprised a crab chip with shrimp salad, a sorbet of green apple, and a little cannelloni of "toast Hawaii" (ham, cheese, cherry and pineapple). This was accompanied by a little dish of smoked eel, unveiled from its cloche at the table. The eel was fine though the smoke slightly overwhelmed the taste of the eel; the other nibbles were pleasant but no more than that (15/20).
Bread rolls were served, for reasons that elude me, on a basket of stones. A thyme roll had good texture, as did a slightly salty pretzel, Caraway seed bread and sourdough were fine (16/20). Marinated deer cured with salt arrived with pickled mushrooms, the venison having good flavour and texture (16/20).
Frozen foie gras came with raspberry, coffee, plum, orange peel, praline of milk mousse and truffle. This was a rather an eccentric mix of flavours, the foie gras frozen into a block and only slowly melting to a consistency that yielded to a fork rather than an ice pick. The pairing with coffee in particular was a peculiar choice, though the fruits at least made some sense to balance the richness of the liver (14/20).
Tails of crayfish were served with a stock made with leeks, celery, shallot, dill and tarragon, along with Pernod pearls and basil. The shellfish were tender and had reasonably good flavour, and the stock worked quite well, the earthiness of the celery in particular balancing the crayfish nicely (15/20).
Fennel was served with a light curry sauce, along with smoked bacon and vinegar, olive, pomegranate, lemon, chickweed, thyme, aubergines and confit tomatoes. This rather odd-sounding combination worked surprisingly well, the bacon in particular lifting the dish, the fennel having good flavour and the lemon bringing some freshness (16/20).
A little barbecue kit was brought to the table, the result being a skewer of pork neck marinated with dill and dark beer, served with a trio of blobs of sauce: corn, sour mustard and barbecue sauce. On the side was a dish of frozen goat cheese and potato. The meat had plenty of flavour, though more of the sauces would have been useful (16/20). I have no idea what the point of the frozen goat cheese was.
Venison from Brandenburg was liberally coated with black pepper, served with a white pepper sauce and a roll of bean, bacon and pear, caramelised apple and beet, a sphere of almond, mushrooms and both broccoli cream and beetroot cream. On the side venison Bolognese came with green salad, sheep cheese and almonds. The deer had good flavour but, much as I like pepper, there was too much of it here. The various accompaniments were fine, though so many flavours became somewhat blurred when considered in totality, and I have no idea what the sheep cheese was doing in this dish (15/20 if I am kind).
Pre-dessert was a grapefruit sorbet with coffee, and a bowl of dry ice with grapefruit flavoured tea purely to add some additional aroma. Fortunately the coffee was restrained enough not to interfere with the refreshing grapefruit (14/20). The main dessert comprised foam of white chocolate, blackberries, lemongrass ice cream, elderberry royale, chocolate cream, and fresh cream with cornflakes. This rather confused dish was finished with a spray of chervil scent with verbena, a truly flawed idea whose smell lingered and dominated the other flavours (13/20 at best), Without the overpowering bouquet of verbena and chervil there would have been a rather over complicated but basically refreshing and sound dessert. Coffee was fine in terms of flavour, though mine was initially delivered lukewarm. This came with a rather unnecessary carrot cake, dried carrots and pear sorbet with apricot sauce, along with a selection of pleasant chocolates.
The bill was a hefty €264 (£207) before service. If you shared a bottle of modest wine and ordered less courses then a typical all in bill might have ben around €210 (£165) a head. Service was disappointing. The opening line was "A glass of champagne: Krug or Dom Perignon?" (a marginally cheaper option at a mere €43 turned out to be available, but only after some interrogation) and continued in similar vein. When our main course approached a waiter wildly overfilled our two glasses with the nearly half bottle of the remaining red wine, and then said hopefully: "So, another bottle?". This increasingly desperate attempt at up-selling was quite grating after a while, as if we were being served by a team of estate agents that had just missed their commission targets. Waiters regularly interrupted our conversation to introduce courses, yet were, and I quote: "Far too busy" to note down a complex dish description that I had trouble hearing, despite the waiter not having to deal with a particularly full dining room. Perhaps he had wine glasses to overfill elsewhere. This was service of a standard far below what anyone might reasonably expect of a restaurant at this elevated price point. Overall, the food at the Adlon was generally quite good though over complicated, but the pushy service was simply irritating.