I spent New Year and the run up to it in Germany and Austria this year and one of the highlights of the visit was experiencing fine dining Bavarian style at Schuhbecks in den Südtiroler Stuben.
This was a Christmas meal courtesy of Ewald and I was delighted to get the chance to compare and contrast Alfons Schuhbeck's one Michelin starred food to that I've sampled in the UK. I found it to be quite different.
This was a fairly lengthy meal, we left almost 4 full hours later, following the 5 course Klassikmenü, not even counting the amuse and pre starter. It being the season for celebration we began with a kir royale and were served some bread, a sliced oblong rye loaf which was far more special than it looked. It was accompanied by butter and 2 dishes of creamed potato with herbs which made an interesting and welcome, if somewhat heavy, alternative to the standard bread and butter offered in most establishments.
The amuse was served on a silver spoon and I was unable to discern exactly what it was. The menu was helpfully in both German and English but, of course, the amuse was not listed. It was some kind of tartare of fish surrounded by a jelly topped with cream and a liberal sprinkling of dill. I recall it being very cold and the spoon upon which it sat was a tad too large for my mouth. It looked very pretty though, the table was immaculate and the room itself (next door to the main building, a smaller and more private wood lined room) was very comfortable.
The pre starter is Schuhbeck's take on a German classic, saure zipfel. This was served in small coffee cups, a dish designed to actually resemble a cappuccino with a layer of foam on the top. It's a sweet and sour soup containing onions and slices of sausage poached in the broth. This was a little too acidic for my palate.
Next up came the starter of beets with horseradish jelly. A very seasonal dish, the earthy winter root seems to lend itself perfectly to starter dishes, I've seen similar offerings on many menus at this time of year. It looked charming and was a delicate start to the feast, fresh flavours and vibrant colours beautifully assembled on the plate. You'll see there was yet more cappuccino like froth on the plate, Schuhbeck well and truly is a convert to the foam fad - case in point see the pasta course later.
Next up, the fail safe combination of seared scallops with pumpkin. This dish really did impress me with the crunchy addition of toasted sunflower seeds and an exhibition of multiple ways with pumpkin, including diced cubes and a creamy sauce (verging on but not quite a foam). These are possibly the best cooked scallops I've ever sampled, the perfect crisp char had been achieved on the top, a considerably accomplished plate of food.
We had been urged to try the Parmesan pasta dish and in selecting the klassikmenü we had to ask for this course to substitute the advertised dish. They were incredibly obliging about this. The truffle linguine is served with Parmesan foam (eek) and Italian vegetables. So, yes, it's another foam, but slightly more substantial than the average and extravagantly infused and scattered with truffle, more like a sauce really. This was a comforting dish with strong umami flavours, lightened by the tomato and courgette.
One of the best dishes of the night (favoured by everyone) was the beef main course. This, again was very elegantly plated up, was a fine amalgamation of colours and ingredients, root vegetables, a rich gravy and perfectly cooked beef, 2 ways. The fillet was buttery soft and underneath it lay a piece of braised beef which was deliciously tender. This was served alongside some potato croquettas and a creamed spinach, great variations of texture.
The next course was the cheese, interestingly served prior to dessert not following it as it is in England mostly. It was a miniature raclette, melted cheese served over boiled sliced potatoes, sprinkled with chives and crispy onions, a dish common in regions of Germany, France and Switzerland come winter time. There was a piece of goats cheese and some wisps of bitter lettuce to cut through the creaminess. More of the warm rye bread was generously served and this dish is a typical example of Schuhbeck's traditional and comforting style of cooking. I adore raclette.
I was beginning to feel more than a little full by this stage and for once was very pleased for the delay between courses. During other pauses the waiting times were a tad too lengthy in truth and we all felt the whole process was a shade too prolonged. When the dessert did eventually show up I was surprised to see it was a somewhat souped up version of an arctic roll! Named Kaiserschmarrn it was served alongside a spun sugar basket filled with quince sauce and chunks of the fruit. Testament to the home cooked nature of this style of cooking it was topped with squirty cream and a kumquat. I love trying this type of dish, it's one with which all Bavarians are seemingly familiar and they think fondly of it. I wanted to love it but it felt much less sophisticated and skillfully put together than the courses which had proceeded it.
I think it's the attention to detail that impresses most diners here, for example, the creamed potato served with the bread, and, as reported here one dish sees potatoes delicately fashioned into the shape of cous cous. The service was impeccable and the sommelier was a fountain of knowledge giving helpful recommendations and demonstrating a rather spectacular way of decanting and pouring the wine which had us all riveted. We chose a quite stunning Gewürztraminer to accompany the fish and pasta and were well guided as to which red would best complement the beef, the name of which I forget.
Perhaps the one thing which disappointed me was the petit fours. Given the extra lengths Schuhbeck's staff and chefs often go to in order to satisfy diners I had high hopes. They were all fairly solid and dry, I was too full by this stage anyhow.
What made up for this was the presentation of a bag containing some spice mix samples to each lady in the group as we left the restaurant. Schuhbeck also runs a spice emporium and a cookery school, Munich's answer to Rick Stein if you will.
This is perhaps not a destination of choice for those seeking cutting edge dining but it is a fine example of proving that German food is not only about sausages and beer, there is a lot more to Bavarian cuisine than you might think, though I am partial to the beer and sausages too of course!
Schuhbecks in den Südtiroler Stuben
80331 München, Germany
Thanks again to Ewald for such a great Christmas meal and to Benj for the images!