The impressive 5 star Hotel Schloss Bensberg
This is the view that greets you – when you drive up the hill to the beautiful 5 star hotel, Schloss Bensberg. Looking down the hill you can see the skyline of Cologne, a good 20 kilometers away.
The service is as you would expect in a 5 star hotel, the entrance impressive. The hotel holds some 125 rooms, spa facilities – and several bars and restaurants among others the reason for my visit – Restaurant Vendome – 3 star michelin 19,5 point Gault Millau – and is voted top restaurant in Germany by the magazine Feinschmecker and number 22 on the “The worlds best 50 restaurants” by San Pellegrino – you know the one that now holds Noma at number 1.
The rooms are very nice and modern, even the standard rooms a good 35 sqm. I booked via http://www.hrs.de and thus had the breakfast included, which would have come at 28 eur, including all the standard choices of a great breakfast buffet plus individually prepared egg dishes.
The fountain in front of the hotel, looking down towards the gate.
One of the corners of the big square, October showing its pretty face
I shall not give each dish a rating this time….there were simply too many and too many details to even try to remember. But the room is quiet and beautiful. Good distance between the tables – maximum capacity around 40 people. The restaurant was only a third full this evening (!). My friend and I opted for the big Discovery Menu (they come in 3 sizes) – which includes some 20 dishes plus amuses and chocolates.
This single rose made out for the deco on the table, with the menu for the evening presented, it put the bar high for a great evening. To drink we chose a German Mosel Riesling, A German Pinot Noir from Franken – Fürst (The best according to the sommelier who changed my choice – nicely)…and a red Vieux Telegraph. All wines being stunning and taken from a HUGE list (book) of possibilities.
Greetings from the kitchen
These amuses were great, a pure 10p and not too big or many. The eel just exploded in the mouth. The bar was still high and later we both agreed that this was actually one of the highlights of the evening. Bread was offered from a large tray throughout the meal, very good quality.
Deciduous Forest - Vegetable brittle, Joghurt - Dips
I have used the English translations as offered on the Menu, the german saying “Blätterwald”…A funny starter and not more than that. You could taste the idea, each leave having a different “taste/origen” and the corresponding cheese/joghurt dip all different and all matching.
Goose Liver - grilled Amond Milk Cream, Chantarelles
Again the number of details on the plate was enormous…beautiful dish, and very very tasteful. My friend noted a little bitterness towards the end in your palette, something I have tried before with Fois Gras, but whether its intentional or not I cannot say. This came with a piece of roasted Brioche (as it should)…10p in my book.
Sweet Water - Bodensee Cisco, Chicken Broth
This dish as many of the following dishes was served with two sauces poured on the dish at the table, one being the “chicken broth” and the other olive oil (I Think)..Now this might be a good idea for one dish, but when you have seen it 5-6 times in the same menu, you wonder why this is not done in the kitchen….but maybe the sauces stays warmer like this, I mean apart from the show effect there must be a reason….coming to think of it, it could also be to give the guest a glimpse of the dish in two ways. If you read this Mr. Joachim Wissler feel free to come with your input.
Wild Salmon - smoked votive
Again, my memory and poor English does not make it possible for me to remember all the details on the plate, but the savage salmon was cooked perfectly. This is the way all Salmon should be cooked and taste.
Mackerel - Calfs Head, Green Tomato Gazpacho
A beautiful dish, the mackerel being such an overlooked fish. One of my favourite dishes of the evening.
Crabs . Sweetheart Cabbage, Bouchot Mussels Jus
And this was in fact my favourite dish. The jus being just perfect with a slight note of Safran which I love….I could eat this dish every day for the rest of my life and not grow tired of it. After this dish we got a glass of “Country Egg”, matched with browned butter and white truffles from Alba. A heavy autumm dish, very tasty, perhaps too powerful with the egg yolk, but I liked it. Unfortunately no picture of that dish.
Frog Legs - Coriander Peas, Black Garlic
First time I have eaten frog legs in a long time. It will never be a favourite, but mainly thats a thing in my head. The details on the dish…outstanding. It would take me a month or two to prepare a single plate like that.
Sour cucumber - Pumpernickel
The ice being outstanding, the cucumber slices topped with a bitter foam. Meant as a refreshment, it was not the strongest dish of the evening.
Suckling Pig - Lentils, Lovage, Black Pudding
This dish was another highlight for me personally, my friend found it a bit “too easy”, but having most of the dishes somehow influenced by the moleculary kitchen, I particularly enjoyed this bit more basic serving. Basic….well look at the details on the small “tower” in the upper left corner ! The meat melted on your tongue. But our stomachs were starting to fill up……
Back of Deer - Olive Cracknel, Pistacio Cream
Perfectly cooked, back of deer was actually accompanied by the filet and a small piece of the shoulder(?) All tasteful in their way, all perfectly cooked.
Goat Cheese - Mountain Hay, Summer Truffle
A funny combo, Goat cheese and truffle, I think it worked. An explosion in your mouth. But my dinner partner found the goat cheese a bit too dominant.
Buttermilk Cloud - Verveine, Floral sweet sour
The best of the desserts, small beautiful taste….and also…at this point we were full full full.
Cereal - Field
Look at the the details on that plate. Stunning. The taste…..I do not recall…my full stomach using the energy I needed in my brains. The following forest walk worked better for me…
A Walk Through The Forest - In late summer
White Peach - Champagne Lemonade, Marcipan, Ice Mountain
Herbage - Garden Frozen
And this one I gave up on after having tried a bit of it. My body could simply not cope with more food (well except for the couple of sweets that followed…).
Some sweets to finish a great meal....
followed by a "small" selection of chocolates...
Throughout the meal we were greatly entertained by the young staff who were all down too earth, which I love. Miguel Angel was a perfect Maitre and very talkative towards the end of the meal. We had a good discussion about good restaurants around the world. He had among others visited El Bulli a good 14 times..or was it 15 (!). The young sommelier came with good advice and I thank him for that.
You cannot really compare the restaurants at this level – nor say that one is better than the other. You can only say, that the details on the plates, the numbers of tastes on just one plate is out of this world and maybe even some times too much for your brains to understand and digest. I raise my glass to any chef/team who can do this night after night at such a high level, and I salute Joachim Wissler for having such a high level and such a great team, both in the back but also in the service. It does not get any better. I have been disappointed in 2 or 3 star restaurants before, but after this meal there was no such sign of that. Only complaint is that two big guys, did not manage to complete the menu before giving up mentally. It was simply too much. And therefore my comments and the last desserts is also so sparse.
My rating for the this restaurant visit:
Ambience 5p (5) Service 5p (5) Food/Wine 9,5p (10) : Score 19,5 p out of 20.
But my above almost top rating is influenced by the fact that I did not understand all the dishes and that maybe sometimes there was too many directions for an amateur like me on the plate to fully comprehend or fully appreciate. But it is also positively effected by the details and pure beauty off nearly all the dishes. I do not think I have ever seen more details in “one single” menu. Thanks for having us Joachim Wissler. We had a great evening, and hope to be back some other time.