Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 30 May 2011

“It was a hot summers night and the beach was burning“….except we dont have beaches in Luxembourg and the calendar only red 30 May. But a warm 30 degrees when driving into town around 6 pm. Pre-dinner glassse of rosê and then of to Restaurant Clairefontaine, which you all know by know is my favourite spot in Luxembourg.

On this warm  night we were in for a “standard” treat – however, on the high end of the scale – impecable food and wine, great service and attention from all staff. May I add great bread.

The first amuse, balls stuffed with tuna mash were “sold” to the boys as being round chicken nuggets. Magic – they asked for extra – and even thirds – but that request from Oscar was halted by yours truly.

As always when possible Arnaud arrange for us to have the seperate room, Didier always arranges some pillows in the corner. So as soon as we entered the room the boys threw themselves on the pillows and turned on their Nintendos. However, we insist that they come to the table when food arrives and remain their until the plate is finished. Emil is an easy customer. He finished his plate of pasta and beef with nothing left. Oscar was more pre-cautious in his exitement of food as always. My favourite food is Pizza Margharita is what he normally states.

The table…

The boys…

Where is my pasta.....

Oscar ! this is not how I taught you to eat bread in restaurants....

Actually we had good fun before the food arrived, the boys producing funny faces en masse for the camera…

Second round of amuses...

Eminence of King Crab - Astrids starter....

Different presentations of Salmon, a beauty on the plate.

Baby Saint Pierre, with beautiful Southern France inspired vegs and aioli...

Slowly ccoked Jarret de veau with leek

As the missus proclaimed afterwards….this is the best meal I have had in a long time. “She took the words right out of my mouth”…My main dish was certainly way up there among the best. Loved it Arnaud. We chose a “simple* Rully 1. cru from Jacqueson – 2008. Great great simple wine. I recently had this wine in Bourgogne together with good friend Uffe, Kjetil and Frode and was happy to re-visit this producer.

So the great thing about being regulars in a place like Clairefontaine is you feel at home, you feel the warmth from the staff, you know what to expect and you are seldom let down, and if there are complaints, you know you can deliver them to Didier or Arnaud himself, and they will be treated with respect and understanding. I give the ambience 5 today. It really is a privelege to have your own room dining with two boys. Not that they cant sit still, its just so more relaxed for the parents. Add the fact that all staff constantly jokes with the boys and in general are interested in their well-being – well, what more do you want as a gourmet dining parent.

So before you spend/waste a good 50 or 80 eur per person on a mediocre meal in Luxembourg – please do visit Clairefontaine, tell them I send you. Our meal today for 4 clocked in at 189 eur. Love you guys – Edwige, Arnaud, Didier and Sebastien – you made us a great couple of hours – again.

My rating for this visit: Food 8.5p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 5 (5), total score for this visit  18.5p (20)

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Summer’s here and the time is right….

for some light cooking.

Saw Jamie cook this one on the telly the other day…and I decided to make it a starter for the guests we had yesterday evening. It served 4 easily and apparently all was very happy with it. I opted for smoked wild salmon, I prefer the texture in compare to the farmed salmon I can get around these neck of the woods.

Potato salad with smoked salmon and horseradish crème fraiche….

Heres a link to his home page with the recipe – copy paste….its wonderful

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fish-recipes/potato-salad-with-smoked-salmon-hors

Thanks again Jamie for making some easy to cook stunning recipes….

Restaurant Vendome, Schloss Bensberg, Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany – October 2010

 

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.

 

Beauty simplified

 

 

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...

 

Conclusion

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.

Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 20 July 2010

Whenever Bruce has been on tour, some of my best shows has often been the two-nighters. The second night being always even better than the first night. As  mentioned in my last post, I was generously invited by Arnaud Magnier to come back the day after to taste his go at a Paella. I guess one would call it Paella Revisited.  So this was a the second “show” in two days, and as with Bruce, Arnaud managed to also score higher on the second date.

I brought both the boys, they behaved to the liking of their daddy, even without the Nintendo, though Oscar had to borrow my I-phone towards the end of meal.

Oscar....

and Emil...

The service being as good as it gets. Alex, the Spanish waiter (Yes – he´s from Barcelona – but apart from that no compare to Manuel from Fawlty Towers) – even accompanied Emil to the toilet, while I could continue eating.…nice touch Alex, thanks.

From the right, Zucchini creme, Consome and beef with pasta...

Marinated saumon with tartare of saumon...

Beautiful, both the arrangement, almost like eating a huge flower…but also the delicate taste, Salmon as good as it gets. 9,5p

The Paella a la Arnauld

Looks slightly different than mine. The taste was wonderful, rich of safran (I love safran)…the salad basket on top was filled with delicate flesh of roasted red peppers and calamares. Absoutely lovely. 9p

I asked for a bottle of white, gave some suggestions…but got something else….a white Roussilion I think,-  almost finished the bottle. Must have been a nice one. The reason for neglicting my own wine ideas turned out to be – I was invited. And that was the response I got when asking for the bill. I like that. Arnaud was busy, but one big smile when I passed the kitchen to say thank you. I repeat it here gladly. Thank you to Arnaud and his team. I wont be back today, but soon.

My rating for this visit:

My rating for this visit: Food 9 (10), Ambience 4,5 (5) and service 5 (5)  Total score 18,5 (20)

Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 30 June 2008

Chef: Arnaud Magnier, Voted best chef in Luxembourg by Gault et Millau in 2005. Michelin rating: 1 star, Gault et Millau rating: 18 points.

This lunch was planned out of the blue since my wife had a day off and Oscar didnt feel like attending Kindergarten today. And we had wanted for a long time to bring him here for lunch to test how that would work since he is normally NOT that good in sitting any longer than 2 minutes at the table. And besides – the weather screamed for terrasse dining.

The restaurant has been a favourite of mine for the last 5 years both for business and private lunches and dinners.

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The missus and Oscar at the table at Clairefontaines beautiful terrasse.

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The service and attention I (- and to the best of my knowledge also other visitors) get is probably the best in Luxembourg and the food is very good presented with what I would consider bigger than average portions for this type of gastronomic restaurant. I recently referred an American group of tourists I met in another Restaurant in Luxembourg to Clairefontaine and upon their return to the States, they kindly sent me a really nice mail, stating that the food and service at Clairefontaine was indeed the gastronomic highlight of their European tour and warmly thanked me for this recommendation.

The wine list should satisfy all clients with open wines around 9 EUR per Glass and bottles from 25 EUR and up up up……

With a huge numbers of white Burgundies to choose from – it was easy pleasing my wife and the one Chassagne-Montrachet I spotted was then confirmed as a very good choice by the sommelier Samuel.

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Remi Jobard-Chabloz, “Les Charrieres” 2004.

After a little while in the glass I asked Samuel to decanter the wine since it was still very closed and green. And that helped the wine to finally open up and reveal the force of this village, the minerals and complexity. However, it remained still a surpricingly very “green” chardonnay, almost too young for my taste and I like to drink all wines what most people would consider too young.

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Clairefontaine serves a small menu of the day for lunch as well as two bigger menus both mid-day and evening. But today we went for a la carte since we only wanted a starter and a main course.

We were as always greeted warmly with a smile by the staff and the hosts Edwige and Arnauld and treated to the appetizer which at Clairefontaine always consist of 3 small tastings on one plate.

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 From the right A cold creamy soup of Salmon, in the middle Mashed potatoes with mussels and a beautiful reduction and to the left a Risotto with a roasted piece of sot-l´y-laisse 10p

The risotto was so deliscious that I almost asked for a re-fill……

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For starters we opted for

Le saomon d’Ecosse “Label Rouge” en 2 cuissons, des pommes de terre façon Roësti et crème aigrelette au caviar d’Aquitaine 8p –

and

Une déclinaison d’un thon rouge, mini poivron confit et farci, sushi de légumes maison, tartare et carpaccio au pistou 9p

The highlight of these two dishes was the tartare of tuna which was to die for.

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At the same time Oscar was treated to a

Roasted Filet of veal with a risotto. Dont take his look to serious. He liked it he claimed and was just busy being a big boy behaving to the liking of his proud parents.

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Our main dishes…

Les filets de rougets petits bâteaux cuit à l’unilatéral, des supions farcis et légumes aux senteurs ensoleillées, un milk-shake de concombre et chèvre frais 9p

and

Le homard Breton rôti entier puis décortiqué, purée crémeuse et palets confits de céleri, le jus d’un rôti de viande à la truffe mélanospurum 10p

I love lobster and the above confirmed that. A generous whole lobster served with a fantastic reduction. The Filets de rougets had a nice Provence vibe to it. The tomato flan and the cucumber shake made the whole dish scream “SUMMER AND SUN”…..

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There has been a few visits where the food although tasty has lacked a little in presentation, but I think today was “back to form” for Arnauld and his kitchen staff. The ambience both inside and outside is “As good as it gets” in my book. Didier the Maitre de Hotel makes sure your visit is always met with the same high standard. I consider Didier among the best of his kind in Luxembourg. Always warm and friendly with an eye on every table.

Finally to round this up, while the missus sipped her coffee and I had to find 226,- EUR- a few pictures to get you in the mood if not already……

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Samuel story telling “Ratatoullie” in French for Oscar….

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Didier at the entrance to the inside of the restaurant

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The restaurant from the inside….

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Thanks dear friends for a lovely lunch…..one of the best I have had in a long time.

My rating for this visit: Ambience 5,0 (5) Service 5,0 (5) Food/Wine 9 (10) : Score 19 out of 20.

Schloss Berg, Nennig Germany – 20 March 2008

Chef: Christian Bau, Germany´s youngest 3 star chef. Michelin rating: 3 stars, Millaud rating: 18 points

Menu Decouverte at 168 Euro, corresponding Wine Menu apxm. 100 Eur.

A faboulous lunch that was planned shortly before it took place. It was the first time I settled for their “Menu Decouverte” and my 5th visit to this nice restaurant. Schloss Berg is at this point one of my favourite dining places and the attentive service is just what I am looking for. Respectful but not snobby, and a good distance between the tables and a nice quiet vibe to it.

It was a quiet lunch, so I was entertained and discussing the food, the wines and the world with the staff.

I settled for the wine menu for the first time here and was not disappointed even though it was a bit heavy on the whites, and furthermore sweet whites – than I would have chosen myself. I had 8 different wines, and one or two was refilled complimentary, as each wine was later billed per wine. All in all I paid 158 euro for the Menu (since I left out the cheese the price was reduced) – and the 8 wines clocked in at around 90 euro.

When I arrived, I was warmly greeted by the friendly staff on this cold day, and I bursted out…”Please spoil me today…”.

So how did I spend these 3 hours of my life….I shall tell you.

First let me tell you about the settings…..The restaurant is situated in the historic building of the Schloss Berg Complex which furthermore consist of a casino and a nice hotel overlooking the Mosel River and the villages below. Walking through the hall you will find a nice chesterfield-like sofa, where you can enjoy your drink or later the cognac. The restaurant is then a few steps down, with a celler/castle feeling to it, with partly wooden ceiling. The restaurant is very small with only room for apxm. 30 guests.

As mentioned above, I asked for wines per the glass / wine menu however, with the small edge to it that I wanted to try them all blind.

And to go with the amuse I was served the following wine …….

2007 Weissburgunder Kabinett trocken Mosbacher, Pfalz

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The amuse……Beef tartare with eal creme and eggs of heering, dried filet of tomato on a millefeulle, and king macrel on pesto, topped with a small rattatoulie. Roasted almonds, pastry filled with a creme of chorizo and thin bread sticks wrapped in thin lardon 8p

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Another small greeting from the kitchen……Flan of chicken liver with pieces of braised Chicken liver and truffles. Topped with a foam of Parmesan, but I uncovered the dish in order to get a good shot of the inside….10p – Wine 2005 Pündericher Marienburg “Noar” Riesling Spätlese, Clemens Busch, Mosel

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A second greeting from the kitchen, variation of Salmon….. ( I started the plate, thus the fork and knife on the plate….) 8p

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First Dish of the menu, Crab and St. Jacques with fruits of citrus 9p

 

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Fois Gras from Alsace, with Jabugo ham and spoon of iced Fois Gras creme 10p – Wine 2004 Juracon “Clos Uroulat”, Charles Hours, Sud-Ouest

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Bluefin Tuna and Tatare of Lobster 9,5 – Wine 2006 Sancerre “La Moussiere”, Dom. Alphonse Mellot, Loire

 

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Best dish of the day – Coated Langoustine with asparagus, morilles and beans 10p – Wine 2004 Sa Vall Seleccio Privado, M. Gelabert, Mallorca

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Sole with Sauce Mousseline with Gillerdeau Oyster 8,5p -Wine 2004 Meursault “Narvaux”, Dom. Philippe Chavy, Bourgogne

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Refreshment of Sake / Wasabi / Appel 8p – no picture – sorry

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Roasted Limousine Lamb and a touch of Provence 9p – Wine 2003 Saint Joseph, Chateau de Saint Cosme, Rhone

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Crumble with Rhubarb compot Almond milk, Mascarpone-Rhubarb sorbet 9p

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Chocolate and passionfruit, Canache of Valrhona Café-Couverture, Ice cream of Cocoa beans 10p – Wine 2003 Orange Muscat “Essensia”, Quady Winery, California

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Small plate of sweets….

The highlights for me was the Flan of chicken liver, the Langoustines with the asparagus was to die for, the lamb accompanied by my favourite small beans in a mediterranean style, Im a sucker for Rhubarb and the serving was a beauty. You can never go wrong with chocolat and passion fruit with me. Small let downs was the salmon. I am very tired of salmon, though the sashimi to the left did its best to convince me otherwise. And I found the oyster flavour to dominant in the sauce Mousseline. Its needless to say that all servings where cooked perfectly. The sole extraordinary juicy.

I want to thank all the staff for making this again a very memorable experience. I shall be back soon.

My rating for this visit: Ambience 4,5 p (5) Service 5p (5) Food/Wine 9,5p  (10) : Score 19 out of 20.