One summer in Germany, living a #Travelife, we drove deep into the Black Forest to stay at the famous Traube Tonbach and to have dinner at its equally famous Michelin three-star restaurant Schwarzwaldstube. The legendary Schwarzwaldstube was considered by many to be Germany’s best restaurant. Unfortunately, this restaurants burned down last January. So all I can do is write about my memories.
THREE MICHELIN STARS AT SCHWARZWALDSTUBE
There are a handful of Michelin three-star restaurants in Germany, of course, but Schwarzwaldstube enjoyed this accolade of three stars for over 25 years in a row — until it burned down.
This was certainly no mean feat — to undertake for this long a level of culinary excellence worthy of the three stars dished out by pretty unforgiving Michelin restaurant inspectors. Schwarzaldstube did this four whole days a week, as it was open from Wednesday to Saturday, for lunch and dinner.
As one very serious German foodie says: “Schwarzwaldstube was not some flash in the pan, unlike some restaurants that might rise so high so suddenly, stay a few years and then drop down to earth. For a chef to stay in the heavens for 25 years takes a talent close to genius.”
Snagging a dinner reservation here typically takes about one year in terms of waiting time. However I was told that lunch reservations are easier to get so if you have a trip to the Black Forest planned sometime and are unable to get a table for dinner at Schwarzwaldstube, you might try lunch especially as the views from this restaurant are just wonderful in the daytime.
As for us, we were lucky to have some well-connected friends who got us the best table in the restaurant for dinner at short notice.
It was so lovely to look outside if you were having lunch, and then equally lovely to look inside at this pretty fantastically decorated restaurant if you were having dinner. It had very heavy ornate woodwork, glittering chandeliers and unique details like fancy figurines that somehow looked so at home in this magical setting of the Black Forest.
STAYING AT TRAUBE TONBACH
The other nice thing about having a meal at Schwarzwaldstube was that you could stay over Traube Tonbach, the hotel that housed it and that was in the same family for eight generations, since 1789.
The current owners of Schwarzwaldstube are a really nice and hardworking family over two generations, and we were lucky to meet them in the course of our stay, dining in two of their restaurants.
Traube Tonbach has its original traditional wing and the new and very modern wing. It’s only the area of the famous restaurant that burned down.
We chose to stay in the corner suite of the new wing as this is adjacent to the restaurant itself via an enclosed glass corridor. So diners saying over at Traube Tonbach can dress up nicely for their meal as Schwarzwaldstube was the kind of restaurant you could dress up for if you so wished. Furthermore, you did not need to expose yourself to the elements by walking outside.
Yes, at Schwarzwaldstube, you could dress up or dress casually, and neither would have looked terribly out of place. However I personally thought that guests needed to look very chic if they were doing casual, as many of the other guests were in semi-long dresses and had obviously brought a piece or two from the family jewels.
ABOUT CHEF HARALD WOHLFAHRT
Every table was booked on our evening there and we were lucky to get the best table in the house at Schwarzwaldstube. This was the only corner table for four that offered panoramic views of the Black Forest outside along with an equally panoramic view of the intrinsically decorated restaurant inside.
When we dined here, Chef Harald Wohlfahrt, who was with the Schwarzwaldstube for over 40 years, was still running the kitchen. How lucky we were to taste his three-star cooking. Under his rigid watch, Schwarzwaldstube kept its long-running three-star status.
He created beautiful classic dishes with a modern twist and a very controlled hand. It was very much traditional cooking with a touch of nouvelle cuisine to me, rather than the experimental blow-me-away dining experience so in vogue in some other top restaurants.
So guests sat through a four- or five-hour meal here and really felt like they had eaten — and eaten well. It’s not like at some other famous restaurants where you feel you’ve just sat through some kind of food experiment.
On the evening we dined, there were three degustation courses at Schwarzwaldstube: a six-course meal, an eight-course meal and a vegetarian course. There was also an a la carte menu. Happily, in spite of the fancy surroundings, they were pretty relaxed about the menus.
So you could actually choose one of the degustation courses and then mix-and-match dishes from the other menus or from the a la carte menu. This meant basically ending up with your own custom-made degustation menu exactly as you wanted it.
A MEAL TO REMEMBER
Apart from the usual amuse bouche and appetizers, I had two courses of fish and then lamb as a main course. This was followed by a cheese plate and a chocolate dessert. Everything was just wonderful, and we had our meal with some local wines the sommelier recommended, plus a bottle of Hermitage of quite a rare vintage that we’d specifically brought with us from Asia for the meal.
We’d also started off the evening with champagne on the terrace of our suite, as it was such a fine evening and dear friends had driven up from Baden Baden to join us for dinner.
Our waitstaff kept us entertained all evening as well with wonderful stories. They told us interesting tidbits about the restaurant, the chef and the meal we were having. None of the typical formality of three-star restaurants here, at this lovely outpost of fine dining in the Black Forest, where I was happily living a #Travelife. I’m so sorry it’s gone forever.