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Another night out in Hamburg - the excellent Restaurant Schauermann
Restaurant Schauermann (Hamburg, France)
Member Name: koshkha
Restaurant Schauermann (Hamburg, France)
Advantages: Fabulous food in elegant surroundings
Disadvantages: Restrictive menu.
This week found me once again in Hamburg and Monday night once again brought an invitation for dinner out in one of the city’s many restaurants. This one was chosen by a local colleague who claimed, despite all our protestations of how good it was, that it was just one of many great places. There were six of us in the group – two Brits, two Americans, a German lady and a Frenchman.
~ The Location ~
Restaurant Schauermann is at 136-138 St Pauli Hafenstrasse, overlooking the harbour. First thing you need to know is that it’s not easy to find – our taxi driver pulled out some dramatically un-Germanic driving with creative interpretation of the rules of the road in order to get us there (reversing up one way streets, driving over pavements and other things liable to get you ostracised from Hamburg society). The problem is that sat nav systems seem to struggle because there are two roads very close together but the one is several metres above the other.
Getting out of the taxi we didn’t linger too long outside as the wind and rain were whipping off the harbour but we did notice that it must be quite a fun place to be in the summer. The street was closed off to traffic and on the opposite side of the street, looking out over the harbour, there was a sort of mock-beach with sand and decking. There were even sculpture palm trees. In the summer I guess that the floor to ceiling windows of the restaurant are probably thrown open and you may well be able to eat out on the pavement.
But for now it’s winter and it’s time to go inside.
~ The Restaurant ~
The restaurant is quite small – I would guess it seats fifty to sixty people maximum. The walls and ceilings are painted in light colours and the floor is made of pale green flecked tiles. The woodwork is all dark and contrasts with the lightness of the other features. The seating is in blue leather (or leatherette) and is a mix of padded benches and very funky retro padded chairs – they have a 1960s feel about them and fortunately, as well as looking great, they are comfortable too. The tables have crisp white tablecloths with (I found this surprising) a thick sheet of paper on top. I actually thought ‘how practical’ rather than ‘that’s a bit cheap’ and when I mulled it over for a while, I wondered if this meant they could keep the laundry bills down and reduce their environmental impact. Maybe one of our German readers can fill me in on whether that’s a normal thing to do.
The overall effect was very ‘Elle Deco’ which is a term I use too often without ever really explaining myself. I’m going to do the same again! If you’ve seen the magazine you’ll know what I mean. We were sitting at a table for six by the window – the view of a rainy night on the container port wasn’t worth looking out of the windows for.
~ The Menu ~
The menu is small and fits on just a single sheet of A4 folded down the middle. It’s handwritten and photocopied so you may have to struggle to decipher the handwriting as well as translate it – they don’t have an English menu but the young waiters speak English and could help you if you needed them to. I’m pretty good at food and drink in most languages so I muddled through. The menu was so small and so good that when I got back to my hotel room after I wrote the entire thing down by memory before finding that it’s all on the website and I needn’t have bothered. It appears from the website that the menu changes each week.
The advantage of a small menu is that you can be pretty confident that everything is fresh and the stock is being turned over quickly. The disadvantage is that if you are really fussy you may not find something you fancy.
You can choose just a couple of courses and pay by the item or if you can squeeze in three courses there’s a set price of €31 (a little over £20) which I thought was excellent value.
First courses were: mixed leaf salad with pecorino shavings and apple vinaigrette; aubergine slices wrapped round goat cheese and served on a tomato sauce; duck liver fried in butter with something I couldn’t translate and a blackberry sauce; and sardines wrapped in Parma ham with some kind of potato salad.
Next there was a seafood risotto which could be taken as a starter, an ‘in betweeny’ or a main course.
The main courses were; duck breast with red cabbage and some little vegetable cakes; rack of lamb with mustard crust and some other cabbage concoction; halibut steak with some kind of cabbage and parsley potatoes.
Desserts were fig tart with gingerbread ice-cream; chocolate-orange mousse or cheese.
How would I describe the style of the food? I’m still not sure – only the presence of so many bizarre forms of cabbage dish would give you a hint that you are in Germany. Other than that I can’t tie down enough clues to suggest any particular regional influence.
~ Wine ~
Predictably we gave the wine list to our French colleague who was baffled by so many German and (heavens above) Austrian wines as well as smaller numbers of French, Chilean, Spanish and Australian wines. I spotted there was a Verdljo from Spain (a wine I really like) and I persuaded him to go with that – promising that if everyone loved it I’d take the credit and if they hated it I’d blame him for not sticking up for himself. The Verdeljo was €24 per bottle. Luckily it slipped down so well that we had to get another.
~ Let the Service Commence ~
Whilst we waited for the starters the waiter brought the wine and the water and two trays of bread with unsalted butter. The bread was still warm and was a crusty ciabatta-type. It was so good that in just a couple of minutes it had all gone and the waiter brought more.
The starters arrived – three people had opted for salad, two for the aubergine and goat cheese and I had a half-size portion of the risotto. It was delicious – the sea food had all been cut into small pieces (nothing bigger than a centimetre) and the sauce was not too thick but very fishy. The rice was a perfect consistency. One of my colleagues was eying it up hungrily as he’s ordered the larger version for his main course. The pecorino salads had lots of cheese shavings on them and the aubergine rolls looked delicious.
Whilst we waited for the mains to arrive the waiter brought yet more bread – how civilised. In France people expect bread to be there throughout the meal but here in the UK we get short-changed on the bread supply.
The main courses took a while to come – amazingly, despite being a Monday evening the restaurant was full. I don’t mind a wait when I’m in good company and the ciabatta was still sliding down nicely.
Three of us had the halibut, two went with duck and the final had ordered the risotto. The halibut was outstanding. I know even before I write the words that describing it as ‘firm and very fishy’ just isn’t going to do justice to the taste. The fish was served on a bed of what I can only describe as hot creamy coleslaw – I have no idea what that might be called in German – and there were three tiny roasted half potatoes which didn’t taste of parsley and were delicious. The portion sizes were spot on for me – not too big that you struggle to get through and feel completely stuffed, nor so small that you’re left hungry.
I had said I wouldn’t take a dessert but when I realised that nobody had ordered the fig tart I thought I’d better have one because it would be so sad if the chef was offended that nobody chose it (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). The others all went for the chocolate-orange mouse which was served in something that looked like a brandy-snap curl. The fig tart was about three inches in diameter with a base of semi-flaky pastry with a light custard under thin slivers of fresh fig. There was a light berry sauce drizzled over the top. As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one lifetime, there was also a ball of lebkuchen ice-cream (lebkuchen is the traditional German gingerbread that comes out for Christmas). I couldn’t really swear that the tart and the ice-cream really went together particularly well but individually each was superb.
~ The Service ~
It wasn’t the fastest – no waiters on roller skates – but I felt that they paced the delivery of the food very well and with a group of six we had plenty to talk about and filled out the evening nicely. The waiting staff were all young (not TOO young) and friendly and happy to translate.
~ Any complaints ~
Same as usual – other diners at other tables nearby smoking when I’m eating. I could accept that it’s a cultural thing or I could stand up and scream ‘What are you playing at Germany? You have beautiful clean streets, lots of rules that people seem happy to keep (people WON’T cross on a red man) but your restaurants are turning into ash trays’. Sorry – rant over.
~ The Damage ~
Again, I wasn’t leering over anyone’s shoulder when the bill came but I’d take a guess at somewhere in the region of £30 per head including wine. And every course was excellent – no dud dishes, nothing mediocre in the entire meal. I’d definitely want to go back again. I wouldn’t take any strict vegetarians though – the menu is too small and doesn’t have a vegetarian main course option at all.
Summary: Great value for money and top quality food.
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