24 Aug 2010

Indifferent Expression

IN a sense, a plate offers a portrait of the chef. With that in mind, meet this rather indifferent looking character, the work of Michelin starred, Martin Scharff. The squat gateau mousses goose foie gras and slithers of smoke kissed eel beside five frigid cubes of late harvested wine, barely dressed mesclun and micro minced aubergine. This is topped with a Roman camomile bloom which proved so tensely bitter it made me nauseous - I know now I shouldn’t have gobbled it, but why, Herr Scharff, put inedibles on the plate?  

By contrast to such pain to the palate, this tableau’s chief components were so disconcertingly yielding you could have sucked them through a curly straw. A starter, it seems, for geriatric gastronomes denied their dentures. It proved too refined, too fussed into silliness and owed little or nothing in genre to Germany.
Scharff, who wears a chef’s jacket embroidered with as many logos of cook-off organisations as a racing car driver sports ads, is patron of ‘Wartenberger Mühle’, Pfaltz, a restaurant, brasserie, boutique hotel and substantial, aromatic, stepped herb garden. Behind an exterior which in parts dates back to the 16th century, briefly extends an ultra modern, angular interior. Arrestingly, an inverted staircase giddily leads to the first floor, where the French doors of my bedroom opened onto a grass bank in need of weeding. Weirdly, finding oneself again at groundfloor level despite the climb left the impression of ascent into descent. My pint sized crash pad’s mezzanine propped a gravitationally challenged bed which nearly nudged a pod bathroom evocative of albeit upmarket student facilities. All in all, it’s a play on scale.
Despite a glamorously lit, tri-partite cellar, contents of which demonstrate epic care and a hoarders influence, the sommelier I encountered proved a bit of a Schweinehund, landing things on the table without deep thought nor finesse.
To the soundtrack of a busy artsy waterfeature which looked like a cricket sight screen, the main act landed. Another cube, this time of dessicated, breaded deep fried ox tail almost let down a generously truffle camoflaged water bath beef fillet with puréed gashes of kohlrabi strewn to serve as gravy damns. That this was all drenched in anonymous froth which gradually liquefied like washing suds showed ever more conceit. In fact, neatly delivered in a glass bowl, dark, dense, moist and chewy rye bread proved the meal’s apogee, needlessly but rather intriguingly accompanied with three jars of salt and pipettes of olive oil, one of which was softly infused with Turkish rose.
Overall, after dinner at my first Michelin starred German restaurant, my expression echoed that worn by my starter. It had been overwrought and underfun. Fortunately though, the company was brilliant...
Wartenberger Mühle: Schlossberg 16, 67681 Wartenberg, Germany
First published: Foodepedia