Here’s my eclectic (and once again, highly subjective) take on some of the good spots to eat out in Baden/Germany. This region, just across the Rhine from where I live, comes in for more and more of my reviews as food (and wine) here continues to improve by leaps and bounds. Ages ago when we came to live here (first in Switzerland, then in Alsace), everyone flocked to Alsace to eat, from both Switzerland and Germany. Now the direction of traffic has changed and we (and many others) increasingly find ourselves heading east across the Rhine – and enjoying the experience.
The idea is that there’s something here for every occasion, whether you’re after a budget Indian or a big birthday blowout. A key factor is that these are all (for me) happiness-producing kinds of places, ones that I’d go back to (and frequently do).
Last updated 16th September
Restaurant-Hotel Storchen, Schmidhofen (near Bad Krozingen), Tel. 07633 5329
I first learnt about this place from the formidable Fritz Wassmer while sampling his prize-winning Pinot Noir in the neighbouring village of Schlatt, but it took me a while to get around to eating here (big mistake…). Owned and run by two generations of the Helfesrieder family, it ticks all the boxes for understated elegance, friendly service, fine food and a wine list featuring Baden’s best (think Huber, Johner, Dr Heger, Bercher, both Wassmers (Fritz and Martin), Stigler, Dörflinger, Ziereisen). There’s a short a la carte selection, which at first glance looks pricey (mains from €38 to €44). A better bet are the fixed-price menus – Der Grosse Storch (The Big Stork) comes in 4 sizes with 3, 4, 5 or 7 courses (€66 to €114). The best €36 you can spend is on the daily-changing, 3-course lunch menu with 2 choices for starters and mains, followed by either cheese (from Jumi in Bern, of Belper Knolle fame) or dessert.
Recently this featured fresh tomato soup or carpaccio of shaved baby lamb fillet (above) with a shower of rocket/rucola and Parmigiano, then pink-fleshed trout on an asparagus risotto or slow-braised, wine-marinated Sauerbraten beef. Pudding was a pretty (and pretty gorgeous) bowl of marinated strawberries and rhubarb floating on top of a foaming elderflower ‘soup’ with a smooth, sharp ice of fromage blanc and a tiny sprig of elderflower in a tempura batter poised on top. There are a few rooms (and more being built) if you want to go for the Big Stork dinner and don’t want to take the wheel afterwards.
Landgasthof Engemühle, Wintersweiler (near Efringen-Kirchen), Tel. 07628 2873
You reach this restful country inn (formerly a watermill, built 1528) via a footbridge over the tumbling Engebach stream which leads straight into the courtyard, set with tables, chairs, brightly coloured sunshades and neatly clipped box plants. Inside, the dining room is simply done (white walls, low wooden panels, Biedermeier chairs, period paintings) and at the back there’s a large, leafy garden for summer dining. The Bassler family transformed the place in 1987 and have now been joined by their two daughters and son-in-law, making this a proper family job. The food is what’s described around here as gutbürgerlich (good, plain cooking) and leans largely on local and seasonal Markgräflerland produce. In spring it’s asparagus and wild garlic heaven, in summer there are strawbugs in various guises (and don’t miss the house meringues), fruit tarts, panna cotta and home-made ices, autumn brings venison (and the chef’s celebrated venison bangers) and foraged Pfifferlingen (aka chanterelles) and all year round there’s trout from the Engebach, both fresh and home-smoked. The short wine list includes light local whites (esp. Gutedel/Chasselas) and delicate Spätburgunder/Pinot Noir from the likes of Blankenhorn, Behringer and Lämmlin-Schindler.
Hotel-Gasthof Kreuz-Post, Hauptstrasse 65, Staufen, Tel.07633 95320
If you’ve ever been to Staufen you may well have walked right past the Kreuz-Post, set foursquare on the main street with a tiny terrace out front. The town is subtitled der Fauststadt, because according to legend, Dr Faustus sold his soul to the Devil in an inn somewhere in town. It’s not certain the inn in question was the Kreuz-Post, but if you stray in here you may well feel you’ve traded your soul on account of chef Michael Zahn’s tempting food. There’s a 3-course menu at €38.50 (4 for €47) and plenty of choice à la carte with some half-portions. Throughout there’s a strong flavour of the Markgräflerland (this part of southern Baden) in the inevitable asparagus (in season), variations on the Maultasche theme (the local variant of ravioli), Black Forest beef and duck, and an iced soufflé stiff with schnapps from the famous Schladerer distillery just behind the house, but there’s much else besides, such as a tapas-type plate of summer appetisers garnished with pimientos de padrón, super scallops and some wicked prawns in a fiery sauce. The smiling welcome from the chef’s wife Heidi and her dirndl-dressed team and the restful, pale green decor add to the undoubted allure of this charming spot.
Alte Post, Posthalterweg, Müllheim, Tel. 07631 17870
I’ve only been once to the Alte Post but I’ll gladly go again: we had friends visiting from the UK, booked a table for lunch, got disastrously late and lost and fetched up at the rather Spanish hour of 1.45 p.m., red-faced and apologetic and quite expecting to be told the kitchen had gone off duty. Far from it: the welcome and service couldn’t have been nicer, the food was clever without being tricksy and the pale primrose dining room a delight. Go for one of the many fixed-price menus, from the super-value lunch (3 courses for €25) to the Posthalter blowout (6 courses for €81). Hosts Heinrich and Uschi Mack have been at the Alte Post for 30 years and throughout this anniversary year they’re offering an additional 4-course Jubiläumsmenu on Wednesday evenings at €39. The wine list (lauded by Wine Spectator) is stiff with local interest and with the larger menus there’s a €35 add-on option for wine pairings, 1 glass with each course (and rooms upstairs so you can fall into bed after dinner). For summer there’s a shady terrace – and a special, veg-rich garden menu to match.
Villa Feer, Beim Haagensteg 1, Lörrach-Brombach, Tel. 07621 579 10 77
Kathrin Bucher is a local lassie from Lörrach who went off to learn how to cook and to see the world – among other places she’s worked in Scotland, where she admits she left a little piece of her heart. On returning, she opened up her own restaurant in a beautiful old mansion on the edge of town. Classy cooking using the best local ingredients, outstanding fish, Iberico pork, local beef, all presented with flair. The wine list has some of Baden’s best, such as a fine Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) from Schneider in Weil, plus many more good names from the Ortenau and the Kaiserstuhl.
Hotel-Restaurant Drei König, Basler Strasse 169, Lörrach, Tel. 07621 42 58 333
Hotel, café & deli (ground floor) and restaurant (first floor) on the market square in Lörrach. The deli is perfect for lunch after a session at the (irresistible) farmer’s market – it’s always busy, so best to book if you’re more than one or two. Otherwise, just find a place at one of the large, bleached wood communal tables, get to know your neighbours (often a mix of local, Alsatian and Swiss) and observe the tempting arrays of top-end (mainly Italian) cold meats served on greaseproof paper, cheeses, salads and sandwiches that whirl past as you make up your mind. Small but perfectly formed selection of wines by the glass (Hanspeter Ziereisen, Hermann Dörflinger) and draught beers.
Berghofstüble, An der Romerstrasse, Bad Bellingen, Tel. 07635 1293
A simple spot on a plateau high above Bad Bellingen, much loved by Baslers and golfers from the nearby course, with a cosy dining room, luminous conservatory and big terrace for warm summer evenings. The menu has gone upmarket of late – think sweetbreads, turbot and the like – but Herr Basler’s legendary Wiener Schnitzel and home-made sourdough are still there. Frau Basler combines feist with friendliness in the dining room and the short wine list gives pride of place to local stars like Ziereisen, Martin Wassmer and maverick MW von der Mark.
Hotel (member of Small Luxury Hotels of the world), Michelin-starred restaurant and noted winery owned and run by the Keller family, in the heart of the Kaiserstuhl, Baden’s premium wine-growing region. Stellar food (classic French haute-ish cuisine), biblical wine list, smiling waitresses in ruched blouses and cinched waists, lovely hunting-green dining room with cosy corners and a small terrace for summer. The Rebstock, on the other side of the road, also owned by the Kellers, serves simple, typically Badisch food (“Kondomfreier” [sic] asparagus – ie. not grown under plastic – ravioli, free-range chicken etc.) and wines by the glass. Shaded interior courtyard for sunny days.
Thomas Merkle’s Rebstock, Endingen, Kaiserstuhl, Tel. 07642 7900
Throughout the year at this lively restaurant in the heart of the Kaiserstuhl, themed brunches follow Smoke and Soul (barbecue + jazz) lunches, wine producer evenings, beer menus, kitchen parties and cooking workshops in giddying succession. The two main menus, Einfach Merkle (‘simply Merkle’) and Einfach Regional (‘simply local’) form the backbone of the chef’s cuisine. Wine pairings – all from the Kaiserstuhl on the regional menu – are firstclass, featuring top names like Salwey, Stigler and Knab. The only bum note is hard, dry, tasteless bread – a crime anywhere, but particularly in Germany, home to some of the world’s best Brot.
Romantik Hotel Spielweg, Spielweg 61, Münstertal, Tel. 0736 7090
The Spielweg has everything a Schwarzwald inn should properly have: a wood-panelled dining room with a dark green tiled stove in the corner, smiling waitresses in Tracht (dirndls) and a sommelier/maitre d’ who knows his stuff and loves to share (rather than impose) his knowledge of/enthusiasm for Baden’s vineyards. Chef Karl-Josef Fuchs is a Jeune Restaurateur d’Europe, cookbook author, cheese maker and hunter. His cuisine combines the best local, seasonal ingredients (trout from the local beck, Schwarzwald veal and Hinterwälder beef from a neighbouring farmer, wild garlic from the forest, asparagus – and wine – from Martin Wassmer) with modern flourishes (beef en carpaccio, wild garlic pasta, crème brûlée of rhubarb/strawberries). A great place to take (or be taken by) visitors.