10117 Berlin, Germany
Tel. +49 302 033 6363
Food type: French
Website: Fischers Fritz
The dining scene in Berlin is still fairly young. Germany has 11 restaurants with 3*s, but none of them are in Berlin which is atypical for a major city, particularly one which many would currently consider the most important major city in Europe. There are currently (as of the 2016 Michelin guide) 7 restaurants in Berlin with 2*s, and for some time, Fischers Fritz located at the beautiful Regent Hotel stood alone as the only restaurant in Berlin holding the accolade.
The cooking here is as classical as you can hope for. The main attraction of the restaurant (and the reason for me booking here) is the lobster press. The restaurant is only one of five restaurants in the world in proud possession of a lobster press. Sadly I was not aware that I had to pre-order the pressed lobster dish 2 days in advance. A reprieve for my wallet then given that the dish would have cost €145 per person. You read that right. There are various menus available though. A set 3 course dinner menu is €105 and a 6 course tasting menu €170. A la carte options are priced individually, with starters €30 – 52, mains €50 – 90 and desserts €20. As the restaurant is famous for its fish cooking, we decided to go the a la carte route and try some of the seafood dishes.
Before having time to decide what we wanted to eat, the kitchen had already sent out their first amuse bouche – a grilled prawn with cucumber consommé. The first thing that caught my eye was not the prawn, or the cucumber, but a dirty finger smudge on the plate. It literally takes 5 seconds to wipe a plate clean so this was a careless oversight from the kitchen. It was what it is – a quarter of a tiger prawn which was nicely grilled with a refreshing cucumber consommé with a compressed cucumber for texture. A second amuse bouche in the form of cured cod with kumquat was fine – a thin strip of salty cod was complemented the sweetness of the kumquat sauce.
To start, I tried the langoustine carpaccio with golden char (trout) caviar. The langoustine was of great quality, and so it should be with the dish priced at €52 – sweet with bursts of saltiness coming from the caviar. Sour cream (mixed with what I think is smoked trout) added richness and acidity to the dish. The ‘wow factor’ for the dish was a herb tuile which formed a canopy over the carpaccio. The portion sizing seemed rather mean especially for an a la carte starter.
For mains, I went for the turbot priced at an ambitious €90. The turbot fillet came from a large specimen which is a good start – as a rule of thumb, the larger the fish, the more flavourful it is. It was pan fried and was fine. I guess I must have been spoiled by the number of great turbot dishes I have eaten over the years. Whether this is the ‘a la nacre’ turbot that Mikael cooks at Hedone or the beautiful pearly pan fried tronchon of turbot I had at Ducasse at the Dorchester – I have had better turbot. What I do remember however is the accompanying griddled asparagus topped with a slice of pineapple tomato. This being September, heading to October, I am surprised to see asparagus on the menu. I know asparagus is a big thing here, but unless they have a special microclimate in Germany, I do not understand why a chef would insist on putting a non-seasonal vegetable on the menu. What about all the beautiful, abundant pfifferlinge (chanterelles)? A bernaise came on the side and this was extremely well made – extremely light and airy but having good depth of flavour. On the menu it is described to be accompanied with parloudes and unless my French is really rusty, that should be clams, not the mussels that it came with.
After trying some cheese (supplied by Bouton D’or) which were in good nick, I finished with the chocolate and miso with an interesting cucumber granita. This may sound like a weird combination but the amount of miso used was restrained and was there to add a little saltiness to the chocolate. There was also excellent sugar work with a wafer thin tuile on top. On the side was a separate plate of melon salad with more cucumber granita to help refresh the palate. This was a cerebral dish – challenging your preconceptions of existing combinations, tasty and luxurious. When you have a dessert like this, you want to be able to indulge in it, to savour it. It is after all the grand finale to your meal. When it is over in 3 mouthfuls and 30 seconds it just leaves you cold and unsatisfied.
I don’t normally comment on service in a restaurant but the service was at a level which was bordering unacceptable. There were 3 waiters (including the Maitre D’) and 1 sommelier working the dining room with 28 covers on the night we visited. Believe me, I counted. I am not sure if this is the correct level of staffing for that the number of covers but the staff really struggled on the night keeping on top of things. Empty wine glasses not topped up, empty plates not cleared – however this seemed to be a consistent problem during our trip in Berlin. And then, the biggest slap in the face – cutlery literally flung on the table in a slapdash manner. It says a lot about the attitude of the staff when they can’t even take the time place cutlery properly on the table. Many of the diners on the night were foreigners (there were perhaps two tables who were German speaking) and the staff made no attempt to interact with the customers.
Sloppy service and dirty plates are completely unacceptable at any level, let alone a 2 Michelin starred restaurant located in a 5-star hotel. The cooking, while objectively correct and fine, were merely just that. Aside from the dessert, there was little creativity or fireworks. Classical cooking when executed perfectly in itself is exciting. My meals at Lasserre by Christophe Moret (now of L’Abeille) and at Taillevent by Alain Solivérès are examples of classical cooking at a 2* level which were exemplary. Berlin may be an expensive city, but €90 for the turbot main course is Parisian 2* pricing, but not quite Parisian 2* execution.
Much like the area surrounding the restaurant, Under der Linden, which is undergoing massive transformation (many of the beautiful linden trees have made way for new developments), so to is the dining scene in Berlin. Fischers Fritz may have once been the flag bearer for gastronomy in Berlin, but based on my experience, this is a restaurant resting on its laurels and trading on their past reputation.