The Saarland is not Germany’s richest area. Despite this however, it has two of Germany’s best chefs, Christian Bau and Klaus Erfort. Both are cooking in decidedly different styles, but are connected through the fact that they once worked for the acting grandmaster of German cuisine: Harald Wohlfahrt.
Whilst Bau, started exploring the riches of the East, Erfort decided to focus on classical French cuisine, which he presents in a contemporary fashion. This young and talented chef seems to push hard to firmly establish the restaurant among the very best in Europe.
And what a place it is. The beauty of the building and the gardens is certainly undisputable. There are very few restaurants of this calibre that allow you to eat on the terrace, even for dinner. During a warm summer evening, this alone is beautiful. If the weather gods are not on your side, the dining room is surprisingly lively for the country’s standards, even if the decoration is a little on the sterile side of things.
When it comes to the food, Erfort’s style is best exemplified by a foie gras and pineapple dish. Here he displays the skills he learned with his mentor, producing a smooth and luscious liver. This is wrapped in thin slices of pineapple, which gives the dish an exotic touch. Not necessarily a novel combination, it is nonetheless a delicious and seemingly light rendition of a foie gras terrine.
A main course that stands out in this kitchen is a pigeon with celeriac. This rather simple, but attractive looking dish inevitably lends itself to the comparison with Christian Bau’s pigeon. As both chefs have studied with Wohlfahrt, who cooked many a fine pigeon dishes, it is interesting to compare his disciples’ efforts. Furthermore, both have, in the past, been ‘accused’ of copying their master. Thus, a more careful look at their respective pigeon dishes is in order. Erfort’s is cooked sous-vide, which gives it a perfect temperature, but a texture that is nowhere nearly as enjoyable as that of a classically prepared bird. Here, Bau is a few steps ahead, as he employs traditional cooking methods, resulting in a more convincing result than Erfort’s. If Wohlahrt was – and still – is a masterful saucier, both should be expected to produce fine sauces. Yet, it are Bau’s sauces that display more texture and complexity.
However, if not everything is perfect yet at Klaus Erfort’s restaurant, it does show promise. Especially when he uses bold flavours of classical French dishes that he revives with great finesse. A starter of red mullet with couscous and a bouillabaisse jus comes to mind. This dish does not only feature perfectly cooked fish, of good quality, but also a sauce that is richer and more textural than many of his meat sauces. In combination with the couscous and a few squid rings, this is the kind of dish every gourmand would adore: Simple, flavourful and to the point.
Klaus Erfort’s restaurant is already at a very high level. His food is technically sound and tasty, however there are a few issues that have been apparent in the last few years. The issue of thin sauces is one of them, as is the excessive use of slow-cooking methods, which seem to be all the rage here. Confronted with dishes such as the red mullet or foie gras, one sees how delicious the food here can be, which we hope can be the norm in terms of quality for Erfort in the future.
At this point it seems as though the Gästehaus Klaus Erfort is a promising address; delivering in terms of food, albeit not quite at the level of other German top-chefs. Erfort possesses the talent and commitment needed to push things further, so should not be long until he catches up, as should the media.