BACKGROUND This two-Michelin starred restaurant opened at the same time as the five-star Adlon hotel, in 1907, and still serves a number of the classics it has become famous for over the decades, including canard à la presse (breast of duck with pommes Maxime, red wine shallots, glazed champignons and Rouennaise sauce) and whole pan-seared Breton sole with sauce Cardinal and Perigord truffles.
Lorenz Adlon was a German gastronomer, restaurateur and hotelier, and his eponymous hotel in the past played host to esteemed guests such as Czar Nicolas II, King George V, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and John D Rockefeller. It is now operated by Kempinski.
THE RESTAURANT These days, it is chef de cuisine Hendrik Otto who creates the “exciting, expressive, European-style” menu, while through the windows are views of the iconic Brandenburg Gate.
The grand interiors are peaceful and cosy with luxurious thick carpets, gold drapery, fireplaces, oil paintings, thick white tablecloths, silver cutlery, candles and vases of red roses. The restaurant is tucked away on the mezzanine level, just above the lobby, and set across two sections. It was busy when I was there, but there wasn’t too much of a buzz as people spoke softly.
Staff are incredibly attentive and perceptive, always coming at just the right time to refresh glasses, clear plates, ask about dietary requests or explain the food. Although it is a very high-end establishment, it does an amazing job of not feeling too intimidating or stuffy, and this is undoubtedly down to the excellent training those that work there receive, and the knowledge and experience they have.
THE FOOD For me, the Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer is all about the food – it really is superb in every way, from the artful presentation and perfect portion sizes, to the inventively delicious flavours and textures. It’s a culinary adventure.
There are several ways of going about ordering. You can opt for one of two set menus, and then decide how many courses you can get through (between four and eight plus palate cleansers, amuse bouches and pre-desserts), or go for a selection of à la carte options, either from the Adlon Classics menu or the paired down main menu (options of three starters, two intermediate courses, three meat, two fish, sweets and cheese).
So what might you expect to be served? Start with a glass of Dom Pérignon champagne and nibble on some warm, freshly baked miniature rolls (honey and malt, walnut, lemon, pretzel) spread with truffle-infused butter, before sampling a palate cleanser from the chef. In my case, this was an Asian Cosmo with vodka, cucumber, watermelon and fresh mint.
Depending which menu you choose, you might move on to halibut and citrus confit with grapefruit, asparagus, cucumber and lettuce; goose liver with brioche cream, orange peel, coffee, plum, truffle and polenta; or classic finest Golden Imperial caviar (€8.50 per/g) with blinis, toast and mashed potato.
Courses following might consist of braised rib of Nebraska beef with goulash jus, baked potato and corn; chicken with tarragon sauce, carrot, celery, gherkin ice cream, eggplant and curry; or saddle and fricassee of rabbit in a ratatouille sauce with chickpeas, broccoli, bacon, red currant and marjoram.
Every plate is refined, and constructed and cooked in ways one rarely come across. The cuisine is inventive, but without using gimmicky clouds of liquid nitrogen to wow diners into oblivion. It is food to take your time over, contemplate and discuss.
One of my favourites was the whole artichoke served with a jug of tangy, buttery vinaigrette into which you dip each petal and then bite off the flesh. (€32 from the Classics menu.)
There were some other interesting vegetarian options, too, such as the vegetable stew with celery, fennel, pickled honey tomato, artichokes and herbs that is presented under a layer of jelly and the liquid poured around (you can also have this with oyster) and a deconstructed pasta-free lasagna.
The dessert of rhubarb with buttermilk ice cream, punch, curd poppy seed and orange (€24) was presented as hand-crafted pile of crispy twists and curls and crumbly balls brought together with the smoothness of the ice cream. My only wish was that I had left room for the cheese trolley.
VERDICT If you want to experience dinner at one of Berlin’s most legendary of establishments, which gracefully combines a mood of traditional fine-dining with contemporary European haute cuisine, this is the place to come. It’s expensive, but the food does not sacrifice art for enjoyment, which is important in my mind and, therefore, justifies the price tag. Just make sure you bring your appetite.
OPENING HOURS Tuesday to Saturday 7pm-10.30pm. Closed August 27-31.
Menu one: €110 four courses (without eel and cheese), €120 five courses (without cheese), €130 six courses.
With wine pairings: €200 four courses, €225 five courses, €250 six courses.
Menu two: €130 six courses (without sardine and cheese), €145 seven courses (without cheese), €160 for eight courses.
With wine pairings: €250 six courses, €280 seven courses, €300 eight courses.
CONTACT Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Unter den Linden, Berlin; tel +49 30 2261 1960; kempinski.com