Whether it’s Michelin stars or Gault-Millau toques – behind these awards you will always find vision, a great love of food, expert craftsmanship and, last but not least, the hard work every creative head chef must put in daily with his or her team. Munich seems to inspire leading chefs, with the Bavarian capital topping the gourmet charts year after year.
A total of eight Munich restaurants have scored top marks ranging between 17 and 18 (out of a possible 20) in the 2019 edition of the Gault-Millau gourmet guide. The 2019 Michelin Guide nominated Jan Hartwig, head chef at Munich restaurant Atelier, as one of Germany’s ten three-star chefs. The state capital is also home to four two-star venues: Tantris, Dallmayr, Geisels Werneckhof and EssZimmer.
Seven other Munich restaurants have been awarded one Michelin star: Schwarzreiter Tagesbar & Restaurant, Schuhbecks Fine Dining, Showroom, Les Deux and Acquarello. 2019 saw two new additions make it onto the list of Michelin-star restaurants in Munich: TIAN and Gabelspiel. In addition to their first-rate culinary delights, the Michelin-star restaurants provide a refined ambience for a relaxing meal – from traditional to modern design, depending on your taste.
The listed 1970s building that houses legendary gourmet temple Tantris has achieved cult status in Munich. The building is one of the most prominent examples of post-war architecture in the city. The venue itself is considered the cradle of award-winning German restaurants. The name Tantris means “the quest for perfection”.
“There is often difficulty in simplicity. Simple and focused on the flavour. Above all, it needs to taste great. That is the most important thing when it comes to food, right?“
For many years, creating perfect culinary delights has been the mission of star chefs Eckard Witzigmann and Heinz Winkler: the pair has trained many of Munich’s top chefs in the high art of French cuisine. Now 76 years old, Witzigmann has held the title of “Chef of the Century” since 1994 – an honour Gault-Millau has bestowed on just four individuals worldwide to date, among them Paul Bocuse.
Witzigmann’s protegé Hans Haas has been head chef at Tantris for over 25 years. The Tyrolean native grew up in a farming family, but was more interested in cooking than agriculture from an early age. To this day, his cuisine is characterised by the use of regional and natural foods. Even now, more than 40 years after opening its doors in 1971, diners at Tantris agree that the food tastes exceptionally good.
Traditional Munich hotel the Bayerischer Hof has been owned by the same family for over a hundred years. The house was opened by royal command as long ago as 1841. Its guest list includes such illustrious personages as Empress Elisabeth of Austria and her husband Emperor Franz Joseph I, not to mention Franz Kafka and Sigmund Freud. During its lifetime, the five-star hotel has also served as a retreat for Michael Jackson and his family while they were staying in Munich.
In keeping with the traditions of the hotel, many parts of the Bayerischer Hof are open to locals, including its luxury restaurant, Atelier. The restaurant was designed by Belgian interior designer, art collector and antiques dealer Axel Vervoordt in the style of an artist’s studio, with antique side tables, a private room and a tranquil terrace, planted with Amur maples.
Atelier’s head chef, Jan Hartwig, has carved out an impressive career in a few short years. The three stars he was awarded in the 2018 Michelin guide are his latest crowning glory in a series of successes. In 2017, he was voted “Rising Star of the Year” by the judges of the Gault-Millau gourmet guide. Just a year before that, he was nominated “Chef of the Year 2016” by Feinschmecker gourmet magazine. In 2015, he received two Michelin stars after working for just 17 months as a head chef.
Jan Hartwig: “I am proud that, with the help of my team, I have managed to make a name for myself within such a short time. That motivates me. I give my all to ensure that my guests enjoy their food a little more with every visit. Like a professional footballer, I am always setting myself more and more ambitious goals: if I win 2-0, I ask myself why we didn’t win 4-0.”
“Our guests should be so impressed by the dishes and the quality on the plate that they immediately want to order seconds.”
The origins of the Alois Dallmayr delicatessen date right back to the early 18th century. The original store, located in Munich’s old town, is one of the largest of its kind in the world, and a wander through its ground-floor delicatessen department is considered one of the highlights of a stay in Munich.
Since 2006, the first floor of Dallmayr has been home to the luxury restaurant, which now boasts two Michelin stars under the new head chef Christoph Kurz. The Alois - Dallmayr Fine Dining is a restaurant offering light, contemporary cuisine, which is presented in an informal atmosphere. During an interview with the a journal for the hotel and restaurant industry, Christoph Kurz, who has been head chef at Alois since September 2018, described what he considered success to be.
Geisels Werneckhof, nestled between Leopoldstrasse and the Englischer Garten in Altschwabing, joined the league of Munich’s two-star restaurants in 2016. Munich-born with German-Japanese heritage, Tohru Nakamura is another shooting star on the culinary scene, and has been head chef at the establishment since 2013. After training at Munich’s Hotel Königshof, he worked in several three-star restaurants abroad, most recently in Tokyo.
On his return, he helped the kitchen of the Werneckhof to achieve international renown in just three years. The secret to his success lies in his artful combination of local and Far Eastern ingredients. Tohru Nakamura: “I use European cuisine as the basis for my cooking. The special touch comes from the Asian twist, and specifically from my love of Japanese flavours.”
The futuristic BMW Welt building, designed by architectural duo Coop Himmelb(l)au is home to a luxury class gourmet culinary establishment. It is here that Bobby Bräuer runs his gourmet restaurant, EssZimmer. The name, meaning “dining room”, is indicative of the cosy yet luxurious setting, with its open fireplace, elegant wood and dark leather, all of which is intended to make guests feel truly at home.
“All star chefs can cook. I think what makes EssZimmer so special is the setting it offers – it’s modern but still cosy. We want our guests to enjoy simply arriving and succumbing to enjoyment without disruption. That is why I never ask my guests if they have enjoyed their food, but rather whether they have had a nice evening.”
Munich-born top chef Bobby Bräuer and his team are synonymous with exquisite French cuisine. Their food was deemed worthy of a second Michelin star in the 2018 Michelin Guide. As a special offer, all guests are offered a free, exclusive chauffeur service after their meal, to anywhere within the Munich metropolitan area.
Alfons Schuhbeck’s media presence undoubtedly makes him Munich’s best-known chef. For many years he has catered for the FC Bayern Munich football team when it travels to its Champions League and Europa League away matches. He trained at Tantris under his mentor Eckard Witzigmann. Just a stone’s throw from Munich’s Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, he runs the Orlando and Schuhbecks Südtiroler Stuben restaurants, a wine bistro, a party service, a culinary school, a spice shop, a tea shop, a chocolate shop and an ice cream parlour.
Since 2016 he has been managing the one-star Schuhbecks Fine Dining restaurant as well, also located on the Platzl and serving Asian-inspired cuisine. Alfons Schuhbeck: “My cuisine is seasonal, natural, unspoilt, contemporary and light with an Asian touch – and it contains an abundance of spices that suit the world of flavour we create. Guests do not simply want to experience pleasure in a restaurant; they also want to gain energy and a zest for life.”
Since January 2017, head chef Dominik Käppeler has been continuing the tradition of foodie hotspot “schweiger 2” in Munich’s Au district under the new name Showroom. The chef has been defending the restaurant’s Michelin star since 2015, and strives to ensure continuity and identity in the city’s smallest starred restaurant. A fixed menu, changing every 14 days, is served in the pleasantly bright, intimate setting of Showroom.
“You think eel, banana, mustard and Stilton don’t go together? Oh, but they do – it’s all about aroma pairing. Let your palate decide whether it tastes good – not your head!”
Inside the Schäfflerhof – one of Munich’s finest shopping destinations, found in the square formed by Theatinerstrasse, Maffeistrasse and Schäfflerstrasse – the Les Deux restaurant extends over two fully-glazed storeys.
”Les Deux”, or the Alsace pair of Fabrice Kieffer and his wife Katrin Kieffer, with their dual concept of a restaurant and brasserie, which has been awarded a Michelin star. Kieffer learnt his trade with Heinz Winkler at the “Residenz” in Aschhau and received important awards as a kitchen chef before realising his dream of opening his own restaurant with Les Deux in Munich.
The first-floor restaurant serves multi-faceted modern French cuisine. The brasserie on the ground floor offers classic dishes and international cuisine. Fabrice Kieffer and and his wife Katrin Kiefer: “Our restaurant embodies Bavarian warmth, combined with French charm. At least one member of the Kieffer family is always present for our guests. The cuisine still bears the hallmarks of French cooking, but it is lighter and also contains some Asian flavours from time to time.”
Heinz Winkler has also played an important role in the career of Mario Gamba, an Italian from Bergamo who trained alongside the legendary chef for 12 years. For over 20 years, he has been serving the very finest Italian cuisine in his restaurant in Munich-Bogenhausen, Acquarello, and his establishment is widely acknowledged as perhaps the best Italian eatery outside Italy.
Gamba cites his pure joy in cooking and preparing food as the motivating factor that drove him to leave his job as a translator of French and Spanish and try his hand at cooking – which, incidentally, he taught himself.
“I am not a great chef. But I cook as if my family are sitting out in the dining room. All I do is simply separate the good from the bad. It is that easy to create quality. My cooking tastes of the Mediterranean, the sun, and a zest for life.”
The Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski is part of the architectural ensemble of Maximilianstrasse. King Max II was heavily involved in the planning of this grand boulevard, and the hotel itself was built by royal command in 1858. The hotel’s restaurant, the Schwarzreiter Tagesbar & Restaurant, was in turn named after his famous son Ludwig II’s favourite dish.
Schwarzreiter is a type of char fish from Königssee lake, and the Fairytale King loved to eat it. Today, the one-star kitchen, headed by Maike Menzel, continues to serve largely regional produce. Maike Menzel: “The Schwarzreiter is a wonderful place for me to implement my philosophy: experimenting with good ingredients and using visual appearance to stimulate taste. I still have a lot of ideas to surprise our guests with highly creative Young Bavarian cuisine”.
Cooking runs in Menzel’s blood: her father and grandfather were chefs before her, and she never considered doing anything else. Her professional career has taken her to places like Restaurant Emiko in Munich’s Louis Hotel, Hotel Bachmair Weissach by Lake Tegernsee, and Restaurant Pageou in Munich. At just 29 years old, she is currently the youngest Michelin-star chef in Germany.
For "all eyes on culture 2018" we asked her to give us an interview. Where and what she likes to eat in Munich and how she invents new recipes as a top chef, Maike Menzel reveals here.