When you meet Wolfgang Hingerl, a lively man in his early thirties, you would not guess that you are dealing with a seasoned catering professional. But Wolfgang Hingerl began his culinary journey already as a teenager, working at the pub in his home-village in the eastern part of Munich. With experience gained at Munich's renowned Last Supper, smoothie shops, and a Laotian fusion pop-up, he is currently revamping Munich's culinary scene with his restaurants.
While the Gourmet restaurant Mural boasts the first Michelin star, Bar Mural serves casual bistro cuisine paired with natural wines. With the Bambule! bar, Wolfgang Hingerl has brought a touch of culinary excellence to Munich's Bahnhofsviertel (station district) and the Mural Farmhouse in Obersendling, on the other hand, focuses on consistently regional cuisine. We had the opportunity to talk to this all-rounder about the flood of stars that have recently emerged on Munich's culinary scene and the latest trends in fine dining.
Mr Hingerl, what has propelled you on your journey: the realisation that fine dining can also be achieved with locally-sourced ingredients? Or that you don't have to wear a pastel-coloured blazer to enjoy it?
The best guests I've ever had were those who felt at home in the most unusual settings. At Last Supper, punk rock was blaring from the speakers, but the culinary offering was truly exceptional. The waiters wore AC/DC T-shirts and were covered in tattoos from head to toe. People were on a first-name basis, and a hint of cheekiness, wit and sarcasm set the tone. Accordingly, the place was a hub for relaxed people who may have to maintain an air of elitism in their workplace, but shed that in their private lives. Good food doesn't have to hide behind a tie and collar.
“If you harvest a vegetable at half past five in the morning, when it has the most juice, it's nice if it arrives at my place at ten o'clock.“
But, in terms of cuisine, it is truly the focus on regional ingredients that piqued your interest?
Regional doesn't always mean good. The person behind it has to be good. There is no doubt that short distances are appealing. If you harvest a vegetable at half past five in the morning, when it has the most juice, it's nice if it arrives at my place at ten o'clock. But it also makes sense to scrutinise certain aspects: Is it really necessary to source a chicken around the corner, even if I know it's not being raised and fed properly, and it is reared too quickly and so on? Or should I rather opt for the specialist in Germany that is known for producing the best and most sustainable chicken?
Which products that you source for your restaurants inspire you?
It's the producers rather than the individual products. For example, Mogli Billesberger from Billesbergerhof in Moosinning: Their simple potatoes are so exceptionally good that you wonder why you should ever purchase potatoes anywhere else. There are other examples, such as the Danube salmon from the Munich area, whose quality is so remarkable that you simply can't imagine processing any other fish raw again. We also buy from a goat farm near Munich, and occasionally goat offal. That makes fantastic dishes. Bitter salads fascinate me with their special kick, also in combination with wine. And even cream cheese: Anyone who has tried the one from the Alztaler Hofmolkerei dairy, for example, will hardly settle for any other option afterwards.
At the Farmhouse, the new restaurant from the Mural family in Obersendling, the concept is “radical regionality”. How does the cuisine there differ from the flagship restaurant in the city centre?
I would describe the approach of our head chef Joshua Leise at Mural as New German Cuisine. However, in culinary terms, its roots are more anchored in French culinary art, which tends to be a bit creamier, saucier, and richer, often featuring more pronounced elements on the plate. At the Farmhouse, on the other hand, the dramaturgy is based on the components building on one another. The focus is more on the individual products. In terms of concept, this is more like the new Nordic cuisine, but in Bavaria. One example: If a dish in the Farmhouse includes fish, it is only lightly garnished, perhaps with a touch of ornamental quince grated on top. At the Mural, the fish would be marinated briefly, accompanied by a vinaigrette or beurre blanc, along with one or two suitable bitter salads or even crunch.
“There are other examples, such as the Danube salmon from the Munich area, whose quality is so remarkable that you simply can't imagine processing any other fish raw again.“
A current trend in high-end gastronomy is the move towards plant-based food, which sets it apart from old-school haute cuisine, where every course typically contained fish or meat. How do you respond to this trend?
At the Farmhouse, we offer a completely vegetarian menu. In the Mural, on the other hand, we have a vegan menu that is completely plant-based and contains no animal products. However, we refrain from using substitutes. We don't want to disguise a product to give the impression that it contains meat, when it does not. Why would we do that?
Does the development where guests have increasingly diverse demands, in particular stringent dietary exclusions pose a major challenge for the catering industry?
If the trend is towards vegetarian and vegan, I see this more as a positive pressure. And doing without is not so crazy after all: If there's a piece of meat in the main course and maybe a bit of fish in another course before that, that should be sufficient. In fact, in the old Bavarian culinary tradition, roast meat was served on Sundays, while fish was the Friday speciality. On other days, there were dumplings or minestrone. All of this can be prepared excellently and with a modern twist, using high-quality ingredients.
Do you still find that people are willing to spend four or five hours on a menu?
I think it depends on how often you do it. But I have the impression that the trend is towards fewer plates. People like to sit four at a table, order four or five dishes and everyone can sample a bit of everything. I find that exciting and it could become even more prominent in the future, especially when you think about the staffing issue.
“If you grow some of the vegetables yourself in the rooftop garden, you will also use the carrot greens.“
“Nose to tail“, or, more recently, “root to leaf“: Are these concepts practised in the Farmhouse?
Definitely. If you grow some of the vegetables yourself in the rooftop garden, you will also use the carrot greens. Simply because you are aware of the effort it takes to look after the plants all year round. Leftovers can also be juiced, fermented and used to make sauces, vinegars or vinaigrettes. From “root to leaf“ for the plant, from “nose to tail“ for the animal. Simply everything is utilised, be it in the production of ham or the reuse of certain elements by boiling them down again.
In your opinion, how has Munich's top gastronomy changed in recent years?
A lot has changed. The people from the pub are networked with the people from the cool bar and those behind the Michelin-starred restaurants. Munich boasts Tantris, which holds the title of Germany's oldest Michelin-starred restaurant and has had a lasting influence on other high-end eateries in the city for decades. We can be grateful to have such a magnet in the city. In recent years, however, the dining landscape has become considerably more diverse. With a certain amount of audacity, I would like to declare that we have also made a significant mark on the city by showing that it's possible to do things differently. A youthful, courageous and bold approach can work out.
Is Munich an interesting destination in culinary terms?
For me, Munich is the most beautiful city, at least in Germany. There are few places in Europe that I find as great. The city offers everything from subculture to thrilling outdoor adventures, the proximity to the lakes and mountains, and the various recreational areas within the city. You never have to cycle more than ten minutes to reach a place and at the Isar river, you actually have the most beautiful spot on earth right in front of your nose and also peace and quiet. Also the gastronomic developments of recent years have made Munich more exciting: from street food to classic Austrian cuisine, from young high-end cuisine to bold, cool bars.
“Bavarian restaurants, as well as in street food trucks or pizzerias now offer great wines – thanks in part to the city's exceptional wine merchants.“
What is Munich's wine scene like?
Very, very good. There is a growing interest in introducing new influences. Not only in Michelin-starred establishments, but also in the ordinary dining venues. Bavarian restaurants, as well as in street food trucks or pizzerias now offer great wines – thanks in part to the city's exceptional wine merchants.
If you're prepared to spend the right amount, you can easily enjoy high-quality and diverse food in Munich. What about the more budget-friendly segment?
Well, it's also expanding. Places like the Gasthaus Waltz is fun, Izakaya Ciao Chang is fun, Caspar Plautz to go is fun. And here and there, you can still find long-established street food shops like the Krua Thai, which still serve excellent food. Or at the Xiang on the trade fair square. The Neapolitan pizza concept has continued to evolve here. You can relish a fantastic pizza for 15 euros. The city even boasts high-quality meze and kebabs.
What about the pub culture?
I think Wirtshaus Eder in the Westend district is great. I've rarely eaten such good broth as I have there. And that's always a good sign. I also appreciate the Weisses Bräuhaus, for example. If you want a young crowd and a bit more action, the Xaver's is always a top address. You can also enjoy sensational food there for every budget.
Are there any traditional Bavarian dishes that you miss in our pub kitchen?
Offal cuisine. There are only a few places in Munich or the surrounding area where it is served: from sweetbreads to sour “Lüngerl“ (offal in a sour vinegar sauce). High-quality homemade aspic is also rare to find. And: homemade cheese spätzle (traditional pasta) without cream.
I'm always elated when I come across an excellent dumpling in a pub.
We typically prepare ducks and geese for Christmas. Then, Joshua crafts these miniature potato dumplings, which is quite labour-intensive. But to be honest, I think it is a prerequisite for a Bavarian pub.
Can you imagine applying your culinary approach to Bavarian cuisine?
Absolutely, I would love to open a restaurant like that, with the focus on home-style cooking. As for the dumplings: I think it would take a few months of experimentation to develop the perfect recipe. Ultimately, it could turn out to be the same as the one that someone perfected a century ago.