(by Bernd Wilberg)
Fine dining in idyllic surroundings
Beyond Cologne’s city borders, there are a handful of gourmet restaurants – in country inns, next to golf courses or even in palaces – that will appeal to the serious foodies among you.
Niederkassel. Not far south of Cologne’s city limits is the Hotel Clostermanns Hof, which is equally popular among golfers and gourmets. Even if you have no ambition to tackle the 18-hole course, we still recommend a visit to this historical farmhouse that has its own terrace with park views. Le Gourmet, as the name suggests, is a classic fine dining restaurant with a typical refined ambience — but the unusual and often bold aromatic contrasts fêted by head chef Thomas Gilles will take you by surprise. Pickled Arctic char is served, for example, with camomile and sultanas, while quince and parsnip make perfect sense together as a dessert. Gilles really pulls out all the stops to dazzle his guests, which has also caught the attention of restaurant critics and earned him a star from the Guide Michelin. In the same building complex is the more laid-back, rustic Clostermanns Restaurant & Bar that serves up regional classics and a substantial Sunday brunch.
53859 Niederkassel-Uckendorf, Heerstr. 2a, Tel. +49 (0)220 89 48 00, clostermannshof.de
Pulheim. Cologne’s neighbouring community of Pulheim, located in the north-west, not only boasts picturesque countryside, but also this Michelin-starred restaurant. For twenty years now, restaurateur Peter Hesseler has been the patron of this dignified — but never stuffy — gourmet destination, which adjoins a golf club. Hesseler, who is also responsible for French Michelin-starred restaurant La Société in Cologne, has been instrumental in shaping the style of this establishment. Despite the high level of professionalism, the service remains approachable, attentive and far from pretentious. Recently appointed head chef Thorben Schuster is responsible for the culinary concept and his excellent flair for tantalising flavours stems from his interest in Asian cuisine. He serves up dishes such as sole on the bone with grilled watermelon and coconut, and wagyu with Jerusalem artichoke, pistachio and shimeji, the Japanese beech mushroom. In summer you can dine on the terrace and savour the wonderful views of the golf course and surrounding countryside.
50259 Pulheim, Hahnenstrasse, Tel. +49 (0)2238 923 10 16, restaurant-gutlaerchenhof.de
Kerpen. Originally built in the 15th century, Loersfeld Palace is situated in the middle of a vast English-style landscaped park. The stately grounds are home to an old-school gourmet restaurant with an exquisite interior, historical parquet flooring and stuccoed ceilings included. It is against this backdrop that recently appointed young Austrian chef Paul Spiesberger flies the culinary flag, combining classic French cuisine with the tastes of his homeland, while also adding modern flavours and ingredients. Slow-braised octopus comes with coconut, basil and fennel, and fried seabass is accompanied by lettuce heart, quinoa, and saffron espuma. Until the end of 2018, when she left to take a sabbatical, Julia Komp —
Germany’s youngest female chef to be awarded a Michelin star — cooked up a storm here by spicing up the European notion of haute cuisine with inspiration from around the globe. Having worked alongside Komp at Schloss Loersfeld, Spiesberger is now continuing her approach with his own flair.
50171 Kerpen, Schloss Loersfeld, Tel. +49 (0)227 35 77 55, schlossloersfeld.de
Bergisch Gladbach. In the nineties, Joachim Wissler was at the vanguard of the New German school of cooking, paving the way for contemporary haute cuisine in Germany. His sophisticated restaurant is housed in a relatively unassuming extension of the magnificent Bensberg Palace that dates back to the 18th century and is now a luxurious grand hotel. The maestro, who has firmly held onto three Michelin stars for Vendôme since 2006, weaves his magic with surprising contrasts that always hit the mark. Wissler focuses on intricate symphonies of taste and a culinary avant-gardism that is never obtrusive but blends in with perfect attention to detail. Either before or after your dinner, it’s also worth visiting the palace itself, which also has an enoteca and two bars. From its courtyard you can take in the wonderful views of Cologne and the city’s landmark Cathedral.
51429 Bergisch Gladbach, Schloss Bensberg, Kadettenstrasse, Tel. +49 (0)221 429 06, schlossbensberg.com
Odenthal. Alejandro and Christopher Wilbrand, owner and head chef respectively, have put Odenthal on the culinary map. By serving up first-rate cuisine without frills at their country inn, they have retained their Michelin star since 2004. Salmon trout from Wipperfürth is accompanied by celery and rhubarb, the filet of local grass-fed beef is served with morels. Their inspiration comes not only from French and German haute cuisine, but also from local down-to-earth fare. And even if, despite the fair prices, you still don’t want to indulge in Michelin-starred cuisine, it’s still worth a visit: the Postschänke restaurant in the same building offers simpler dishes, also prepared with loving attention to detail. Before that — or perhaps even after an inexpensive lunch here — you can explore the surroundings, taking in the Altenberger Dom, the former monastery church of Altenberg Abbey built in the 12th century by the Cistercians (open daily from 8am-6pm).
51519 Odenthal, Altenberger Domstr. 23, Tel. +49 (0)2202 97 77 80, hotel-restaurant-zur-post.de