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11-06-2023

Lafleur, vegan chronicles from Frankfurt

Cuisines from around the world, underground mushroom farms, special inclinations for vegetables and fruit: Europe's financial centre exhibits an unexpected gastronomic verve

The dish of Edelpilzzucht Kroll noble mushrooms (a

The dish of Edelpilzzucht Kroll noble mushrooms (as ravioli, marinated and as bouillon) by Andreas Krolik, chef of the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant Lafleur in Frankfurt (photos by RedondoBueno)

‘All I've ever seen of Frankfurt is the airport.’ ‘I don't know the city, I only go there for trade fairs.’ How many clichés mark our relationship with Frankurt am Main, the most important city in the Hesse region of Germany, the financial centre of the Continent (the European Central Bank is based there and every day the city's stock exchange moves 6 billion euro worth of transactions)? And how many stereotypes revolve around its cuisine, which the superficial would like to be heavy in its most popular expressions and entirely colonised by French schemes in its fine dining ones.

Sure, of course. It is true that the city on the Main is grey (and yet there’s huge space for nature: the city is surrounded by 48 kilometres of forest, the largest Stadtwald in Germany) and that the people are cold and grumpy (and yet they introduce themselves with a kiss and a hug like you were long-time friends).

The cuisine has historically been linked to pork because it was necessary for the workers who toiled in the mines and fields to collect calories. This is probably the genesis of the Frankfurter, Germany's most celebrated frankfurter, cooked in sheep intestine, lightly smoked and then dipped in grüne soße, the ubiquitous green sauce that combines sour cream and herbs in any assortment (parsley, chervil, sorrel...). And then the comfort winter suppes: lentils, chickpeas, cabbage... The very popular apfelwein (a kind of cider) and the buttercream layers of the Kranz doughnut...

Patron Robert Mangold, director of Tiger & Palme, a group that includes, among others, restaurant Lafleur and Caféhaus Siesmayer

Patron Robert Mangold, director of Tiger & Palme, a group that includes, among others, restaurant Lafleur and Caféhaus Siesmayer

Andreas Krolik, German from Saxony-Anhalt, former East Germany

Andreas Krolik, German from Saxony-Anhalt, former East Germany

 Sommelier Alexandra Himmel and head waiter Boris Häbel

 Sommelier Alexandra Himmel and head waiter Boris Häbel

But in Frankfurt English is becoming more popular than German: 65% of the people who live here (or rather who can afford to live here) were not born here. Italian surnames abound and the kitchens fly flags from all over the world. Enough to stay and taste for days on end, even if only in the Bahnhofsviertel, the perfect multi-cultural district to sample splendid tabuleh (in the colourful Bar Shuka) or Mario Lohninger’s schnitzel and Austrian kaiserschmarren, he’s one of the best chefs in the city, cool as a deejay (by the way, Frankfurt is also the cradle of techno music: ravers know that Sven Väth is from here).

And then there is fine dining. On the banks of the Main there are 11 starred restaurants, five fewer than in Rome or Milan and half as many as in Berlin. If the haute French
style has historically taken hold, today we are witnessing the glimmers of a local pride that pushes various chefs to explore the possibilities of the land and farm-to-table, of fermentations and permaculture, of lightness and fragrances that win out over protein crudities and traditionally buttery sauces. There is much talk, for example, of Seven Swans the 100% vegan restaurant of Ricky Saward, which we did not have the opportunity to visit.

LAFLEUR. Instead, we went to Lafleur, one of the city's two bi-starred restaurants (the other being Gustav). At the helm in the kitchen is Andrea Krolik, a long-time reserved chef from a small village not far from Leipzig in the former East Germany. The setting of the restaurant is splendid: large windows let the light of the Palmen Garten, the city's botanical garden, filter through onto a well-kept circular room, preceded by a wine cellar displaying large formats of great wines.

The main menu of the moment includes two tasting courses: the most popular one lines up in an orthodox way scallops, Icelandic cod, Norwegian langoustines, pigeon breasts and saddles of lamb... It is called 'Grand Produits' and is the most popular with customers. But an increasingly large segment (now one in four) chooses the vegetable menu, which we tried and enjoyed very much. ‘A few years ago, I got in touch with the owner Robert Mangold,’ recalls Krolik, ‘Together we decided to explore vegan way. I became interested in flavour boosters: hazelnut and grape-seed oils, celeriac and parsley extractions. And mushrooms, my great passion.’

The restaurant is inside the Palmengarten, Frankfurt's botanical garden

The restaurant is inside the Palmengarten, Frankfurt's botanical garden

Mathias Kroll, mushroom grower at Edelpilzzucht Kroll in Offenbach and his enoki

Mathias Kroll, mushroom grower at Edelpilzzucht Kroll in Offenbach and his enoki

Other mushrooms from Edelpilzzucht Kroll: Lion's Mane and Shiitake

Other mushrooms from Edelpilzzucht Kroll: Lion's Mane and Shiitake

The day before dinner at Lafleur's, we visited Edelpilzzucht Kroll, an incredible mushroom farm in Offenbach, carved out of the subsoil of a former icehouse. Krolik buys shiitake, cardoncelli, lion's mane, shimeji, maitake mushrooms cultivated in tunnels and burrows dug 20 metres below the surface from the passionate Mathias Kroll. The mycetes sprout in large numbers from organic layers filled with wood shavings, under regulated and constant light and humidity conditions. A sublime horror movie set, in a place that has also hosted underground fight clubs and jazz concerts in the past.

Lafleur's second menu, illustrated in the following photos, is an interesting exploration of veganism because it interweaves complex post-classical and contemporary techniques with the cook's instinct and palate, instinctively oriented towards enhancing the value of vegetables and fruit from the surrounding area, sourced strictly on a seasonal basis. Mushrooms and asparagus, carrots, leeks and strawberries that in the end give a great sense of satisfaction, both gustatory and ethical. Another sensible interpreter of the cuisine of the future.

LAFLEUR, menu end of May 2023
Initial appetizers: chive tartlet with watercress, chard shot with wasabi mousse, polenta with baked olives, truffle cream and limequat. The flavours are never abstract, always full

Initial appetizers: chive tartlet with watercress, chard shot with wasabi mousse, polenta with baked olives, truffle cream and limequat. The flavours are never abstract, always full

Hessian green asparagus with creamy Frankfurt Green Sauce, radishes, tomato, curly salad and focaccia croutons

Hessian green asparagus with creamy Frankfurt Green Sauce, radishes, tomato, curly salad and focaccia croutons

Two types of spicy carrots in carrot-kimchi broth, green carrot cream, shallots, Bruchenbrücken chickpeas, macadamia nut crunch. Perhaps the most interesting because it shows how far you can go, in terms of textures and flavours, with a simple carrot

Two types of spicy carrots in carrot-kimchi broth, green carrot cream, shallots, Bruchenbrücken chickpeas, macadamia nut crunch. Perhaps the most interesting because it shows how far you can go, in terms of textures and flavours, with a simple carrot

Roasted Norwegian lobster with almond, tandoori barbecue sauce, green asparagus, cauliflower cream and bell pepper chutney. An exception on our vegan menu

Roasted Norwegian lobster with almond, tandoori barbecue sauce, green asparagus, cauliflower cream and bell pepper chutney. An exception on our vegan menu

Noble mushrooms from the underground cultivation of Edelpilzzucht Kroll as raviolo, marinated and as bouillon

Noble mushrooms from the underground cultivation of Edelpilzzucht Kroll as raviolo, marinated and as bouillon

Baked young leek hearts, celery, peas with truffle jus, hazelnut-quinoa crunch, mint oil

Baked young leek hearts, celery, peas with truffle jus, hazelnut-quinoa crunch, mint oil

Strawberries and rhubarb with almond crumble, ice cream of pistachio and sorrel. A fragrant, satisfying non-sweet dessert

Strawberries and rhubarb with almond crumble, ice cream of pistachio and sorrel. A fragrant, satisfying non-sweet dessert

 Final pralines

 Final pralines

The exceptional battery of pairing wines:
Chablis 2012, Séchet Grand Cru, Dauvissat, Burgundy
Terlaner 2012, Grand Cuvée, Magnum Cantina Terlan, South Tyrol
Puligny Montrachet 2015, Premier Cru, Clavoillon, Magnum Domaine Leflaive, Burgundy
Château Lafleur 2001, Double Magnum Pomerol, Bordeaux
Not in the photo:
Riesling 2011, Wiltinger Braune Kupp Spätlese Egon Müller, Moselle

The exceptional battery of pairing wines:
Chablis 2012, Séchet Grand Cru, Dauvissat, Burgundy
Terlaner 2012, Grand Cuvée, Magnum Cantina Terlan, South Tyrol
Puligny Montrachet 2015, Premier Cru, Clavoillon, Magnum Domaine Leflaive, Burgundy
Château Lafleur 2001, Double Magnum Pomerol, Bordeaux
Not in the photo:
Riesling 2011, Wiltinger Braune Kupp Spätlese Egon Müller, Moselle

The tasting menus (both omnivorous and vegan) cost 205 (5 courses), 215 (6) or 225 (7) euros

The tasting menus (both omnivorous and vegan) cost 205 (5 courses), 215 (6) or 225 (7) euros


Zanattamente buono

Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world

by

Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes. 
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