Haute Cuisine

Too Much of a Good Thing

Jürgen Gosch Sylt DPA
Chef Jürgen Gosch has found the winning formula at his casual seafood restaurant.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Many guests prefer down-home cooking in casual atmospheres as opposed to latest and greatest in fine cuisine in elegant, but starchy, eateries. For restaurateurs, this often means tailoring their ambitions to a more relaxed, and ultimately cheaper, dining experience if they want to survive.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Despite its 2-star Michelin rating, La Mer restaurant in the A-Rosa hotel on Sylt island will close January 4 because of a lack of customers.
    • All vacation hotels in the A-Rosa Group are eliminating haute cuisine restaurants.
    • The Michelin Guide awarded a star to 31 German restaurants in the 2015 edition – three of those received a second star – and 24 restaurants lost a star.
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    Audio

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There are some delicious dining options on the island of Sylt in northern Germany, from grilled fish at the Alte Bootshalle (Old Boat Hall) von Gosch to a Breton lobster confit in vanilla with couscous in a pineapple membrane, lapped by a saffron stock in La Mer in the A-Rosa hotel.

Meals such as the latter score 17 out of 20 points in the Gault Millau restaurant guide and two stars in the Michelin Guide. Yet, despite the praise heaped on chef Sebastian Ziers’ creations, La Mer will close January 4, due to a lack of customers.

For Horst Rahe, the managing director of the German shipping company that owns a German property company, the Louis C. Jacob hotel in Hamburg and four A-Rosa group hotels, keeping La Mer open no longer made financial sense.

“Only 5 percent of the hotel guests visited La Mer, and it needed to be 10 to 15 percent,” said Mr. Rahe, who is closing down all haute cuisine restaurants in the A-Rosa group’s vacation hotels.

La Mer lost about €200,000 ($248,195) yearly.

“Guests do not want to eat out in a stiff, elegant setting anymore while on vacation,” said Mr. Rahe.

Spices, the casual dining restaurant in the hotel, also has one Michelin star, but this is not something that is shouted about. “Today, we have a surfeit of starred restaurants and it’s becoming harder to get people to appreciate that a dinner can cost €200 per person,” Mr. Rahe said.

Germany’s top chefs are continually surpassing themselves – and German restaurant guide reviewers from Aral, Feinschmecker and Varta agree on that.

Gault Millau gives more upgrades than the downgrades. The Michelin Guide awarded a star to 31 German restaurants in the 2015 edition – three of those received a second star – and 24 restaurants lost a star.

Increasinly, successful high-end restaurants, such as Ammolite in the Rust Europa-park and Opus Vin in the Engelhorn boutique in Mannheim, have sponsors. Richard Engelhorn, the chief executive of the fashion boutique, “absolutely wanted” a restaurant with a star, according to a colleague.

Restaurateurs still expect the high ratings to put more bums on seats, but diners these days are not content to blindly follow the guides’ advice.

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