Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A true master chef : Heinz Winkler

Near the Bavarian Sea, lake Chiemgau, nestles the fairytale village of Aschau, in which Residenz Heinz Winkler is located.

This is a true signature restaurant, a member of both Les Grandes Tables Du Monde and Relais & Chateaux. The restaurant and the dining experience is the raison d'etre of this fine establishment. That it has plush rooms to stay in and, a La Prairie spa is almost incidental. The food and service was so sublime, it almost seems churlish to criticise either.

I arrived there almost too late for lunch last weekend. Lunch, the Residenz "bible" in our suite, told me is served between 12 noon and 2pm. It was already 2.20 pm and the stand-in blonde was busy with her "stuff" in the bathroom. Requests to hurry were rebuffed with explicit advice. So I took off alone to the dining terrace.

I asked a young steward if he could find me a table to two for 2.30pm. He said he could and I duly arrived back with the blonde at this alloted time. However, my way was blocked by an imposing Maitre D'. "Sir, we only serve lunch up until 2pm" but my riposte was prepared, "Your colleague has already prepared my table" and walked straight past him. "Then you will just be having a snack then" he managed to impart. A mean spirited and worthless remark, as we were shortly presented with the full menu and proceeded to order a full three course lunch, which kept us mesmerised until about 4pm when we retired to our suite once more. Needless to say, the food was sublime, the service excellent and even the great Heinz Winkler made an appearance and did his round of the tables.

Herr Winkler is a discrete and likeable host. He kindly consented to have his picture taken with your scribe, standing by his establishment's front door above. Despite the skirmish with the Maitre D', all his staff are impeccable in their turn out and their approach. I could not fault them; but they not only did things in a very efficient German way, they did it with a smile, a warmth and dedication that hard to match anywhere in the world. So Herr Winkler is not only a celebrity Chef of the highest order, he is also one of the best team builders in the business. Reminds me of San Lorenzo, Knightsbridge, in its hey day.

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