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Romantik Waldhotel Mangold, Am Milchbornbach 39-43, Bergisch-Gladbach

Perched picturesquely at the edge of a forest – yet still close to the center of this charming Cologne suburb – the Romantik Waldhotel has been in the family Mangold for three generations. The exterior is simple and sedate, at perfect harmony with the bucolic environs; the interior, which is typical of contemporary German restaurants, exudes a comfortably subdued elegance.

This seemed the perfect venue to entertain our friends, Malte & Gine Wittwer, who had treated us to a sumptuous dinner at their home the previous evening… And, without doubt, the Waldstuben was a most fortuitous choice, as the food, which proved to be as subtly sophisticated and refined as the ambiance, more than exceeded our expectations.

So dismiss any preconceived notions you may have about eminently forgettable mounds of wurst mit kraut. Oh, it’s there if you want it, particularly in Bavaria… But modern, upscale German cuisine is light, delicate, lovingly, and beautifully presented. The piscatorial pleasure that arrives at table in the evening was undoubtedly swimming in a nearby lake or stream that very afternoon. Even what we would consider more traditional forms of German cookery are prepared with flair and finesse.

An appetizer of ricotta ravioli, for example, is kissed by basil butter, set on a bed of sautéed spinach, and consummated with an ethereal tomato foam. The texture of the pasta is just right – firm to the bite but not at all chewy – and the various taste sensations meld together into a seamless gestalt. The scallops provide an interesting variation on the theme. Three bivalves are perfectly pan seared, also pillowed on sautéed spinach, and surrounded by a sumptuously addictive sea of lobster foam.

Soups also play prominent roles as starters. The night of our visit, the restaurant offered cream of pumpkin buttressed by coconut and curry, white tomato soup augmented by a splash of old balsamic, and an impeccable quail soup garnished with a poached quail egg and vegetable pearls.

When it comes to German entrées, I find it extremely difficult to pass up the pike-perch. Its white flesh is quite delicate but still exceedingly flavorful; and it is especially appetizing when sautéed or pan roasted. The representative sampled here was done up with lemon olive oil, companioned by Champagne cabbage, and finished with a Riesling foam. Extraordinarily delicious

And the filet of free-range pork was also a marvelous effort on the part of the kitchen. Pork can dry out at the drop of a fork; but the generous slices proffered here were incredibly moist and tender. They were set on a pillow of melted cabbage, accompanied by Macaire potatoes (similar to hash browns or rösti), and finished in a malt beer sauce.

Even one of the more traditional dishes, wild boar bratwurst, was as tempting to the eye as it was to the palate. The bratwurst was presented on a tangy bed of Savoy cabbage and companioned by luscious potato noodles and an assertive wild mushroom/tomato sauce.

Desserts in Deutschland, even in the most casual of eateries, are generally beautifully presented – and those served up at the Waldstuben are certainly no exception to that rule. The Grand Marnier soufflé, for example, was kissed by a marinated peach and vanilla sauce and garnished with a plethora of fresh berries; and the baked chocolate pudding cake was spruced up with plums that had been marinated in port wine and a dollop of intensely flavorful bourbon-vanilla ice cream.

Espresso, needless to say was entirely up to the mark, rich and potent; and the Zeller Silvaner from the Rheinhessen proved the perfect match for our appetizers and entrées.

Without doubt, a most memorable dining experience.

The Artful Diner
September 2010

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

E-mail Artful Diner!
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