Search on ElizabethOnFood to find restaurant reviews, Michelin guides and more...

Restaurant Haerlin in Hamburg - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 94.
Rating index:
Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
Very good to Excellent (89-92)
Above average to Good (86-88)
Below Average to Average (80-85)
Avoid (below 80)
More info >

Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten in Hamburg is one of the most prominent traditional grand hotels in Germany. It is one of only nine hotels in Germany to receive the highest rating of five red houses in the Michelin 2013 guide and enjoys a magnificent location on the Binnenalster. The history of the Vier Jahreszeiten started on 24 February 1897 when Friedrich Haerlin purchased an 11-room hotel with this name in a foreclosure sale on his 40th birthday. He continued to extend the hotel until 1911, when it had become a grand hotel with 140 rooms. In 1926 the Jahreszeiten-Grill with its magnificent Art Deco decor was opened and in 1928 the hotel building reached its present form. In 1936 the hotel passed to Fritz Haerlin, the only son of Friedrich to have survived the Great War.

The hotel was only lightly damaged in the 1943 allied bombing raids on Hamburg and in 1945 the British 7th armoured division commandeered the hotel as its headquarters. In 1952 the hotel was returned to Fritz Haerlin, who proceeded to restore its to its former glory and to turn it into one of the most glamorous hotels in post-war western Germany. It 1966 it became one of the "Leading Hotels of the world". The Haerlin family sold the hotel in 1989 to a foreign investor and in 2007 the Vier Jahreszeiten became part of the Fairmont group.

The Haerlin name is remembered by the eponymous fine dining restaurant in the hotel. Since 2002 Christoph Rüffer (40) has been at the helm of this restaurant. Rüffer learned his trade at Hotel Résidence in Essen and also trained at Bareiss, the Schwarzwaldstube, and Le Gourmet in Munich. Before moving to Hamburg, Rüffer worked at Fährhaus on the island of Sylt. Christian Schäfer is the restaurant manager and Marco Franzelin the sommelier. The restaurant had held a Michelin star since 2001 and was awarded a second one in 2012. In the German Gault Millau guide the restaurant is awarded 18 points.

Haerlin is open for dinner Tuesday till Saturday and they offer two tasting menus. There's an "Aromenbehandlung" ("aroma therapy") menu and a "Gaumenparty" ("palate party") menu. The prices for both menus are the same: 4 courses for €105 and 6 courses for €145. I had dinner at Haerlin with my husband on Saturday 25 May 2013 and we both ordered the Aromenbehandlung menu.

To start there were three excellent appetisers. From top to bottom: grilled avocado with basil seeds and olive oil - sea bass covered with a thin layer of lightly charred milk skin and some herring caviar, served on a light spinach cream - lightly caramelised quail's egg served with a truffle cream.

The bread selection

A Hereford beef tartare was served next as a pre-starter. The well-seasoned tartare was served on top of a smoked potato puree, sprinkled with crispy potatoes. A lovely, pungent wholegrain mustard ice cream was served on top. The potato puree had a lovely light texture but the smoking flavours could have been a bit more intense. Lovely crunch and flavour from the potato crisps.

The first course of the tasting menu was Spargel textures 'Finkenwerder Art'. Wonderfully concentrated white asparagus mousse, surrounded by a gorgeous green asparagus vinaigrette, dotted with grapeseed oil. On top of the asparagus mousse were brown shrimps, green and white asparagus tips, crispy fried brown shrimp shells, a white asparagus roll with a green asparagus and chervil filling, little mouthfuls of 'Katenschinken', some white asparagus foam and a shrimp cracker. A lot of work had been put into this visually stunning dish and it showed. Beautiful, pure and precise, asparagus flavours and the Finkenwerder Art (meaning: with bacon and brown shrimps) were perfectly incorporated - in this case the bacon was replaced by much more elegant Katenschinken.

Second course was Langoustine, apricot, pumpkin, 'oriental aromas'. A beautifully grilled jumbo langoustine (from Denmark) and a fantastic langoustine tartare, seasoned with lime oil and chives. Also on the plate was a wonderful intense and velvety pumpkin puree (flavoured with Ras El Hanout), sweet and tart apricot gel, pumpkin confit, crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds, diced glazed apple, and a creamy and foamy pumpkin and langoustine sauce. A perfectly executed dish with very well balanced sweet flavours. Elegant sweetness from the pumpkin, delicate sweetness from the langoustine and more intense sweetness from the apple. The Ras El Hanout added a lovely extra flavour dimension.

After the langoustine came Red Mullet. Splendid red mullet fillet (poached in a herb oil) served with a poached oyster, tamarind Hollandaise, glazed diced cucumber with gin, sliced baby courgette, courgette crème, little cucumber rolls with a crème fraîche filling, sprinkled with Piment d'Espelette. The red mullet was moist and tender and had a lovely hint of rosemary. Underneath the red mullet was a spoonful of herby cucumber salad. The beautifully made, frothy tamarind Hollandaise was lightly flavoured with miso, the tamarind provided a lovely hint of tanginess. Nice texture and flavour from the courgette and cucumber; the fresh cucumber was really lovely. An outstanding dish with a rich base, surrounded by lovely interplay of light and fresh ingredients.

Main and fourth course was Veal (fillet and cheeks), braised chicory, red onion and veal's head vinaigrette. Beautifully cooked pink fillet of veal placed on deliciously sweet and sticky balsamic-braised red onions. Tender veal cheeks were served with a spinach cream and a thin slice of braised veal's head. With the veal came a lovely rich and well-reduced veal's trotter jus and a veal's head, caper and tomato vinaigrette was spooned around the fillet. The chicory had been braised in butter and port, the latter providing a lovely touch of sweetness. An exquisite dish with bags of flavours. The vinaigrette was a perfect, creative choice to reduce the richness in this dish.

Before dessert we ordered an extra cheese course. Haerlin offers a great selection of unpasteurised cheeses by the famous French (Alsatian) affineur Bernard Antony.

The first of the two desserts (fifth course) was a sublime fruit and vegetable 'minestrone', served with a wonderfully fresh and tart calamansi (a citrus fruit) sorbet. The dish contained a great selection of fruits and vegetables, such as carrot, baby peas, melon, pineapple, red pepper, pickled fennel, delivering a fantastic interplay between sweet and savoury flavours.

Sixth and last course (no photograph) was Lime-quark soufflé accompanied by a raspberry and quark foam, a crispy chocolate cannelloni with a delicious creamy quark filling, a vanilla-mascarpone ice cream, braised rhubarb and some broken rhubarb meringue. A well-executed dessert (the soufflé was perfect and the cannelloni beautifully thin) with clean, well-defined flavours and great textures.

This was an excellent meal from start to finish. The dishes are quite elaborate but they all work very well because they are well-balanced and thoughtfully conceived. Christoph Rüffer's cooking has a classical basis but he happily employs modern techniques and not-so-obvious ingredients when this is functional. The sophisticated food of this very accomplished chef is beautifully presented but never showy, playful and creative but in essence quite restrained, original and always expertly executed. I was impressed with the quality of the ingredients and the skill and attention to detail with which they are turned into outstanding dishes. The desserts are very strong too. This is top-class cooking with a hint of Germany. À propos attention to detail: service is excellent. This is in keeping with the traditions of this grand hotel and I would in particular like to mention Marco Franzelin, who took such excellent care of us on the wine front. This is a restaurant that convincingly lives up to the high standards that its ambitious team, its reputation and its noble surroundings set it.

Posted 17-06-2013


My Restaurants

StreetXO (2016)
Hedone (2012/2016)
Kitty Fisher's (2015/2016)
Taberna do Mercado (2015/2016)
The Clove Club (2015/2016)
Bonhams Restaurant (2015)
Noble Rot (2015/2016)
Frenchie Covent Garden (2016)
Elystan Street (2016)
Park Chinois (2016)
Luca (2016)
Holborn Dining Room (2016)
Kiln (2016)
My Restaurants

The Fat Duck (05/11/12/13/15/16)
The Beehive, White Waltham (2016)
Andre Garrett at Cliveden (2016)
l'Enclume, Cartmel (2015)
Midsummer House (2012/2014)
Hind's Head (2011/2012/2016)
Northcote Manor (2010/2015)
The Royal Oak (2011/2012/2016)
The Curlew, Bodiam (2013)
Nathan Outlaw (2011/2013)
Paul Ainsworth at No 6 (2011/2013)
Gidleigh Park (2008/2011/2013)
The Sportsman (2012)
My Restaurants

Pure C, Cadzand (2017)
De Lindehof, Nuenen (2015/2017)
Arles, Amsterdam (2017)
Breda, Amsterdam (2016/2017)
Auberge Jean & Marie, Amsterdam (16/17)
Zarzo, Eindhoven (2017)
Tribeca, Heeze (2016)
Bord'eau, Amsterdam (12/13/14/15/16)
De Leest, Vaassen (08/12/14/16)
De Librije (07/09/10/11/12/13/14/15/16/17)
Moon, Amsterdam (2017)
Librije's Zusje, Amsterdam (2014/2015/2016)
Aan de Poel, Amstelveen (11/13/14/15/16/17)
My Restaurants

Atelier, Munich (2017)
Gustav, Frankfurt (2016)
Lafleur, Frankfurt (2016)
Villa Rotschild, Konigstein im Taunus (2016)
Geisels Werneckhof, Munich (2017)
Esszimmer, Munich (2017)
Gut Larchenhof, Pulheim (2016)
La Vie, Osnabruck (2011/2016)
Schwarzenstein, Geissenheim (2017)
Schloss Berg (2010/2013/2016)
Aqua (2013/2016)
Schanz, Piesport (2016)
Becker's, Trier (2016)
My Restaurants

El Celler de Can Roca, Girona (2012/2017)
Dos Palillos, Barcelona (2017)
Lasarte, Barcelona (2012/2017)
Eleven Madison Park, NYC (2016)
The Jane, Antwerp (2016/2017)
Hoja Santa, Barcelona (2017)
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (2016)
Espai Kru, Barcelona (2017)
Disfrutar, Barcelona (2017)
Dos Pebrots, Barcelona (2017)
Le Bernardin, NYC (2016)
Geranium, Copenhagen (2016)
My Restaurants

Le Cinq, Paris (2016)
l'Ambroisie, Paris (2016)
Mirazur, Menton (2016)
Neige d'Ete, Paris (2016)
l'Oustau de Baumaneire, France (2016)
Maison Bras, France (2016)
Hexagone, Paris (2016)
Le Vague d'Or, St Tropez (2016)
Champeaux, Paris (2016)
Le Petit Nice, Marseille (2016)
Regis et Jacques Marcon (2016)
Ledoyen (2014)
l'Assiette Champenoise (2014)

©2022 Elizabeth On Food