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Süllberg - Seven Seas in Hamburg (2 Michelin stars)

Rating: 85.
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Süllberg Seven Seas is the flagship restaurant of the Karlheinz Hauser group, which consists of a hotel and a number of restaurants on the Süllberg in Blankenese just north of Hamburg, and a catering and consulting company. After having finished his training, Karlheinz Hauser (b. 1967) started working at the Königshof restaurant in Munich in 1988. From 1989 until 1997 he held various positions at Feinkost Käfer in Munich (a renowned delicatessen and catering company that also operates a number of restaurants), interrupted by a stint in 1990 as sous-chef of Eckart Witzigmann at Aubergine. From 1997 until 2002 he was "Küchendirektor" at hotel Adlon in Berlin and in 2002 Hauser became chef-patron on the Süllberg. Blankenese, now a leafy suburb of Hamburg, enjoys a beautiful location on the river Elbe and has traditionally been a favourite destination for day-trips for residents of Hamburg. Süllberg Seven Seas was awarded a Michelin star in 2003 and the second star followed in 2012 (2013 guide).

Süllberg Seven Seas is open for dinner Wednesday till Sunday and on Sundays and Bank Holidays the restaurant also serves lunch. You can choose between a 'Degustationsmenü' (6 courses for €138, 7 courses for €156, 8 courses for €169), a 5-course vegetarian menu for €89 and there's the à la carte menu. I had lunch at Süllberg Seven Seas with my husband on Sunday 26 May 2013 and we both ordered dishes from the à la carte menu.

We started off with an amuse bouche of different tomato varieties and textures. Lightly marinated yellow tomato, a tomato chutney with goat's cheese crispies, a very concentrated tomato crumble, a tomato sorbet served on top of a green tomato slice, a tomato meringue placed on top of some cucumber, a few sprinklings of basil seeds and some dots of goat's cheese crème. Nice but simple.

My first course was Crab, fresh Granny Smith apple (sliced and mini balls), yuzu, olive, enoki mushrooms, sea grapes, algae. Lovely fresh white crab meat, lightly dressed with mayonnaise, served with an apple and cucumber gazpacho, an apple meringue, dots of black olive crème and yuzu crème, and an algae sugar tuile. The gazpacho was wonderfully pure, flavoursome and had a lovely touch of piquancy. Great depth of flavour from both the olive and the yuzu, the former providing a nice touch of saltiness. A beautifully presented dish with elegant flavours and well-judged use of yuzu.

Second course: Scallop, Oyster (from the island of Sylt), cauliflower, wheatgrass, cucumber. A nicely cooked, albeit small scallop and a delicious, large and juicy oyster, accompanied by a lovely cauliflower puree, pan-fried cauliflower, a wheatgrass sauce, fresh cucumber rolls and mini balls. The wheatgrass sauce had nice pure flavours which enhanced the sweetness of the scallop and the saltiness of the oyster; clever. On the whole a good dish, but I didn't like the cauliflower 'shells'. They didn't really add anything to the dish; their flavour was nondescript and the texture was thick and slightly grainy.

On to the third course, Dover sole Colbert 'new style'. New style dishes can either be great or bad; this one wasn't very good. The main ingredient of the dish, a Dover sole 'sandwich' stuffed with sliced Perigord truffle and with a mixed herb topping, was severely undercooked and it shouldn't have been on the plate. On the menu it said that the sole came with a Bearnaise sauce, which in reality was a nice herby Hollandaise but definitely not a classic Bearnaise sauce. Also on the plate were batons of potato and carrot and dots of spinach puree. Apart from the undercooked fish this dish was ok, but in my book this dish had nothing to do with sole Colbert, old or new style, and I would have very much preferred a classic sole Colbert.

Bresse guinea fowl and foie gras roulade came next. The à la carte menu neglected to mention that the guinea fowl was stuffed with foie gras, which seems unwise with such a controversial ingredient. The guinea fowl roulade was lovely however, as was the leg meat. Also on the plate were white asparagus, morels, parsley puree and a wonderful truffle sauce. A bit of a let-down however was the grapefruit chutney and gel. Instead of balancing the rich elements in this dish, it did exactly the opposite and somehow managed to neutralise all the other flavours. It made something wonderful taste of nothing. In order to balance the flavours, the parsley puree would have been more than sufficient.

Last course was a cheese dessert called Frozen goat's cheese with orange, black pepper and olive oil. A goat's cheese 'snowball'  with an orange and olive oil sauce, orange 'pudding' and black pepper crumble. The snowball was filled with a delicious goat's cheese and black pepper cream. Nice combination of fresh flavours; the goat's cheese went well with the orange. A nice enough dessert but it lacked refinement.

Süllberg Seven Seas is a very ambitious restaurant. The location, the ambiance, the pricing - they all speak of the high standards which the restaurant aims to set itself. On the gastronomic front however, it fails to meet them. This was a disappointing meal, with a mishmash of overcomplicated dishes. Some were conceptually flawed, others suffered from serious errors in the execution. The quality of the ingredients is good but the food, even if it has a certain elegance, lacks finesse and focus. The shortcomings in my meal were serious and if they were not flukes, they require attention urgently.

Posted 19-06-2013


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