Review: Victor’s at Schloss Berg, Germany

Arriving at Schloss Berg just after dark in a taxi was a slightly surreal experience. We were expecting an old German castle with high pointed turrets and perhaps a couple of floppy grey weimaraners lounging on the stone steps. Instead we passed a brightly lit sign welcoming us to “Schloss Berg Casino” and then arrived at an enormous car park in front of a modern building with a glass pyramid on the roof, glowing with rainbow coloured lights. Disconcerting, although it turned out that the old castle remained intact behind this brassy add-on, and our dining room had proper old timbers holding up the ceiling. There was even a suit of armour in the basement by the toilets.

There were lots of lovely touches at Victor’s which all helped polish the third star. I’m remembering… stylish ceramic butter knives, interesting knobbly plates that looked like they were made from the shells of exotic sea creatures, olive oil we dripped onto our bread with a pipette, comfy swivel chairs to sit in. It’s a tiny dining room, only 34 covers, and very convivial. Service was restrained but extremely attentive throughout the meal, with all the immense attention to detail you would expect at 3 stars. Some details did hit the wrong note for me: after our main course the crumbs were cleared from our table, but since two of us had (gasp) created marks on the tablecloth that couldn’t be brushed off, we had a fresh white napkin placed over our part of the table. I felt like a naughty child. Of course, at the end of the meal I dipped the bill in my uneaten petit-four and then tipped my water glass over, so perhaps I shouldn’t feel too offended.

Food! There’s a lot to get through.


We had a few different canapés, including a crispy breaded riceball with a splendid flavour of brined olives and a cornet filled with smoked eel cream and topped with a red blob of steak tartare. Then no less than three proper pre-starters, which are charmingly called ‘greetings’ at Victor’s and were almost large enough to be a starter in other restaurants. The first was a collection of three little riffs on the theme of carrots. The idea horrified Maureen, who hates the little orange devils, but in fact they were delightful. Albeit also as a reminder that the main purpose of carrot is to be covered by other flavours (cumin, coriander, apple and miso among others here). The next greeting was a trio of crab and a real bucket of textures; wobbly crab jelly, crispy breaded crab ball, unctuous crab ‘tartare’, scrunchy toasted seeds, tingly apple sorbet, crunchy cucumber package and a soft cheesy mousse beneath it all. Perfect. The final greeting was a stunning chestnut soup liberally topped with sliced alba truffles, served piping hot so the truffle scent envelopes your whole headspace. This soup was so rich it was actually obscene. In a good way.

Starters ‘n’ fish

On with the proper courses. I liked the way the waitress actually called it that: ‘here is your first proper course…’ Anyway, it was foie gras. Sorry, goose liver. Chilled goose liver wrapped in a thin layer of carrot(!) and seaweed, surrounded by a little mushroom ragout with pearls of frozen foie gras and a vinaigrette of Japanese lemon. This ragout was brilliant, and to be honest I could have done with only one of the three pillars of goose liver provided. Not a criticism of the dish, just that I’ve personally become bored with chilled goose liver.

Next up was a huge scallop, perfectly cooked, surrounded by various constructions of butternut squash; thin discs, blobs, coins and tiny cylinders filled with purée. There was a nice foamy beurre blanc to bring it together, but to my palate it lacked the tarragon flavour promised. The second seafood was a piece of John Dory, again beautifully cooked, crusted with nuts and topped with a crispy bit of skin. It came with four flavours; blobs of sour Japanese lemon, blobs of sweet potato, a tiny quenelle of salty anchovy relish and a puddle of spicy ginger oil. These came together as designed, more than the sum of their parts, the ginger just warm enough to be noted rather than overpowering the fish. It’s a brave chef that pairs ginger with fish. But I guess for me this dish was more courageous than clever; he pulled it off, but did he really need to?

Main course

I have to confess that by the main course we were all stuffed. The meal was just too big. Of course we didn’t have to eat everything, but it’s hard to know how large a meal will end up being when you’re still in the early stages. Anyway. Three tablets of sturdy back beef, cooked medium, along with a slender piece of slow-cooked rib with a lovely crust. These were accompanied by delightful baby roasted onions, a crispy breaded ball of onion and a couple of blobs of over-salted grey-brown mulch. This was described as Japanese aubergine, but I can do without novelty if the result is unappealing in texture, colour and seasoning. Very good beef, but as a construction this dish was unbalanced in my opinion and one component was poor.

And to finish
Pre-dessert was a spiffy re-constructed apricot with chocolate mousse and different elements of green tea; very delicious on the eye and in the mouth. This was followed by more for dessert, an artistic presentation of chocolate with hidden passionfruit elements that came together very nicely indeed. It was good and surprisingly light. Chef Christian Bau has a very deft touch with chocolate. And the petit-fours were the finest and most extensive selection I have ever been presented with, just a pity I couldn’t find the tiniest corner of space to stuff them all into. I did my best.

Concluding words

I left thinking that perhaps Christian Bau is more naturally a pâtissière than anything else. His plates are always beautiful, he seems to have a natural affinity for sweet flavours, and the strongest dishes were definitely the desserts, petit-fours and ‘greetings’. For my palate, he wasn’t as balanced in putting together tastes and textures on a main dish; not enough to bite into, not enough punch. Surely 3-star meals don’t have to appeal chiefly to elderly ladies with wobbly dentures?

But what the heck. We had just the kind of over-the-top fine dining experience you would hope to have at a 3 Michelin star venue, and the food gave us lots to talk about over the two superlative Mosel Rieslings we enjoyed with the meal (one was a 1975, the oldest table wine I’ve ever drunk and yet a mere £80). We’d have enjoyed it more if we’d been given less, though.

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