The Kofler catering company already had quite some success running pop-up restaurants, mostly in the hip German capital, Berlin. Now they moved on to other cities and recently opened Pret-à Dîner in the just completed but not yet occupied Frankfurt skyscraper Nextower. The restaurant and its “Tree house” bar operate there for 6 weeks, from Sept. 8th Oct. 15th, hosting several Michelin-starred and newcomer chefs during this time.
At more than 100 meters above ground, the location calls itself the highest pop-up restaurant in the world and offers a stunning view on Frankfurt skyline, which -being a Frankfurter myself- feels heart-warming. The venue is set up over 2 floors and furnished in a way making it look like a mix between a construction site and an African bungalow. Chipboard panels on the floor, bars made of pallets, all kinds of African chairs, neon pop-art for a contrast and young waiters looking like oldschool gardeners in their blue pants with brown suspenders. An exciting and inspiring atmosphere I must say, instantly immersing one in some sort of parallel world, far away from daily routines.
The current menus at our visit were prepared by the chefs Matthias Schmidt, holding 1 Michelin star at Frankfurt restaurant Villa Merton (also owned by Kofler), as well as Olyssan, acclaimed Sushi chef at Munich based restaurant Kokoro. Both menus are composed of 3 courses, cheese and dessert are available as extra-options. I opted for Menu 1 which is prepared by Matthias Schmidt. I’ve never been to his restaurant Villa Merton, and was therefore very curious about his cooking style I have read a lot about.
A BUNCH FROM THE FARM CLIMBS HIGH INTO A SACRED NEST, Matthias Schmidt’s first course. I love the presentation: eggshells are filled with different specialties stemming from the chicken, clever and amusing. There’s chicken-liver cream: very rich, nearly too rich, but also yummy. Dices of cold chicken filet marinated in Frankfurt Green sauce: a tasty wink to a local specialty (I love all winks to my beloved Green Sauce). Egg cubes in broth: warm and comforting taste of a homemade soup. Shrimp Omelette: a little taste of the sea. Quail egg in sour brine: Well, as expected, but with no particular flavoring of the brine. Even though none of these fillings was truly spectacular this starter transported different flavours and textures of chicken and its “byproducts” and also showed how Matthias Schmidt likes to accentuate local flavours, in this case the Green Sauce.
A HORSERADISH AND A BEETROOT SING “SMOKY GLASSES” IN VEGGIE WOODS, second course by Schmidt. When opened, hay smoke escaped from the glass and created a mystic atmosphere – a smell of sweet incense catches ones attention and appetite. The beetroot still has a good bite and some granola allegedly made of sugar beet adds crunch and a caramelized kind of sweetness. The horseradish ice cream on top brings freshness, creaminess and pepper all at once. The herb -sorrel I think- underpinns with a tangy metallic taste. I enjoyed this course very much as there was a good balance in the composition with several layers of aroma and flavour that worked well together, despite it being a “raw veggie” course. My vis-à-vis said it is “very German” dish and I guess she’s somehow right – it reminds a German tendency towards Rohkost (raw food), but it also depicts Matthias Schmidt philosphy which he calls Rohstoff (raw material). Somehow I would also add that there’s an inspirational link to Noma‘s René Redzepi, exploring the possibilities and pushing the boundaries of local produce.
A PARSLEY ROOT HOPEFULLY FINDS ITS CALF BETWEEN THE BUSHES AND THE CREEK, Schmidt’s main course. What looks like a baby-alien is actually a parsley root, lying on tender veal, which seems to be cooked “the German way”, meaning rather steamed than pan-roasted. The plate is covered with char roe, capres, dollops of horseradish cream, parsley emulsion, and brunoise of celery if I remember well. A good composition again and I enjoy the interaction of all these elements. Veal is of good quality, perfectly tender and acceptably juicy. Maybe with the capres and roe (and the salting of the meat), the dish appears slightly oversalted, but I get the picture and the philosphy of Schmidt. Interestingly, it is still hard not to be seduced by the dish of my vis-à-vis featuring tender braised ox meat – somehow “braised” always captures our senses and instincts first. An unfair confrontation? I stop here before it gets too philosphical.
Since we were quite full, we gave cheese and desserts a pass and ended our meal here. What to say? I guess this evening met my expectations. In terms of an experience we had a great time. The setting was simply magical, and the feeling that one was participating in something out of the ordinary was creating enough of excitement to make the dinner a success. Concerning the food, I somehow anticipated that an improvised kitchen within such an event wouldn’t allow chefs to perform at their highest. But honestly, I have to say that they did a god job in creating a short but representative menu which could also easily be recreated in these premises (and at a fast-enough pace – it’s also about the dineros of course). I got a really good impression of Matthias Schmidt’s cooking style and philosophy, and maybe the creativity of presentations was a clever way to compensate for whatever loss in quality there would be.
Also, it was evident, that the organisation of the event was more than professional, as precise as a Swiss clockwork (service sometimes seemed more like logistics, but everyone was more than friendly), and with the current international car show in the city, there’s also certainty that the place will be quite packed. The success of the restaurant seems secured.
For the same reason one should rather hurry to get a reservation. Other possible highlights are upcoming menus by 3 star chef Juan Amador as well as by London-based chef Nuno Mendes of restaurant Viajante
Prêt à Diner at Nextower Frankfurt
Matthias Schmidt, Sept 8 – Sept 18
Ollysan, Sept 8 – Sept 25
Juan Amador, Sept 19 – Oct 5
Nuno Mendes, Oct 10 – Oct 15
Menus at 59 €, Vegetarian at 46 €. Cheese course 10 €, dessert 9 €. Wines from 20 ish € on upwards.
Reservations are only possible via Prêt à Dîner website (registration required)Google+