Sunday, September 19, 2010


My tour of the Hotel Louis C Jacob was quite fascinating. The front of house manager was my guide. Her name is Annette. On the basis of this trivial co-incidence, she confided that she had allocated me to one her favourite rooms in the hotel. I have also just had a call to say that an opening has occurred in their famous restaurant, so either the name thing is way more important than I could have thought possible, or I showed suitable signs of being impressed by the tour. Or it could be pure chance, of course.

The famous terrace with lime trees - on a rainy afternoon.
The oldest part of the building dates from 1790; there is a marvellous huge cellar which was discovered when their earthmoving equipment fell into it during excavations for recent renovations; the artworks on the walls – 500 of them - are all originals, forming the collection of the private owner. They have a Max Lieberman painting of the terrace (although not that painting of the terrace – it is in the Hamburg Art Museum). There is a story about Lieberman staying in ‘the house’ (as they call the hotel), and they have a ‘Lieberman Room’ where they think he may have laid his head.

But the best bit was being allowed into the celeb chef’s kitchen – a huge affair with 60 chefs. It has its own escalator. Extraordinary. Well, my salmon and warm potato salad lunch, which I had this afternoon in the sitting room from the bar menu, was delicious, so I am hoping of great things from dinner tonight, now that I have been ‘allowed in’.

Thomas Martin's kitchen at the Louis C Jacob Hotel, Hamburg
I checked – this place is only costing 185 Euro a night – very inexpensive for the standard. Wow – a find. Of course, I haven’t seen Hamburg yet! But I do like a destination hotel. For the record, the chef’s name is Thomas Martin. He has one Michelin star, and catered Robert Redford’s wedding (here).


Well, dinner was more of a theatrical experience than a meal – very special. I regarded it as excellent training for el Bulli (which has three Michelin stars, the maximum possible). Dinner lasted only 2.5 hours, while el Bulli will be 5.5, but as with all marathon training, one needs to start slow. I recorded the progress of the meal on Facebook – a version of real-time reporting – which, due to the ephemeral nature of Facebook posts, I will repeat here:

Practicing for el Bulli. Although this Thomas Martin restaurant in Hamburg has 'only' one Michelin star. 60 chefs and an escalator in the kitchen (I had a tour).

The amuse bouche consisted of 5 things. All delicious, I'm pleased to report.

Wait - that wasn't the amuse bouche. It has now arrived: pumpkin done 4 ways. And house made rye bread with pumpkin seeds, German unpasteurised butter and salt flavoured with grapefruit.

Tuna, done 3 ways, all raw of course. And rooibos tea on the side.

Poussin with pea purée and lobster. What is poussin anyway? I've just eaten it and I'm still not sure.

Veal, two versions; and a cheese called 'Munster' eaten with a knife and fork.

Choice of about 4 dozen petit fours and chocolates with tea. 2.5 hours. Quite exhausted. Will I last 6 hrs at el Bulli?

Roger: We have great confidence in your stamina!

Anton: Glad to hear you weren't too .. er .. chicken to try the poussin. And loved the rooibos touch. What a feast!

Jocelyn: According to my French dictionary, poussin is, somewhat obscurely: (zool) chick: (terme affectueur) pet, poppet. But if you check chicken in the English section it tells you more helpfully that it is a very young poussin.

Me: Shouldn't it have been' das Hähnchen'? In any event, it was well disguised. But tasty.


The next day...

And so we turn to breakfast.  I can report that a Michelin-starred restaurant does an excellent poached egg (and everything else), and that nothing was lost in translation. Jocelyn has taken up with vigour the question of why the Spanish don’t recognise poached eggs, and reported yesterday that a Spanish – or, I should say, Catalonian – friend had replied to her enquiries:

Dear Jocelyn:
Entre testamento y requerimiento judicial, y reunión con abogados, me detengo unos minutos a discutir si el huevo de tal manera es poché o escaldado.

En español el huevo sin cáscara cocido en agua hirviendo con vinagre y moldeado con dos cucharas es "ESCALDADO "
El huevo cocido en agua hirviendo con cáscara pocos minutos quedando muy crudo es "POCHÉ"

Supongo que en cada región lo llamarán de una manera diferente.

Querida Jocelyn, vuelvo a mis cotidianos temas, BYE.  Gloria.

I somewhat amazed myself by being able to work out the gist of this, with only a few recourses to Google Translate (which, as usual, baulked at a couple of fences):

Between 'testamento' and judicial requirements, and meetings with lawyers, she now has one minute to discuss the manner of the egg 'poché' or 'escaldado'.
In Spanish the egg without a shell cooked in hot water with vinegar and moulded with two spoons is called ESCALDADO ['scalded']. An egg cooked in hot water with its shell for a few minutes, being very crude (?) is "POCHÉ" ["poached']

She supposes that in each region it is called in a different way.

Dear Jocelyn, I return to my everyday issues, BYE. Gloria

This is quite revealing, and explains why I received a soft boiled egg when I used the term 'poached'.

It has been an interesting cross-lingua investigation. To which we can now add the more quickly solved mystery of ‘poussin’.

But wait....I’ve just had an SMS from Kyle which will neatly close this discussion:

Quote in today’s Sunday Times: “Other restaurants may aspire to theatre, while el Bulli is opera”

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