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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hirschen Oberkirch (Luzern, Switzerland)

It's around Luzern but you don't want to travel there, so no details.

After our gastronomically undistinguished boat trip from the North of England to Amsterdam and another sandwich-fuelled few hundred mile drive to Switzerland, en route to Italy, we are looking forward to a gastronomic break at a place recommended by the Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe association.

They promote 'passion and talent', so our expectations are high.

And it's also part of the 'Hirschen' brand which we recently extolled...

The rustic small room, behind a bar area, is promising.

Then we look at the scandalous bread (of the supermarket slice variety), we have a moment of doubt, but we resume the optimistic mood. It's Sunday night, after all.

An amuse also appears:

Boiled veal marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, slightly 'thrown on the plate', but at least pleasant. We keep being optimistic.

We are looking mesmerised at the dense menu in German, resigned, given the language wall between us and the waitress, to order food at random.

But then suddenly the chef appears (we recognise him from the JRE website photo), even though dressed in 'civilian clothes', says hello in English, and sits decisevely at our table.

He asks us what we want to eat. What do you recommend? He asks if we want traditional or gourmet. In unison: gourmet. How many dishes? We have been sitting all day, not many, just two, three. And yes, sure, we want dessert. You have free hand, chef, just cook for us what you want!

So what you are going to see is the absolute best this cuisine is capable of producing.

Dish number 1:

It's a pan-fried Zander fish (pike-perch) with celery, wild rice and peppers. Ok, the fish is fresh, and it is also cooked well, this a 'gourmet dish'? The artless cheesy pool and the little mountain of naked (and steamed) celery bits tell the tale, we think.

We begin to notice that not only does the chef not wear chef clothes, he is also never in the kitchen, just chatting at the bar. We had also noticed that he was not sure what amuse bouche we had been given.

In other words, we begin to notice that the chef, assuming he is a chef, doesn't give a shit.

Dish number two:

It's roast lamb with potatoes and greens, a very young and smiley cook emerging from the kitchen announces in Italian. The lamb is of good quality, slightly tough, the sauce not very intense. It's an unambitious dish which however is not throughly unplesant to eat. The vegetables are just boiled vegetables, with a watery taste. The potatoes fare better, but to be frank the hurdle was not that high...

At this point we are regretting asking for the dessert. And we are getting more and more edgy, as this dessert is taking quite a while. Uh, but what is that, the young cook now leaves the kitchen. Uhm... We ask the waitress whethere there is any more coming. She checks with the 'chef' (c'mon, be serious), and she comes back that no, that's it. Just to remind you: we had given free hand to the chef, and we had asked for a dessert.

The dessert never came.

A very modest dinner by the advertised 'gourmet' standards. No talent and even less passion, so we just do not understand how the JRE association can endorse this venue.

One thing which wasn't modest was the price. Including a Swiss red wine at 59 CHF (a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noire, Gamay recommended by the 'chef' which was the one bright spot of the evening) and a tiny mineral water at CHF 6.5, we paid CHF 195.50. That's over £120, totally ridiculous for a 2 course dinner of this modest quality.

The JRE should be ashamed of themselves.


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