Castle Dining

I’m at Schloss Hugenpoet, for my niece’s wedding dinner, where things are a little different than the last wedding I attended—cold plate at the local Legion.

The castle is just outside Dusseldorf, Germany, and is enjoying a renaissance as an exclusive hotel known for fine dining.

We’re dining in the Festsaal, which has Murano glass chandeliers, towering ceilings and oil paintings depicting scenes from the hunt. Massive tables are set with silver, and the grand setting has heightened my expectations for dinner.

The meal begins with a small lions-head bowl of an intensely flavoured tomato broth, a promising sign.
Next up is boiled beef salad, consisting thin slices of boiled beef with arugula (or rocket, as it’s called across the pond), and a tomato-chive vinaigrette. The beef is fork-tender, and the peppery, well-dressed greens add a kick of flavour that the phrase “boiled beef” does not initially impart.
In between courses, attentive servers keep glasses full. The schloss service is formal, seamless and skilled, with a high server to guest ratio that helps ensure everyone at a single table receives their meal at the same time.

Salad plates vanish to be replaced with the fish course. Angler-fish, fried with pancetta and sage on risotto with lobster foam has me intrigued since spotting it on the menu. I’m not a fan of foam, which seems to be something trendy that chefs do not because they should, but because they can, used as a cheap trick that adds nothing of value in taste or presentation.

In this case, I am gloriously wrong. Lobster foam, which covers much of the plate, is pure essence of slightly sweet, briny flavour that transforms the dish into something magical.

Angler-fish, known as monkfish in North America, has been referred to as “poor man’s lobster” because the firm white flesh has a similar flavour, and the foam really accentuates that similarity. Pancetta adds a salty note, a touch of lemon for acidity, for a perfectly balanced plate.

Is there an elegant way to lick a plate clean? I’m still pondering this when the main course arrives. Duck, braised with a spice glaze. Braised long and slow, the fat has been rendered completely from the breast leaving deliciously crisp skin and luscious, tender meat. Alongside the duck, there’s an apricot wrapped neatly in bacon, like a tiny gift of taste. Dumplings are used as sponges to sop up the duck jus, neatly solving my earlier plate-licking dilemma.

And finally, dessert arrives; a crème brulee-mousse-sorbet trio that provides the perfect footnote. I have watched the wedding guests, who have flown in from far flung places: Nigeria, Australia, the US and Canada, and of course the Germans. At the start of the meal, everyone is chatting quietly, politely; as the wine flows and the culinary parade carries on, the atmosphere becomes that much more relaxed, more familial.

hole in the mousse is where the chocolate twizzle was…

What is already a joyous celebration transcends language and geography and becomes the communal table where new friendships are formed and language barriers fall.
Cheers to newlyweds Joanne and Ingo—may their table always be laden with good food and surrounded by family and friends.
Die besten Hochzeitswünsche!


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