For the special occasion of our lovely friend Fousieh’s birthday, our little group hopped into the rental car (still a big fan of Drivy, by the way) and drove towards the very renowned Forsthaus Strelitz. The little cabin at the cross of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is only 90 minutes away from Berlins city center, if you’re lucky with traffic, and famous for its ‘brutal lokal’ Michelin-star awarded restaurant.
Now usually, Michelin-star restaurants are tainted by a stiff reputation of fine dining atmosphere, but Forsthaus Strelitz is a delightful exception to the rule: the re-transformed country house in Neustrelitz is basic and comfortable, easy going but completely satisfying – just like the 4 course menu offered by Wenzel Pankratz, who took over the little inn from his father.
As we arrive on Sunday afternoon, the captivating autumn light tempts us to explore the surrounding estate of Forsthaus Strelitz, where we discover the rustic and charming garden. Here is where the magic happens, and where chef Pankratz sources most of his ingredients for his guest’s dinner.
But as we still had a little bit of time left until we could dig into the famous cuisine of Forsthaus Strelitz, we hopped back into the car to see what else the region had to offer. We ended up going to the quaint little village of Carwitz, which – being so close to the Mecklenburgerische Seenplatte – was conveniently surrounded by lakes and yellow blooming rape fields. And so – as it goes at the end of September 2018, after months of heat and sunshine – we decided to gracefully conclude the summer season by skinny dipping in the FREEZING ICE COLD LAKE.
The nice thing about being in Brandenburg (or Meck-Pomm, as it was) is that skinny dipping is not only not frowned upon but also very much a “Volkssport”, which translates to “if you’re not naked then people will look at you funnily”. Coming from the former German West, it took me roundabout 10 years to get comfortable with that mentality, but now I embrace it. Never again having to schlepp bikinis, and done with the tan lines! Unfortunately, being completely unprepared for a spontaneous dip into the water, we had also neglected to bring any towels. In hindsight, it was funny, but for someone who will freeze even in the gulf of Mexico (me), it was quite torturous.
After our little outing we returned to our night’s refuge for the highlight of our trip: the dinner at Forsthaus Strelitz.
The inn’s dining room is almost austere – a lot of wood, candles and restored furniture – but nevertheless charming and key to feeling right at home. Quite a change from other set course restaurants. No dress code, no pretentiousness. The ‘brutal lokal’ concept feels much more at home here than, say, at Berlin counterpart Nobelhart & Schmutzig – not because the food is any worse in the city (quite the contrary), but because seeing those lush vegetables grow in such close proximity feels more authentic than being in a thoroughly designed and kind of generic “contemporary fine dining” setting. Yes, I said authentic.
The menu started with a serving of a very light linseed cracker and a yogurt dip, a very refreshing and innovative snack to start out with. Despite being to nibble on, I was also relieved when the sour dough bread was served – warm and soft and rich, just the way I expect my bread to be. And up until that point, everything had already pretty much guided us to the general idea of the menu: fresh, earthy, and Brandenburgs finest produce.
And our expectations were definitely met – the fish, the meat, the exceptional red beet, the dessert – everything simple, but just so good. I don’t want to spoil the food by talking to much about it, as my culinary writing hasn’t always proved convincing. But let me tell you: for roundabout 70 Euro per person (sans drinks), this is a meal that comes highly recommended.
Unfortunately, we had to go back to work, life and Berlin on the Monday after our precious time together at Forsthaus Strelitz (not without an important detour – but that’s a story for another blogpost). I was once again convinced of the power of escapism, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. It doesn’t always have to be over the top luxurious or a decadent spa to unwind and relax – sometimes a good meal and a walk through the garden will suffice.
That said, I was just slightly disappointed with the amenities of our room. While the inn is definitely renowned for being simple and without much fanfare, I do expect at least a comfortable mattress and a cozy room, especially when you’re sharing it with friends (a bath tub in the middle of the room can be romantic, yes, but it’s also highly inconvenient if there’s not an alternative shower option). At 80 Euro per night per person, I’d think that there’s a bit more that could go into the rooms.
Nevertheless – I will cherish the memories of our trip and hope to do it again sometime soon. The dinner, at least, would be worth it for sure.