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Hidden Gems – Jacobs, Hamburg

By Andy Hayler

It is hard to imagine the industrial setting of the port of Hamburg being the home to fine classical cuisine, yet on the banks of the Elbe not far from the docks is the haven that is Jacobs.

This restaurant is set in an 18th century merchant’s house, the dining room and terrace looking directly out on to the river bank. You are more likely to see a container ship sailing by the window than a picturesque sailboat, but on a sunny day the leafy garden is a pretty spot.

The dining room with its high ceiling and attractive view is home to the talents of chef Thomas Martin, who gained two Michelin stars for the restaurant in 2011, a level which it has retained ever since. The cooking is firmly classical in style, and in these days when so many chefs seem obsessed with serving foraged weeds, foams and bizarre ingredient combinations, it is a real pleasure to see an appealing menu with attractive dishes. An example is a starter of crab with asparagus, cucumber and cabbage with dots of herb oil and French dressing. The crab is ultra-fresh and has remarkably good flavour, the dressing superbly balanced.

A star dish here is turbot, carved at the tableside and served with beurre blanc, carrots, baby cep and onion. The turbot has magnificent flavour, the beurre blanc lovely balance, and the flavour of the vegetables is extremely impressive. A main course might be venison served with a mash flavoured with ginger, served with cabbage and turnip with a rich reduction of the cooking juices and freshly grated horseradish. The impeccably cooked deer has deep flavour, its richness balanced nicely by the root vegetables, the sauce intense and the horseradish providing some bite.

Your meal might conclude with a refreshing and prettily presented medley dessert of exotic fruits: pineapple, honey melon and mango with cocoa sorbet and mango and tamarind sorbet.  Just as you think the meal is over, a large dessert trolley appears bearing a huge array of beautifully made petit fours and ice creams.

The wine list is unusually extensive, with 150 champagnes and 250 German wines, including some glorious old Rieslings. Service is superb, the staff delightfully friendly and helpful. Jacobs is a real pleasure to dine in, with appealing dishes using top quality ingredients. It is completely off the media radar, yet is a restaurant that is hard to fault.

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