Haerlin is one large dining room right off the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel in Hamburg. Ecru floor length cloths drape the good sized tables that are set with matching napkins and stuffed armchairs. Music is in the background of this elegant room. Windows overlook the street outside on one end of the room. While the setting was nice the service was stiff and cold. (They were most upset when we poured our own wine but they continually passed the table and left our glasses empty. They actually took away one of the empty glasses with the bottle still half full.) Even with a 2 star Michelin rating it was not a particularly comfortable atmosphere unless you wanted to pose. They offered 2 tasting menus and wine pairings are available for each, but do not pair wine with each course. We chose the “Big Palate Party” and ordered out own wines. Pacing was on the slower side but portion control was good. Overall the food was on the bland side even with a lot of ingredients on the plate and the dishes chosen often proved to be distracting/clashing to the food presented. On the table was a card holder where they would place a written description of what you are having. It was a nice touch.
We started with a Negroni cocktail while they quickly served some snacks. A horseradish meringue (right) with jellied tongue and cheek of veal, egg yolk creme and violet mustard creme was okay. There was too much creamy stuff for a good balance. Goat’s cheese foam (middle) with carrots cooked in chicken fat, Sansho pepper-powder and chickweed was chewy and the carrots a bit boring. Celery yogurt (left) with a Yuzu pearl and grated nut butter in the middle burst tart liquid in your mouth for a not so good bite.
Beef tartar with roasted onion broth and iced Beurre blanc was in a bowl with a colored bottom which created a visual illusion of something else in the bowl. The beef was good, smelled great and worked well with the ice cream and caviar. Some tapioca chips with Furikake and lime cress added texture. It was good but overall the flavors were mild. The coloring on the bottom of the bowl was weird.
Bread service was sour dough that was a doughy multi grain bread. It was served the hay milk butter. They also had multi grain rolls and a sour cream spread. Both of those were fine, not spectacular but okay.
Roasted tuna belly from Spain was topped with ginger and cream in a cabbage broth. Avocado-jalapeño creme and cucumber sorbet was on top of tuna tartare as was Mandarin Imperial caviar. Some white horseradish creme and yuzu gel were the final embellishments. It was fairly good and the ingredients blended well.
Carabinero shrimp were plated with cockles, fennel creme and Capuchin leaves in a crustacean-ginger tea broth. The shrimp were cooked in camomile butter and the cockles were glazed and topped with trout caviar. Some orange-vanilla gel and bronze fennel added color. It was nice but didn’t wow me. Turbot was with bergamot, celery and chorizo vinaigrette.
The turbot was flamed, topped with citrus peels and presented on nut butter foam of roasted celery. Alongside was celeraic with green apple and bergamot gel. The turbot was perfectly cooked. Some chorizo vinaigrette gave the plate color but the chorizo was way too mild. Again all blended well but there was no spark – nothing to make me want to lick the plate clean.
Porcini mushrooms were plated with roasted sweetbread, hazel nut and parmesan truffle foam with Madeira was rich and creamy. Alongside was a small salad of marinated chervil and frisee. The porcini mushrooms were diced and pan fried and some porcini foam on the plate too. It was all on corn polenta with hazel nut and hazel nut oil. The sweetbreads were cooked nicely but overall the dish was not strongly flavored, just rich.
Haunch of venison was seared to a nice medium rare in juniper butter and placed on a honey chili jus and topped alongside cranberry, smoked pistachio creme topped with pistachio chips, a warm sabayon of green juniper and a potato gnocchi with bits of Boudin Noir and topped with grated parmesan. The meat was not mealy and did have a taste of liver, but why did this plate take 30 minutes to get out here? The gnocchi was really gummy and the pistachios had an odd flavor. The cranberries matched well with the deer.
A slice of braised Victoria pineapple was in a spice-caramel and rum sauce poured out of a coconut tableside. Some iced and marinated meadow sorrel topped a foam of coconut water infused with sorrel oil. Topping all were coconut chips and roasted almonds. The pineapple was great but I didn’t like the combination with sorrel. The cream of coconut and white chocolate went well with the tasty pineapple. A partial success.
Celery-strawberry were served with vanilla, oat, whiskey and spruce sprig cream. A roasted oat mousse was mixed with chocolate-whiskey ganache and placed in a ring of creme of young spruce sprigs. Some strawberries marinated in single malt whiskey were beside with whole meal crackers. Vanilla ice cream was seasoned with strawberry-verbena ragout. Lots of textures in this one but not sure they blended well. The parts fought rather than melded. The cracker would have been better with cheese.
The tasting finished with petit fours, including macarons (pistachio, berry), housemade bonbons (black tea, apple rum, passion fruit), cheesecake with passion fruit and cannelé. The cannelé did not have a proper crisp to the exterior and the bonbons were pretty and colorful but not memorable. They gifted us with one bar of chocolate.