Ceci n’est pas un restaurant // Cologne & Frankfurt
Lucky me, I managed to secure a place for me and a friend at the very first dinner of Ceci n’est pas un restaurant for last Saturday. To my big surprise not everyone of my friends seemed to share my enthusiasm: “You’re doing WHAT???? Going for dinner at the house of complete STRANGERS???” It didn’t help with explaining my case that Ceci n’est pas un restaurant translates into ‘this is not a restaurant’. Of course it’s not, I was taught! And that only a poor simple-minded like me wouldn’t realize I was about to join some kind of lonely hearts club – one of the more innocent suspicions – or more bluntly, a swinger party. Isn’t it deeply touching to have such caring friends? Needless to say that the only one swinging that night was me on my super-high heels, which I am not used to wear. Fortunately, a supper club for most of the time is a sitting event.
Ceci n’est pas un restaurant has emerged from a cooking collective of friends. 4 of them, two couples, have decided to take it to the next level and start a supper club: Klaus and Jette from Frankfurt, and Anna and Björn who recently moved to Cologne. They plan to organize dinners alternately in both cities and at changing locations. The inauguration dinner was to take place in Anna’s and Björn’s cosy apartment with an open kitchen in the northern part of Cologne. The dining table – specially for the occasion extended by a wooden plate from the DIY store and 4 IKEA table legs – was set for 8 and nicely decorated with fresh flowers and a printed menu card on each place. There was an enticing mix of aromas in the air, and all together, my immediate impression was: These guys (and girls) really love what they are doing! And so did the guests from what I can tell.
“Brasserie” was the culinary surprise program – the menu wasn’t revealed until we got there – and it wasn’t an empty promise: Everything throughout all 5 courses was homemade and did taste-wise perfectly keep the balance between rustic and at the same time refined, chapeau! After the aperitif and some warm-up conversations, dinner started with a creamy chestnut soup with confit de canard. The confit had been baked at low temperature since the afternoon the day before and all through the night. Jette had even nervously got up in the middle of the night to make sure the oven didn’t have some funny security mechanism that would automatically switch it off after 12 hours or so. It had happened to her once, but this time all went fine. Then came an absolutely wonderful terrine de canard, followed by a plaice fillet on lentils with capers – my second personal favourite. The main course was beef cheek, braised for hours and hours and served with mashed potatoes and a fantastic sauce, and finally we were to enjoy Tarte Tatin from quinces with a perfect vanilla ice cream. Honestly, La Grande Nation has quite many Brasseries that could well learn something from these 4 amateur chefs.
The name Ceci n’est pas un restaurant already suggests a strong commitment to French cuisine, but the hosts are open for experimenting with other styles as well. A lot of their inspiration is taken from the Mediterranean. All four have a liking for simple and traditional dishes made from fresh, high quality ingredients, prepared in a way that enhances the food’s natural flavour, and for giving classic recipes a new twist.
Remains to say that the popular saying that too many cooks spoil the broth was clearly proven wrong by Ceci n’est pas un restaurant. Another dinner is planned for February, again in Cologne, before the kitchen crew cooks up a menu for Frankfurt: Details to be announced on the supper club’s website and on Facebook.
As a teaser for you to prepare in your own kitchen, here is a recipe provided by Ceci n’est pas un restaurant.