This post is about the time recently that saw us dining at the Hotel Riva Konstanz by Germany’s Lake Constance. We leave it to you, dear fellow traveler, to judge which was the greater tragedy: the story of the curvaceous Imperia, Shakespeare’s tale of the beautiful Ophelia, or how we failed to recognize the star chef of the gourmet restaurant that bears Ophelia’s name. Yes, a tragic tale, but true…
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As the saying goes, with the buxom Imperia guarding the entrance to Konstanz Harbor, things start off with a bang here on the Bodensee (the German name for Lake Constance). The scantily clad lady is said to have made the guys attending the Council of Konstanz (1414 – 1418) break out in a sweat.
Looking suitably kinky, Pope Martin V and the Emperor Sigismund sit more naked than not in the palms of Imperia’s hands.
Little wonder that erecting a “racy madam” like this — after all, she measures 9 meters tall and tips the scale at 18 tons — in such a prominent place did not go unprotested.
Interestingly, since she stood on private property and the landowners apparently found Imperia irresistible, neither the church in Konstanz nor the conservative city councilors could prevent it.
And so, it came to be that the world’s largest monument to a prostitute turned into a landmark and welcoming tourist magnet. Menfolk and womenfolk alike continue to pay homage to Imperia’s fabulous curves…
A few snapshots later, we, too, take our leave and make tracks, for, after all, supper awaits us in the Ophelia Restaurant.
This Ophelia is the city’s other beauty. The name comes from Shakespeare’s tragedy of Hamlet. In it, the smitten Hamlet is not treated to what popes and emperor are alleged to have indulged in liberally during the aforesaid Council. And in the end, unrequited love drives the lovely Ophelia mad and she drowns herself in the river.
You can probably guess in what frame of mind all this put Katja and me as we prepared now to plumb the culinary artistry of chef de cuisine Dirk Hoberg.
Will we, despite so much naked reality, be able to enjoy his 17 Gault Millau points? Will he fetch those two Michelin stars from the heavens for us?
The Ophelia gourmet restaurant
Just to keep the suspense from killing you, dear reader: yes, in the restaurant there are more nudity and voluptuous curves!
Maria Sagmeister, the art historian from Bregenz, had the restaurant decorated with ten photographs: they juxtapose nude marble sculptures and wildflowers of the region to symbolize beauty, fragility, and humanity. Quite like Shakespeare’s figure of Ophelia in Hamlet.
As I recover from my understandable momentary distraction, the action starts quickly at our table with the usual good greetings from the kitchen.
Stefanie Heid and her numerous male and female colleagues in steady procession bring us assorted amuse-bouche: perch from Lake Constance join radishes from Mainau island, beef tartare with truffles, eel in a tempura shell and decoratively stuffed egg.
In between, cheerful sommelier Werner Hinze volubly explicates which Müller-Thurgau he recommends to get us started. We taste and nod our pleased agreement. Not for nothing is this the most popular wine grape hybrid in Germany….
After this felicitous introduction, he does not have to persuade us very long to agree to the wine accompaniment for the gourmet menu. We hang on his every word and respond to every recommendation with “yes, sure!” or also the occasional: “Wow, yeah, absolutely!”
The greetings from the kitchen resume. The staff are totally into friendliness here; if a 4-part amuse bouche is not enough for you, we’ll bring you another one!
Already slightly buzzed by the apéro at the hotel pool and the first few glasses, do I read correctly that the amuse bouche here are called “amuse geule”? Whatever they call it, suddenly Lake Constance whitefish in a dill jacket appears, with asparagus ice cream and its little soup.
This one is served up by another, new waiter. We quickly lose track, that is how numerous the servers here are and how quickly they go about their business. Some of them wear white shirts or blouses, while others wear green aprons over them. Probably coming directly from the stove?
The many servers in white and green continue to cheerfully bring course after course — foie gras, crab, red shrimp, skate, and venison. Each new plate is more artistically arranged than the last and the food is exquisite! What a great experience!
And for every course, sommelier Hinze knows the optimum wine. With the hotel since 2009, he lords over a cellars for white wine and red wine plus a ripening cellar. With a wink, he tells us that he is sure we oenophile Swiss know how to appreciate what is here.
Delighted at the compliment, we reach for the next glass…
Meanwhile, already somewhat under the influence, I recollect the real reason for our visit, namely to review the cookery of chef de cuisine Dirk Hoberg. Katja casually points out that we have a photo of him.
It immediately jolts me fully awake:
Wait a minute! Wasn’t that the young man in the green apron?
We are served one of the dishes personally by none other than the famous chef de cuisine himself — and we fail to recognize him?
Egad! That would never happen to real food bloggers! What a faux pas — no, a tragedy!
Oh, well, we realize we blew it, but then we do find some comfort in the fine dessert and manage to drown our sorrow in the last drop of muscatel…
With heavy hearts, we retreat to our quarters in the adjoining Hotel Riva and flip a coin for which of us two will “have to” write this report.
Tragically, I draw the short straw. So, here it is. Thank you for your commiseration!
Actually, on the “morning after” we did make up by getting our obligatory photo in the kitchen. Now we’re all clear on whose heels to stick to. Tragedy averted; or, to quote the Bard of Avon: “All’s well that ends well.”
And we also tracked down sommelier Hinze in his spacious wine cellar.
About the Riva – the hotel on Lake Constance
The hotel’s modern, elegant main building rises majestically on the shore of Lake Constance. Butting up against it is a renovated Jugendstil villa dating from the year 1909. It houses the lucullan as well as bucullan top quality of the Ophelia gourmet restaurant.
The main building has elegant, generously sized hotel rooms and a heated pool on the roof. This is the ideal place for sobering up and then buckling down to work ;-)
Ophelia Gourmet Restaurant, Riva Constance Hotel
Our thanks this time go to…
… Oliver Sefrin of the German Tourist Office (Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus – DZT). He introduced us to Markus Otto Graf of Graf’s Kontor, responsible for marketing the Riva. This charming promoter had little difficulty convincing us of the merits of the Riva Hotel ;-)
Many thanks also to Frau Dauwalter for the nice welcome and tour of the hotel!