I am having my final dinner in the beautiful town of Lucerne and what better way to finish my stay than dining at the Hotel des Balances. The focus on fine food and wine at this hotel is second to none. I have thankfully booked well in advance and have chosen a table on the Terrace overlooking the lake and with a stunning view of the old town. The lake through this strip is very much like the Grand Canal of Venice and the view is stunning.
I am greeted by the friendly staff, who do their best to make me at home. The waitress is an absolute darling; her name is Franziska, she is from Germany and she is very friendly. I go through the menu and cannot to pass by the Five Course Balance Ins”B”ration Menu with matched wines.
Here is the view from my table.
Prior to commencing formal dinner proceedings, there is a lovely amuse bouche.
Pork with Aubergine chilli tartar
The pork is succulent, chilled and full of rich fatty pork juices, while the eggplant has a rich tangy mediterranean flavoured streak and the chilli does its little bit to wake-up every taste bud and focus your attention on the evening ahead.
The first course is matched with a Toni Ottiger, Riesling X Sylvaner, Lucerne (2013)
This beautiful fruit aromas of this wine defines it. The intensity of the citrus and tropical fruit notes along with light floral blossoms provide an enticing introduction to the wine. On the palate this wine is lively and fresh with strong citrus flavours, but remains well-balanced with some good acidity (perfect for the dish below).
The first dish is the Grilled South African Scampi over Wild Herb Salad with Radishes, Sour Cream and Green Asparagus
The scampis are wild caught in traps from South Africa and have this beautiful light smoky surface with a sweet succulent meat. The scampi could have been a solo for this dish and it would have been wonderful. Each ingredient does do its part however, the herbs provide refreshing flow on the palate with some gentle bite in the aftertaste. The lemon gel works well with the mild acidity in the Riesling to deliver a citrus bite to pair with the scampi. The Riesling’s interaction with dish was interesting with a discernible ash-like mineral aftertaste developing with the pairing.
For the next course the wine is the Il Falchetto, Chardonnay Langhe, Piedmont (2013)
The wine has a mix of wildflowers and ripe apples and pears aromas which dominate on the nose to start. The pear and apples follow through on the palate for a sweet and intense ripe fruit flavour upfront flavour with fresh acidity counteracting some of the fruit intensity for an overall elegant and well structured wine.
The second course is the Creamy Morel Soup with Quail Roulade and Fried Quail Egg
The third wine is the Ceretto, Blange’ Langhe, Arneis, Vezza d’Alba, Castellinaldo (2013)
For those who are unaware, the Arneis is a little known grape variety from Italy. A lovely set of aromas dominated by pear flavours with some apple and other tropical fruit notes (notably banana) set the framework for the wine. The introduction of the wine on the palate is particularly interesting. To counteract the low acidity typically found in the Arneis, a small amount of carbon dioxide is maintained from the fermentation. This gives a fuzzy, deflated bubble style mouth feel as the wine first gushes onto the palate. This wine is fruity with fresh acidity and a smooth velvety texture in the finish as the notes of tropical fruit work to balance the acidity.
The third course is the Ora King Salmon Filled with a Froth of Parsley and Mint and Lime and Saffron Puree, Spinach and Shiso Cress
The salmon is from New Zealand and it dominates the dish with its rich oily flavours, while the parsley and mint add a refreshing streak and the lime adds the citrus touch needed for the dish. The saffron puree adds a nice soft balance to the dish and its texture notably contrasts to the oily flakey salmon texture. The soft spinach adds some weight to the dish but doesn’t particularly interact with the other ingredients. The distinctive taste of the salmon (which was superb and reflective of its quality) placed it on a pedestal on this dish. The wine had reasonable acidity and strength of flavour to match and cut through the richness and oils of the salmon.
Terra di Monteverro, Red Blend, Tuscany, Italy (2011)
The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Cabernet Franc (40%), Merlot (20%), Petit Verdot (10%). This was my favourite wine of the night. The vineyard is based in Southern Tuscany and benefits from the proximity to the sea, the slopes and clay and rock soil structure.
On the nose there was a broad array of aromas from cassis to tabacco, herbs, and mint. On the palate the wine has a beautiful rich velvety texture with the the flavours of cherries and plums at the start with some notes of chocolate in the finish. The finish also showcases the tannins of the Petit Verdot with some class.
The fourth course was the Roast Saddle of Roebuck with Pepper Jus, Celery and Apple Puree, Chanterelles and Spring Vegetables
The roebuck is from Austria and is wonderful. Its rich, gamey flavour effortlessly pairs with the sticky sweet spicy pepper jus. The fruit flavour of the apple puree stands up to the roebuck as expected to add some sweetness to balance the strength of the robeuck flavours. The earthiness of the the chantrelle mushrooms add an additional dimension to the dish. The crunchy vegetables add a lovely texture contrast to the dish to round it out. It is a well-balanced dish and the roebuck is juicy and succulent and retained its natural flavours through some good culinary skill.
The pairing of ingredients to the dish was matched with the wine partnership. The fruit flavours of the wine are sufficient to stand-up to the roebuck but were helpfully reinforced by the apple puree. Secondly the dark chocolately notes of the wine and the sticky pepper jus worked well to provide a sweet smoky overlay to pair with the dish. A very well constructed dish and thoughtful wine selection.
Basil sorbet on strawberry chutney
A lovely pre-dessert item is brought out…
The fight of the herby basil with the sweetness of the strawberry. It leaves a unique bitter herb and sweet fruit flavour on the tongue. The tussle of unique contrasting flavours prepare the palate for dessert.
I abandon the wine pairing and ask for another glass of the Terro di Monteverro, as I just love it and don’t normally warm to dessert wines.
The fifth course was the Strawberry Creme Brulee, Rhubarb Parfait and Valrhrona Chocolate
The creme brulee is a texture contrast with its crunchy sugary top and the rich strawberry creme in the middle. The chocolate truffles and chocolate coated crackle provide a touch of “soft and creamy” vs “crunchy”. The rhubarb jelly adds a little tingle to my spine while the parfait is super cold with the strong sweetness of the rhubarb showing. The white chocolate straw and bits of pistachio nuts are interesting while the redcurrants add a bitter-sweet liqueury strength to the dish. It is a very sweet dish indeed and there are a broad array of flavours and textures to keep you o your toes.
I skip the coffee but enjoy a beautiful set of Confectioner’s Treats.
Finally the dinner is over and what a beautiful experience it was. The wine pairing was wonderful, the delivery of fine produce as well as culinary thought and skill was almost flawless. The view was stunning and the service was attentive and very friendly from what I have generally experienced elsewhere.
As I leave dinner, I wave goodbye to Franziska and I stop to take another glance of the view across the river before I head-off to Zurich and I have to say Lucerne is stunning.