Could a Sunday be any more beautiful? Sampling the Menu of Small Delicacies, a dozen Amuse-bouche served across four courses that will have you wishing that Sunday lunch could stretch to evening. Anja and Martin Scharff’s Wartenberger Mühle [Mill] retreat is always a joy.
Far from any of the big cities and a dozen kilometers or so north of Kaiserslautern, this place is proof positive that location is not the deciding factor for gastronomic success. The former cattle stable with its ancient cross vault and original water troughs along its walls provide the perfect setting for Scharff’s innovative cuisine.
Scharff has worked in the kitchens of some of the best restaurants in the industry. Having graduated from the Heidelberg Hotel Management School, he became the patron of the Zum Kleinen Obristen restaurant in Dinkelsbühl in 1991 gaining a Michelin star. The same star has shone over his Wartenberger Mühle restaurant since 2001. Scharff’s father, a well-known architect, has developed the idyllic 16th farm building into a work of art. The stylish, Bauhaus-style interior offers a perfect combination of old and new. Carefully selected art pieces decorate the 17 spacious rooms that, despite almost stringent modernity, radiate coziness.
The mill’s charms are perfect in both summer and winter. In good weather, there are covered restaurant tables in the herb garden, where up to 160 herbs are grown and the view stretches all the way to the stream in the adjoining valley. The menu is, as you would expect, largely seasonal and is primarily French/Mediterranean in origin. Scharff’s spicing and seasoning of game demonstrates a perfect mastery of balancing the delicate with the hearty, as in the Danube catfish with Krautfleckerl [cabbage and noodles] with red beets, horseradish and mashed potatoes. Scharff’s menu also reveals his penchant for offal. As well as venison, pigeon or lamb you will also find dishes such as veal sweetbreads with crayfish and Kohlrabi salad on the menu. The walk-in vaulted cellars offer a choice of 350 German and international wines which are also available by the glass if preferred.
"Molino", the venue’s second restaurant, takes advantage of the property’s southern aspect. Diners sit at bare, polished wooden tables in the former stables to eat dishes such as guinea fowl with lemon polenta and grilled Mediterranean vegetables or sea bass poached in herb oil with olive nage. Predictably, the seats in the idyllic courtyard are always in demand during good weather.
Q&A with Martin Scharff, owner of Wartenberg Mill
Question: What would you have done if you hadn’t become a Chef/restaurateur?
Scharff: A musician. In my youth, I spent ten years as a member of the Dinkelsbühler Knabenkapelle (Germany’s most famous marching boy’s choir and band who dress in historic rococo uniforms and perform a repertoire that ranges from classical marches and fanfares to modern jazz and Pop).
Do you have a favorite herb and how do you like to use it?
My favorite is basil and I grow ten varieties in my herb garden. My use of the leaves is flexible and varies from starters to desserts.
What is your favorite dish? Who cooks it best?
My mother’s Sauerbraten [braised marinated beef with raisins] served with Spätzle [small dumplings].
What’s the worst dish that you’ve ever eaten?
A pheasant dish I tried as a jury member at an international cooking competition in Poitiers, France.
Where do you prefer to eat and why?
I don’t have a permanent favourite restaurant as professional curiosity sends me on a constant journey of discovery.
What recognition/award has pleased you the most?
Receiving the Michelin star as a young chef of 25. It was like a journey on a rocket to the moon.
Land Art Hotel Wartenberg mill