Eric Werner has opened his second restaurant in Cologne
EStarting a restaurant report on the ceiling and not on the plate requires a, well, extraordinary ceiling. And that’s a given: star restaurateur Eric Werner has hung an impressive and idiosyncratic collection of chandeliers, chandeliers and lanterns on the petrol-colored vaulted sky of the recently opened “Augustin”. From a height of five meters, 100 lamps bathe the guest room of the listed building from 1904 in an atmospheric and subtle light.
From classics to curiosities, everything is included in the collection, which, apart from lighting, restaurant despite its stately size of 200 square meters with no corners or niches, gives an amazingly cosy, almost homely atmosphere. “I more or less left the design to my wife Karin. She’s more skilled at it, and more importantly, she’s got more imagination. Despite the enchanted inner courtyard, the original room seemed as charming to me as a train station hall when I first entered it,” says Werner. “In the end, my wife Karin gave the decisive impetus. She said: do it!”
Andre Mazanke joined as head chef
The 36-year-old restaurateur had not planned to open a second restaurant so soon after the three-year success story of the “astrein”. But the property on Dagobertstrasse, only a ten-minute walk from the first restaurant, fell into his hands. “I took my time with the decision: if we can do it, we can do it, and what do we want to do with the restaurant attached to the hotel,” he says about the planning. After the most urgent questions had been clarified and the concept was in place, he put his team together in just four months of renovation and brought Andre Mazanke into the new restaurant as chef de cuisine.
The “Augustin” with its deep blue wall paint, wood panelling, dark furniture and ivy-covered backyard is far removed from the charm of a train station hall: it provides the decorative framework for the clear kitchen concept that the in Cologne to further close the gaping gap between fine dining and fast food. Especially since the restaurant is located in the culinary no-man’s-land of the Kunibertsviertel behind the main train station and was also empty for years.
Werner’s second restaurant should be in no way inferior to the quality of the one-star “astrein”. “The love of cooking and craftsmanship should also be expressed here. The dishes are just more geared towards everyday life and less towards special occasions. Here too, trend-resistant Werner attaches great importance to fresh, regional cuisine, which is French-Mediterranean but clearly has a touch of Cologne. “If there’s a trend at all, I’ll look into my grandmother’s cookbook,” says Mazanke in the brand new kitchen, where he works with seven colleagues. The head chef and restaurateur have known each other since they worked together at the Hotel Wasserturm in Cologne, where Werner earned two stars as head chef at “Himmel und Äd” and Mazanke was the young chef.
After just three weeks, the top ten on the menu have already been determined: Mazanke with tart apple and crunchy hazelnut slivers gives a fine Jerusalem artichoke foam exceptional appeal. “But the wedding soup with pancakes and marrow dumplings, sole roulade and wild boar fillet are actually now an integral part of the menu,” says Werner. The Cologne classic “Halver Hahn” is interpreted here in the Augustin style and is “very well received, especially by the Cologne audience”. And the chocolate cake with white coffee ice cream is practically sold out from day one.
Werner deliberately decided against the goose for the pre-Christmas period. Instead, he wants to surprise his guests with other winter classics, which he gives special touches. He fills the pheasant essence with strips of chestnut pancakes, and he serves Calvados red cabbage and pickled Abate pears with the Eifeler Hirschkalbrücken. For dessert, he came up with semi-frozen Christmas stollen with white mulled wine ice cream.
By the way, nobody has to order a menu here. “All dishes are served in the inn like they used to be,” says Werner. Thankfully, the selection on the menu is manageable: two soups, five starters (six to 21 euros), four main courses (between 24 and 35 euros) and three types of desserts. Sunday evening could lead to regular overcrowding in Augustin, as very few restaurants in Cologne are open on both weekend days.
Werner, who took four months to decide on the second company, is very happy after the first few weeks: “It’s less stressful than I thought. Everything fell into place pretty quickly. And my feeling now tells me that I can slowly concentrate on the ‘knotty’ again and let the team do their thing at Augustin”. At the moment he does not want to answer whether a third restaurant will follow at some point. However, it would be obvious: The Augustin is named after his first child. Whether one day Lilly will appear in Cologne’s gastro heaven – that’s in the stars, but it’s within the realm of possibility.