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Haake Beck Ausspann
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Schnoor 1, Bremen, Germany 28195
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He ain't Heavy, He's my Dinner
Northampton, United Kingdom
January 3, 2013
Best of IgoUgo
I tell everyone at work that I have the best job in the company and it’s all down to the fantastic team of people who work for me. I managed to ‘engineer’ an excuse to get five of the seven team members to Bremen for a couple of meetings. It was a ...
I tell everyone at work that I have the best job in the company and it’s all down to the fantastic team of people who work for me. I managed to ‘engineer’ an excuse to get five of the seven team members to Bremen for a couple of meetings. It was a thinly disguised excuse for a team Christmas dinner.
I asked the colleagues who work from the Bremen office to find a restaurant and they came up with three options. From those three we picked a traditional ‘German’ restaurant in the very old and very beautiful historic Schnoor district of the town. Our plans had been to walk to the restaurant from the Prizeotel near the railway station, stopping for a gluhwein in the Christmas market. Plans failed badly and we were so late leaving that we had to hop on a tram and skip the market in order to avoid being too unfashionably late. If you are ever planning to visit the Christmas markets in Bremen, it’s worth being aware that many of the stalls close between 8.30 and 9.00 in the evening.
If you’ve not been to the Schnoor then you’ve missed a treat. This is an area of narrow streets, all lined with cute little shops and restaurants. This is an area that’s hard to visit in the summer as it’s packed with tourists and I had thought that the restaurant would be really full but we only saw one other table occupied all evening.
The footprint of the restaurant is quite small and there aren’t a lot of tables on the ground floor. We were given a gorgeous little side room which could have sat a maximum of eight or nine people and this meant we didn’t have to worry about disturbing other diners. The ‘waiter – barman – maitre d’ – whatever he was’ took us into the room and left us to settle in. The table was laid with festive red paper table cloths and a greenery wreath in the centre of the table. The room had white painted walls, lots of exposed brick work and what looked like an old carved door lintel set into the wall. I don’t know if it was an old artifact that they’d built into the design or if the floor used to be much lower and it would have been at head height. The room itself was already below street level so that when we looked out we could see the legs and lower bodies of passers by.
Menus were offered and I was willing to take a crack at the German version until the waiter took pity on me and brought an English one. In addition to the normal dishes it appeared that we had some extra special seasonal options all based on that most Christmassy of vegetables, the cabbage. I’m not convinced that even the world’s best or most expensive PR company could do a good job of persuading any of us that there was truly anything very special about cabbage dishes. We easily resisted the temptation.
I would have been happy if everyone wanted to polish off three courses but we were sensibly warned to take care of the portion size which could be predicted to be enormous. We therefore skipped starters and chose our main dishes. For me there were plenty of fish options and the meat eaters were also well catered for. One of the team has some unusual food intolerances so I suggested that she skip the menu and just go and talk to the kitchen to see what they could do for her. She returned with a big smile and a confident assurance that they’d be able to cook something good for her.
We ordered a mix of beers, wine and apfelchorle (apple and fizzy water mixed) as well as bottles of water and a bottle of white wine. The wine and the apfelschorle arrived, followed by the bottles of water with extra glasses. We then waited to the point that we were sure he’d forgotten and then the waiter turned up with the beer. A while later when we’d just convinced ourselves that he’d forgotten the wine, he turned up with that. We started to suspect he had a hidden microphone since he repeatedly turned up just when someone had announced that he’d surely forgotten us.
Trying to remember who had what, I’m picturing the table in my mind and thinking about the dishes. At the far side of the table my Belgian colleague who works in France had a steak, after much debate about precisely how she wanted it. There seemed to be some slight differences between French and German definitions of pinkness The next colleague, an English woman working in Germany went for a salad with lots of large chunks of fish and a bowl of chips. Yep, you can take the Brit out of Britain and she’ll still find a local interpretation of fish and chips. The third colleague, the French woman working in Germany, had a fish plate, which was a plate piled high with three different types of fish with a giant prawn perched on top, accompanied by lots of vegetables, with everything smothered in a yellow sauce. To my right, the only team member who works where she should (the German in Germany) had a large pile of sole fillets with tiny North Sea shrimps and a bowl of boiled potatoes. She is the one with the allergies. And finally my Germany guy who works in England was indulging his desire to eat Bambi or possibly Bambi’s father and having a massive venison steak.
I hadn’t chosen terribly well. I think I panicked a little about having too much choice. In Germany the menus tend to be so meat-based that I’m left with only a few fish or vegetarian dishes from which to choose. I have no idea what I thought that a "Ragout von Edelfischen serviert mit Meeresfrüchten in einer Curcumasauce und Kräuterreis" would be but I probably should have stayed away. I got the ‘ragout of mixed fish and seafood in a ‘curcumasauce’ but even now I’m not sure what curcuma is supposed to be. The autotranslator failed totally and just told me that ‘curcumasauce’ was ‘cucuma sauce’. Thanks but no thanks Bing.
In my mind I mistakenly thought ragout would be something tomatoey not something in a toxic yellow sauce with bits of green stuff in it. It was a lot like a very very mild fish curry. The fish was plentiful and delicious but the sauce was a mystery to me. A bowl of rice came with it and I was barely able to get through half of it. I didn’t like that they’d put butter into the rice which just seemed unnecessary. And as everyone knows, when you order something that’s not quite what you wanted or expected, you can absolutely guarantee that it’s going to come as an absolutely enormous portion.
Everyone battled with their mountains of food and surprisingly little got left. With so many people who are German or live in Germany, I guess they’ve had plenty of practice. I probably made the worst fish dish choice on the menu but it wasn’t truly dreadful and I’ve had much worse dishes.
The pudding menu got a brief glance before all declared themselves to be out of the game. I heard a couple of encouraging murmurs about ‘one pud and six spoons’ but they seemed to be falling on deaf ears. I also couldn’t persuade anyone to have a coffee. My team are not greedy folk, it seems although we do suffer from access to far too much cake during the day time.
The bill came to something like €165 for the six of us for six main courses, 3 bottles of water, a bottle of wine, 3 beers, a couple of soft drinks and a wine. At current rates that’s about £23 a head. Everyone else seemed really pleased with their chosen dishes, we really liked having a little room to ourselves, the waiter was not as funny as he thought he was but was still quite entertaining, and I think the place was a good choice. The following night I went to the waterfront Schlachte area with another colleague and every restaurant was full to bursting. I much preferred that we had a small place with a quiet atmosphere where we didn’t have to shout at each other.
Ausspann opens every day with the hours varying slightly. Tuesday through to Saturday they open at 11 in the morning and close at 11 at night. On Mondays they open at 3 pm and close at 11 pm and on Sundays they are open from 11 in the morning to 10 at night. The full menu is available online (in German) so you can check if they have something you fancy before you book.