When carefully selected ingredients are fresh and regional, they speak, no, they shout for themselves. And in the Wilde Klosterküche in Neuzelle, it is noisy. So loud that you can sometimes hear it all the way to Berlin. At least we did, and so we recently set off. Almost to the Polish border to Neuzelle where Anne Hensel and Manuel Bunke run the Wilde Klosterküche.
Manuel Bunke has seen the whole world, worked in Berlin for a long time. And now here again. In his homeland. "I never wanted to go back to the home area," Manu confesses, "but I just fell in love with this place straight away." What can we say, we understand. The old manor house surrounded by a few guest rooms and a lush garden belongs to Anne's father and was lovingly restored a few years ago. Anne is responsible for the charming design and marketing of the Wilde Klosterküche. She also fills in when there is a need.
The head chef, meanwhile, is setting about establishing a modern type of cuisine here in Neuzelle. Clearly inspired by Nordic cuisine, he lets regional vegetables shine on the plate, works with old techniques, the whole animal, and hand in hand with farmers from the region. In the process, he rarely casts an eye on products that lie outside the 50-kilometre radius - at least as far as the ingredients are concerned.
And so we are welcomed with fruity and bitter dill and linseed oil and butter to go with the sourdough bread. The beer, of course, comes directly from the Neuzelle monastery brewery. Clean and sweet is the kohlrabi, peppered with chickweed: "The wild herb story connects. Then you see grandma and grandpa here looking at it and saying, look, we have that in the garden too," explains chef Manuel a little later.
Meanwhile, the cauliflower à la polonaise is heartier. It comes with egg from around the corner, breadcrumbs, celery, fermented mustard seeds, hollandaise "and a lot of love," grins Manuel, who personally serves us some of our courses that evening. We have an idea of where we are going.
We continue with different textures of beetroot as well as homemade fresh goat's cheese and goat's milk jelly. The earthy beetroot cubes literally melt in your mouth, and the freshly shaved beetroot flirts with a welcome acidity.
An absolute highlight for us is the venison tartare with porcini mushroom ice cream and brown butter maltodextrin, infused with a mushroom tea. Behind the black pudding and onion is - clearly and deliciously - the classic: dead granny with a sprayed-on mashed potato from the Syphon. Light and airy, it counteracts the substantial black pudding from their own production.
The veal fillet with layered and baked potato is also extremely fine, somehow reminiscent of childhood days, and especially the fresh buffalo ricotta with a wonderfully sour buffalo milk ice cream, honey and crispbread - this course also evokes a cosy, homely feeling.
And that somehow suits the well-travelled Manuel, who has meanwhile arrived back in Neuzelle. He was lucky that his bosses often recommended him to others. As a result, he spent almost nine years travelling to numerous places around the world: first Garmisch, then Austria, Finland, Sweden, at some point Australia, Fiji and finally Berlin. Now Neuzelle.
The young team at the Wilde Klosterküche brings a breath of fresh air: "Everyone is always complaining that we don't have any people, but no one wants to train them themselves," Manu sums up. That's different here: "We really train people here. The [apprentices] really have to get to grips with the guests right from the start, they get regular wine training. The cooks have to cut up whole animals, make liverwurst and black pudding themselves, cook gelatine."
This is another reason for the good standing that has been achieved here in Neuzelle and in the surrounding area: Respect for traditional processing techniques, relationships with local producers - and for the region.
By the way, you shouldn't miss out on gin (if you can) when you visit the Wilde Klosterküche. Flavoured with linseed and windfall fruit, it is super smooth and also a great treat neat. For this reason alone, we recommend staying overnight and visiting Neuzelle Monastery and the surrounding area the next day. A thoroughly successful trip to the countryside.