In December 1965, I was off to Frankfurt. I had a filming job to do in Bremen and Bremerhaven, but I stopped off in Frankfurt to say hello to our German bureau manager, Gernot Anderle. He took me to lunch. Not understanding German, I left it to him to go through the menu. He asked me if I liked fish. He told me the name in German and he did not know the name in English. As a result, he started to describe the fish and where it came from.
It was a river fish and it was so long and it was silvery. I was none the wiser until he said it was smoked, so I thought it might be Trout. It was Trout and it was delicious and that was only the starter.
He introduced me to a white wine that I had not seen before. It was, and is, Niersteiner Domtal, a white wine produced in the Reisling region area of Germany near the town of Nierstein on the west bank of the Rhine. I drank that wine for many years until suddenly, one day, I did not like it anymore.
I went on to Bremen, where I was booked into the luxury Park Hotel. I arrived in the early evening and had to meet the cameraman that I would be working with.
I went into dinner and, still unable to read the menu, I decided to start with cheese. I thought that I would get a small wedge of cheese and some black bread. In fact I got a full plate of mixed German cheeses, including Liptauer, and a full plate of various rye breads. It was a meal in itself. Fortunately, the cameraman Richard Graff turned up and helped me to eat some of it.
I became quite thirsty on the way to my room and Richard said he would order some water from a waiter. He said “Don’t drink the tap water, it will make you more thirsty”. Almost as soon as I got into the room, the waiter brought me two small bottles of Perrier. They had sealed tops that needed a bottle opener. Realising that I was in Germany, I knew there would be a bottle opener. I couldn’t find it. I searched what I thought was everywhere.
Finally, I opened the dressing table drawer to find a plastic notice screwed into the bottom of the draw. It said “The bottle opener is on the wall in the bathroom” in three languages.
The following evening, Richard and I went out into the old town, now rebuilt, to find a restaurant. One of the most amazing things about my travels at this time, and in the future, was that the local cameraman was always familiar with all the good restaurants.
Richard had another advantage. He told me that he was a member of a cooking club in Munich, where he was based. There were six members of the club and they took over the kitchen of a school during one evening each week. They took in turn to choose the menu to be cooked. The club members would contribute, equally, to the cost of the ingredients. They would then cook the dinner, dividing up the jobs between them, rotating the post of Chef, sou Chef and washer-up. Finally, they would sit down to eat their meal, drink their favourite wine and enjoy a convivial evening..
We found, what was to me, a most unusual complex. In the style of old German towns, there were rows of buildings that were five stories high and looked a bit like the English Tudor buildings. One of these housed a restaurant on each floor. They varied from the equivalent of a MacDonald’s to a plush restaurant. It seems that the group of restaurants, individually owned, could cater for almost any budget. It was rather like the original Lyons Corner Houses who offered a different style of restaurant on each floor.
We had a beef fondue. Wonderful chunks of fillet steak which we spiked with our fork and immersed it in the boiling oil, transferring the piece on to our plate immediately it was cooked. It was easy to get to know how long to leave each piece in the oil. We soon disposed of the allotted ration of meat and then ordered some more. We drank Sylvaner wine from Alsace which was not what I expected with red meat, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did not expect to have what was strictly a French wine.
Next chapter: Eating in Monte Carlo