Over the Christmas break we found ourselves completing a few errands in Bregenzerwald and so we took the opportunity to visit Ernele, located within the Romantic Hotel Schiff in Hittisau, after a friend recommended that we visit.
The concept behind this café/shop is that it showcases the very best that the region has to offer, using only ingredients that come from farmers and producers within a 100-km radius. In terms of the meat they use, they also strongly believe in utilising the entire animal, from “nose to tail”, and so you are in for some really amazing and different dishes.
You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy their food or browse their shelves and luckily, we managed to get the last free table over lunch when we dropped in for a visit. We settled in and soaked up the relaxed holiday vibe, along with plenty of cross country skiers taking a well-earned break and holiday goers enjoying a delicious lunch.
Everything about this café is clean, bright and modern, yet still inkeeping with tradition with wood throughout and it feels like you are being welcomed into the chef’s kitchen. The actual kitchen is completely open and simply just one side of the room separated by an island bench, where the chefs are busy at work. So you can watch everything that the chefs do from rolling the fresh pasta to making the sauces. The walls are also stacked high with handpicked regional specialities for you to buy, such as antipasti items, oils, gin, wine, jams, and sauces.
The menu is made up of a select few dishes for each course, as well as a few daily specials which can be eaten as either a starter or a main. With every menu item the supplier is listed and so you know exactly where your food has come from.
Chef Felix Gross takes a huge amount of pride in his work and he personally visits every table to explain the special of the day and you get to actually see the cut of meat that is used in the dish. Felix took some time out to chat with me after our visit and he explained how important this was. Because they use everything from the animals, sometimes the dishes may include something you have never tried before and are a bit unsure of. For example, tongue was on the menu during our visit, which may not sound that appealing when you simply read the menu item, however once Felix has explained how it is cooked and served and what you should expect, you really can’t wait to try something different.
As well as using their own freshly grown vegetables and herbs, they capitilise on the best ingredients from the local farmers and suppliers. Each ingredient is carefully sourced, with each of the different meats coming from the very best and trusted farmers in the vicinity. Forming close partnerships with them is of the upmost importance.
I asked him where his inspiration for dishes came from, and he explained how everything is an inspiration, from cookbooks, to things he sees and smells when out walking, and of course from other dishes he tries and enjoys. He also enjoys picking up new ingredients when he is out and about and devising new dishes with them. Obviously the menu is dependent on the seasonal products available, but dishes may change as and when they have new ingredients and the end results are just delicious.
I ordered the fish of the day, along with the waitresses recommended wine to pair with it. The fish was cooked perfectly and served with a foam sauce which was light and delicate, yet full of flavour and left me wanting to lick the plate (although I restrained myself). Roger ordered the veal special and the meat just melted in your mouth and again the sauce was amazing. You can really taste how fresh everything on your plate is. We finished off our meal by sharing one of their homemade cakes, which we only ordered one of, but as they knew we were sharing gave us two slices 😊. We washed this down with a very nice cup of coffee, which finished off our meal perfectly and left us safe in the knowledge that we would be back here again very soon.
The whole experience felt incredibly personal and exclusive, yet with a really open and relaxed vibe, and aside from this you are fed damn good food, without breaking the bank.
Feature Image Credit @ Ernele