When one lives, works, and breathes in Berlin it’s easy to forget that this miraculous monster of a city actually sits in the center of a quite pastoral landscape, with loads of lakes, fields, and forests. And a gorgeous farm-to-table restaurant in the midst of Mecklenburg’s woods. Here, instead of serving plain old Schnitzel with potatoes and gravy like so many country inns, chef Wenzel Pankratz is creating unpretentious and elegant menus centered around the quality of the produce they grow. We spent an evening, night, and morning in this picture-perfect paradise, and you should too.
We arrived long before sunset on a Friday night, with enough time to explore the woods around the farm with my own and the family’s two dogs, who were very excited to join us on our walk. I guess one can wander here for hours without meeting anyone except the occasional deer, if you’re lucky. Returning to the farm later, we took our time to discover, visited the cheeky donkeys and sheep hanging out on their giant pasture, and met the tiniest of lambs, fiercely protected by their mothers. All of them wore their thickest winter coats, making them look incredibly cosy despite the temperatures below zero.
The other farm animals preferred to stay inside, the pigs huddled against each other in their shelter, just next to mama cow and her calf, with the old farm house watching everything from afar. There’re also chickens, ducks, at least one giant rabbit, we saw cats, and beehives in hibernation. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of lush Arcadia this must be in the spring, summer, and autumn months.
Forsthaus Strelitz is a family-affair, the kitchen is headed by Wenzel Pankratz, his sister is doing the service, his mother and brother take care of the farm. After his parents bought the premises in 1998, it wasn’t immediately clear that Wenzel would take over at one point, but talking to him now it seems hard to place him somewhere else. He’s a true Mecklenburger, and grew up in the area before receiving his education in different fine dining kitchens. And while to a city dweller like me this all seems like a lot of work, Wenzel and his family still manage to appear very casual about it.
Coming here in winter made me a bit worried about what we would have for dinner, I mean, what can grow in freezing weather? Turns out, not much, but not nothing either: early in the morning, I wandered through the vegetable garden, admiring green and purple Brussel sprouts, and kale, all covered in delicate ice crystals, carrots and turnips harvested earlier and buried in earth to defend the frost. And Wenzel still has loads of potatoes and apples stored for the weeks to come until the first tender greens spring again in April.
After enjoying a pre-dinner nap in our room, we joined the other guests in the restaurant and were received with an aperitif made from seabuckthorn juice, marjoram sugar, and gin – a sour yet fruity affair loaded with the peculiar taste of seabuckthorn (whose unappealing scent doesn’t tell you anything about its delightful sour taste). The meal then started with a range of subtle earthy flavors. Like linseed crisps, held together only by starch, and served with a light and earthy cream with porcini. The following giant slice of sourdough rye bread with walnuts came with farm made butter and lard. Then a plate of white strands of kohlrabi marinated in rapeseed vinegar, arranged like an abstract painting, which reminded me more of an impressive deep-sea jellyfish than a regular German root vegetable.The baked turnip that followed was covered in the most tender walnut shreds and accompanied by a dollop of velvety buttermilk cream, the next vegetarian course was an onion soup with juniper, then the tiniest green and purple Brussel sprout leaves nestled in their own juice, enhanced with liquorish and prunes. With this, we had a delightful beer made from young, green hop by Hopfengut close to Bodensee.
Next, I enjoyed my kale with roasted mustard seeds, potato cream and foam, while my friend had it with a roasted piece of Angeln saddleback pork. Before we called it a night, preserved pear with yeast and Douglas fir came together for a delicious yet not heavy dessert.
After this six course dinner with wine pairing, we stayed in one of the rooms in the former barn. Like everything here, the rustic original structures have been carefully modernized, without adding too much decoration or color, but rather choosing natural and high quality fabrics, painting and furnitures. The restaurant in the main house is as beautiful as the rest of the farm. An open kitchen with dark green tiles greets guests when they enter, to the left waits a smaller room with a round community table and high chairs, where we had our dinner. Breakfast the next day is served in the room to the right with the big tiled stove – yoghurt with honey and preserved rowan berries, house made sausages, fresh bread, jams, apples, butter, and the most delicious soft boiled eggs imaginable. No wonder considering the chickens laying those roam freely just across the yard.
We left the farm later in the morning – after another walk where I finally managed to slip and really fall on the icy paths –, with bellies full of joy, lungs filled with fresh country air, and hearts overflowing with love for the entire goodness created at this place. Oh and yes, I will definitely be back in the summer. Lakes to swim in are only about 20 mins away, the farm must look even more gorgeous, and the little piggies are hopefully not as reluctant to step outside the stables and show their beauty.
Forsthaus Strelitz is located about 100mins drive from Berlin, you can also take the train to Neustrelitz, and then get a cab to the farm. The farm restaurant has 24 seats, and the adjacent barn has 12 beds in different rooms, starting from 50 Euro a night. 4 courses are 35 Euro, 6 are 49 Euro. It’s an amazing place for a lavish birthday party, a beautiful wedding, or any other kind of occasion where you want to treat your friends and family to some of the Mecklenburg amazingness.
Disclaimer, I’ve been invited to have dinner and stay the night together with a friend free of charge.