As many of my readers know, I love me an Ausflug. Especially when combined with a delicious menu served on a picturesque farm. There are not a ton of options for that around Berlin, unfortunately, but we do have one exquisite destination: a family-run restaurant and farm business in Mecklenburg, close to Neustrelitz. It’s everything city people imagine the countryside should be: remote (but easy to reach), pastoral (and small enough to still be scenic), and rustic (while actually pretty stylish). My first visit to Forsthaus Strelitz happened almost two years ago in the height of winter with snow and frosty temperatures. The garden had loads of brussel sprouts and kale, and all the animals, including the lovely donkeys, sported their plushiest winter fur. This time, I came at the end of summer and stayed in their newly renovated cottage just next to where the sheep and goats rest.
Forsthaus Strelitz is small and delightful, you should stay the night to enjoy the full experience of walk, dinner, sleep, walk, breakfast, and a final walk. It’s in the hands of the Pankratz family since 1998, and its kitchen is run by the son, Wenzel Pankratz, since 2014, when he returned from stints in several international fine dining kitchens. He’s a true Mecklenburger, and grew up in the area. And so is his cooking: the tight connection to the land and what it produces is felt in every dish. It’s neither fuzzy nor simple, but presented with a lot of intent.
I grew up on a farm myself and know firsthand how intense the workload is and how the schedule of the farm dominates everything else. And again, at this second visit I was so impressed with how seemingly casual things are run here, how relaxing the atmosphere is at all times. Despite the hard work that goes into all the details of your stay.
After arriving from Berlin and saying hi to all the sheep, goats and donkeys, we took a long walk through the surrounding forest to stimulate our appetite for the menu at night. We then visited the pigs, looked at the many tomatoes, zucchinis, beans, chokeberries and more. And watched my dog play with the two family dogs, more or less successfully. At seven, it was time for dinner, so we went to the main house, where upon first entrance you can’t not notice the kitchen with the big stove fuelled by fire. In the entrance, wall-mounted boxes are filled with preserves, juice and honey, all from the farm. Of which I definitely took some for the road.
The dinner began with their signature linseed cracker, which I was happy to taste again because it’s a delicious snack that’s probably and unfortunately too elaborate to make to qualify as a quick tv-snack but oh I would definitely buy those crackers in bulk, if I could. Then we got a slice of their own bread, which is delicious with its burned crust and intense crumb (and making me long for throwing another Berlin’s Best Bread immediately). After this we were served the first course, fermented, grilled and fresh tomatoes, followed by egg and plum hidden underneath stripes of massaged kohlrabi greens, then soft onion shells in a celeriac broth, a halved and charred zucchini served with an intense but somehow still mellow blue cheese dip. Next up was cauliflower, the florets as well as the leaves, in a wonderfully thick buttermilk sauce, and, eventually, a locally grown (!!!) peach (!!) in sour cream. Just to repeat: a local peach. Hard to find, not as sweet as you’d expect, but yes, there is a way to grow peaches here that will be ripe and juicy by end of August. In some years. (In others, they’ll never get over the firm green state.)
What I like about this place is how not fancy and yet experimental and just delicious it is. For me, it’s neither fine dining (too casual) nor simple country cooking (not casual enough) but rests in that great middle ground by defying to be defined as either or. If you stay the night – very recommended – your final meal at Forsthaus Strelitz will be the breakfast. Which is a happening in itself. This time, we started with an infusion and coffee on the terrace in front of the main house, before we went inside to have fresh berries with yoghurt, more of that delicious bread, a super soft and buttery brioche, cheese, butter, preserves and a fresh, soft boiled egg.
Last time I said I wanted to come back for summer, this time I wanna go back in the height of spring, maybe end of May. That’s what I think is the most important achievement of the Forsthaus, it makes you so interested and excited about local produce, shaped by seasons and the weather. It showcases how unique food is and can be, if you insist on a connection to the land that produces it. Can not wait to be back!
Price: Menu is 59 Euro plus drinks, rooms from 70 Euro per night.
How to get there: About 100km north of Berlin, either take the car, or the train to Neustrelitz and a cab.
Disclaimer, I, and a friend, were invited by the Pankratz family to the dinner and stay.