Imagine traveling back to 1683 and being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of Black Forest without having to leave New York. Then imagine being invited to a 48-person dinner in that forest prepared by the chefs of Eleven Madison Park and Betony. It’s a foodie’s dream come true thanks to Gaggenau, the maker of high-end home appliances.
This week, in celebration of their 333rd anniversary, the luxury brand Gaggneau launched an exclusive 4-night pop-up restaurant, Gaggenau Restaurant 1683, in Chelsea that offers a one-of-a-kind epicurean experience bringing together ultra-luxury technology and world-class culinary arts. Don’t bother rushing to OpenTable to try to get a seat. This restaurant is invite only with an exclusive guest list consisting of art, culinary, design, entertainment influencers and Gaggenau brand enthusiasts. Note: being in the market for an espresso machine doesn’t get you on the invite list – I tried.
The experience starts with a trip back 333 years focusing on the mythical beginnings of Gaggenau, a forge where a spark of fire and the strike of the hammer marked the age of the industrial craftsmanship. Guest are greeted in an entry with a ceiling height 3-dimensional cut out of a Black Forest chalet cuckoo clock flanked by a real-life cuckoo mädchen in traditional costume complete with Bollenhut, a white brimmed hat topped with large red pom-poms.
Behind the clock is the dark cocktail reception room reminiscent of a blacksmith shop; complete with a real blacksmith, fire and, of course, a bar built of stacked fir trees. Here guest can enjoy a drink from the Black Forest inspired menu with choices such as The Queen Bee (Black Forest beer, honey and malt vinegar) or the Stone Soup (scotch, madeira, tobacco and preserved cherry).
For dinner, the guests move toward a multi-sensory experience like no other as they step through a black curtain to see a floor to ceiling waterfall which encircles them as they pass through a short corridor mirrors. Once around the waterfall, guests find themselves in the middle of the Black Forest with dense woods and lush ferns. The air is cool and misty, the room dark with streaks of light cutting through tall trees, birds are singing and the smells of rich soil and wood wrap you; a surreal oasis that feels a thousand miles away but in reality only steps from New York’s bustling 12th Ave.
The restaurant was designed in a collaboration with the Munich-based architecture firm, einszu33, headed by Hendrik Müller, Gaggenau and Chef Daniel Humm. Müller talked through the process of conceptualizing the dining area, “The original idea was to have on large communal table down the middle with the kitchen on each side. David had the idea to make it even more intimate with 6 stations each with their own kitchen, chef and sous chef.” The result is 6 dining areas of 8 seat, each with a Gaggenau kitchen around the outside of the “forest” with a grove of trees running through the middle as well as around the perimeter. The resulting effect is a private dining experience truly in middle of the forest.
The team of chefs is headed by three Michelin star Chef Daniel Humm and Restaurateur Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park. Rejoining his old boss for the dinners is Betony Chef Bryce Shuman as well as Betony General Manager Eamon Rockey (if Betony isn’t on your radar, it should be for it’s foie gras bonbons alone). The menu will likely change nightly and is sure to be a meal those lucky enough to attend will never forget.
If you are riddled with epicurean envy like I am, there is hope. Restaurant 1683 is a three-year campaign that is planned to extend beyond the invite-only real world events to a virtual culinary exploration on a dedicated website. The digital space will feature original content and a real-time look inside each exclusive experience, as Gaggenaeu continues to pioneer luxury culinary culture. You will be able to be the voyeur on these dinners. Until smell-o-vison comes out, you’ll just have to trust me that it smelled amazing.