Maison Kammerzell: Unmistakably Alsatian with a Parisian flavor
Who doesn’t enjoy a delicious meal in a French brasserie? Less formal than some restaurants, offering longer business hours and traditional dishes, brasseries can be found all over the country including in Paris where they were originally founded by Alsatians. As such, beer (“brasserie” traditionally means brewery) and sauerkraut complete with trimmings (“choucroute garnie”) are often featured on the menu.
A special “cadre” (environment) is part of the brasserie experience. Anyone familiar with Parisian icons like la Coupole, la Closerie des Lilas or a personal favorite, Brasserie la Lorraine, knows what I am referring to.
Service must be efficient, attentive and traditional dishes well executed. Prices are directly linked to the reputation and location of the restaurant yet one should be able to enjoy a reasonably priced lunch at most brasseries where a prix fixe meal (“formule,” “menu”) is available at least at lunch time.
If you find yourself in Strasbourg head to la Maison Kammerzell and treat yourself to a local experience you won’t soon forget.
You can’t miss it: The building, dating back to 1427 (on the ground floor) is a Historic Monument of France. It sits right next to the spectacular Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg.
The façade where gothic medieval style meets German Renaissance (construction was completed in the 16th century) catches the eye and fascinates.
The place is flamboyant and gigantic, with dining rooms and private salons on several floors. Did I mention la Maison Kammerzell is also a hotel with 9 exclusive rooms?
It changed hands many times until renowned Chef Guy Pierre Baumann purchased the property in the 1980s and turned it into one of Europe’s most famous brasseries. His “Choucroute aux Trois Poissons” remains a popular dish on the menu.
Even if my experience had been disappointing (it can happen at renowned establishments that tend to surf on their reputation in touristy neighborhoods) I would have still loved the opportunity to travel back in time. I had lunch downstairs but treated myself to a self-guided tour of the upper floors – following Renaissance spiral staircases! – before I left. From the colorful stained glass windows to 1900’s frescos by Leo Schnug (a French painter of German origin) the intricate carvings and wood paneling, I soon mused: “Ah, if these walls could talk…”
As it turns out these walls do talk. They are filled with autographed photos of celebrities, historical figures (French or international) who have visited la Maison Kammerzell then and now. I spotted a few familiar faces…
An impromptu lunch at Maison Kammerzell
At the end of a busy morning I showed up without a reservation before noon. After climbing over 300 stairs to the top of Notre-Dame’s cathedral, I had built up an appetite. As a solo traveler I appreciate restaurants that make me feel welcome and don’t frown at the prospect of losing valuable space (and revenue) with a solo diner. The best hosts are friendly and may offer a special spot.
An elegant female staff member in the reception area steered me away from the large dining room downstairs (reservations needed there, I guessed) and towards a bright, spacious room with contemporary furniture past the bar. The room was empty and she suggested a table with a view on the busy pedestrian street outside the large bay windows. “C’est parfait, merci,” I replied. And it was.
I had turned into a lady who lunches.
I did not order the “choucroute garnie” but instead went for poultry cooked in Riesling wine, the Alsatian version of “coq au vin.” A glass of Riesling was the perfect pairing. My (young) waiters were friendly and attentive. After the main course I decided to be très French and ordered a local cheese plate served with a green salad. The cumin seeds served on the side made it even tastier. Finally my favorite dessert “un express.” It came with a square of dark chocolate, always a nice touch.
As a professional tour guide I relish opportunities to be a tourist now and then. I realize there’s often a fine line between touristy and renowned local establishments. Happy to report la Maison Kammerzell successfully handles this challenge. I will let the great Jean d’Ormesson have “le mot de la fin” (parting words) with a quote from the above photo:
“Le déjeuner à la Maison Kammerzell a été comme le ciel d’aujourd’hui sur Strasbourg: radieux! Merci et à bientôt.” (Jean d’Ormesson, mars 1991)
(Lunch at la Maison Kammerzell was like today’s skies above Strasbourg: radiant.)
— Oui, merci et à bientôt, la Maison Kammerzell.
A video tribute to Strasbourg (France with Vero, November 2023)
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