A 20-minute drive from the city center along the Elbchaussee — Hamburg’s most elegant avenue, lined with parks and impressive prewar villas — takes you to Hotel Louis C. Jacob, with 85 accommodations and a sensational Michelin two-star restaurant overlooking the Elbe. Amazingly, the restaurant’s Linden terrace looks almost exactly the same as when Max Liebermann, Germany’s most important Impressionist, painted it in 1902 (you can see the painting in the Hamburger Kunsthalle).
I won’t soon forget our dinner in the palatial Jacob’s Restaurant, with its soaring ceilings, huge crystal chandeliers and towering flower arrangements. Our table faced a tall window looking out on the Linden terrace and the Elbe, where we dined on fare that was creative but firmly rooted in tradition. I loved the delicate and refreshing salmon topped with sour cream and onion jam in a dill-apple sauce, as well as the contrastingly rich and deep onion soup surrounding a savory crouton garnished with caramelized onion and Gruyère espuma. But my favorite was the artichoke barigoule in artichoke bisque, accompanied by sheep’s milk ricotta dumplings that induced shivers of pleasure. I ordered two wines from Baden, one of my favorite German wine regions: a creamy and refined 2015 Franz Keller Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and an earthy and focused 2007 Stigler Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs (Pinot Noir).
Unfortunately, our gardenview Junior Suite dazzled far less than dinner. It had an attractive, if slightly sterile, art deco décor, with wood floors, neighboring twin beds and bright-white walls softened by a few abstract prints. But the upholstery on the sofa had seen better days, and I didn’t care for the brown-green slipcovers on the armchairs. The bath had all the right features — marble walls, granite counters, dual vanities, a separate soaking tub — but it still managed to look unstylish. And the air-conditioning was completely ineffective.