Anyone who’s spent any time in the wine world will know that there’s one thing wineries are repeatedly saying how they “combine tradition with modern methods to make products that are true to their roots whilst using today’s technology”. For the average wine drinker (including myself) this can be tricky to relate to. Link it to food though and it’s a different ball game.
La Baracca in Munich opened three years ago and did just that, married traditional Italian cuisine – pizza, pasta, grilled meats, fresh salads – with a fair dose of technology. Lead to your table you’re handed a tablet each – the e-menu – where you can flick through the dishes separated by category. Once you’ve found something that tickles your fancy, tap tap tap, the order’s in the kitchen directly and ten minutes later is brought to your table. Your e-menu knows exactly where you’re sitting so there’s non of that “who ordered the beef???” shouting down the table when the food arrives leaving a perspiring waiter to balance 4 plates on his arm trying to get someone’s attention (we’ve seen it al!). No, it’s pretty straight forward – what you ordered to where you ordered it and if you do change seats, you can put that in too so there’s no chance of losing your food.
There’s only one thing to bear in mind - everything is instant so if you place an order for two courses at the same time they’ll be prepared at the same time. There are no waiters to interrupt your conversation with questions about desert or coffee etc, it’s all just at your own pace. Couldn’t be easier.
La Baracca Munich a huge restaurant (there are another two in the chain in Lübeck and Hamburg) with different areas open according to how busy it is. Diners can perch on long tables in the area to the left of reception and there are a couple of sink-into leather chairs in front of a chimney whilst the other side has smaller tables and benches scattered with make-yourself-comfy cushions.
The feel about the decor is light, airy, modern yet rustic and I absolutely love the high ceiling tiled with old wooden boards.
As for the wine – high up on my list of criterion for judging any eatery – two walls are lined with the latest wine-dispensers complete with mini-screen showing the area of production, map, name of wine and some technical data. To use them you must ask for an e-card which you hold to the key symbol to above the wine. Decide how big a serving you want and put your glass below the spout. The convenience of 50ml tasting portions mean you can chop and change and aren’t forced into drinking a whole glass of a wine you’re not so inspired by. The selection was OK with some well-known names at both ends of the quality scale (always happy to see Masi Costasera on the menu anywhere).
Downstairs there’s an area to keep the kids happy – soft play mats, tables, mini chairs and bits and pieces to keep them out of mischief.
And the food? Well it was very good. The grilled meats and fish may be served with a selection of side dishes (ordered on the menu at the same time as the main dish) which were all very tasty. The pannacotta was brimming with vanilla and not too creamy or sweet.
For me this was the first time I’d had a go with technology centric restaurant and I have to say I was quite charmed by the novelty of the e-menu. Staff are on hand if you need any help but you sense just how few are. Less staff means there are less bodies running around making the place look busy and feel rushed but on the other hand, it’s just another example of where we’re getting rid of people and losing that personal touch. As with the dishes, they’re all very good but standard. In a land such as the US where diners tend to ask for countless variations to every dish on the menu, I’m not sure this concept would work as well but if you’re just looking for a simple, great dish of pasta or meat, to enjoy at your own pace in a cosy atmosphere then why not? I know I’ll certainly be back and this “combination of tradition and innovation” is surely something we’ll see more of in the future…