Distance from hotel: 4.0 km
For three decades the stars have been shining over the Schwabing District of Munich
Tantris – A Temple dedicated to gastronomic pleasures
The revolution in German cuisine began over 35 years ago in the Schwabing Business Park. Driven on by a love of French food and the pursuit of discovering something new, the Munich property developer, Fritz Eichbauer, created a temple of pleasures, Tantris. Two Michelin stars shine over this idiosyncratic location, which from its very inception was intended to be much more than a mere restaurant. Tantris is the expression of an attitude to life.
The history of Tantris is as unique as the non-conformist gourmet temple itself. It began 35 years ago. A man yearning to discover more taste, travelled from Germany to France to dine. He returned with a restaurant. It only existed in his fantasy. However, from that time on Fritz Eichbauer started visiting his dream restaurant. Once he became familiar with every single detail, he built it and entrusted it into the hands of an unknown chef from Austria. Thus began a new era in German gastronomy.
The idea came to the Munich property developer - someone not unknown to have yearnings for sumptuous dining – not while partaking of foie gras and truffle soup, but instead at a car park late in the evening in the US state of Nebraska. He had travelled to Nebraska with a German delegation to inspect American concrete structures. “The car park was full as was the neighbouring steak house with over 300 places”, recollects Eichbauer in his airy office situated high over the roofs of the Zamdorf Industrial Park. Back then he asked himself, why did people go to this restaurant? Were the steaks so good or did the guests go there because it wasn’t a problem to park there? As a resident of Munich, that was something he could well understand. Because even back then it was more than difficult to find a parking lot near any restaurant in the inner city. A thought shot through his mind – it could be assumed that many potential customers declined to go out to a restaurant for this very reason. Would it be possible then to win over this potential clientele by offering guests not only great cuisine but adequate parking too? This is one explanation for the location of Tantris in the middle of the somewhat drab concrete landscape of the Nordschwabing Business Park.
But how is it that a property developer arrived at the idea of designing a restaurant and even going so far as to running it himself? “I simply wanted to do something different”, he explains gently. For over forty years he had constructed turn-key houses and the time had arrived to take on something new.
During that time he travelled extensively with his newly wedded wife, Sigrid, through the various regions of France, which is where he learned about and learned to love haute cuisine. But it was not merely his inclinations for good food that impelled him to make the decisive step, he says. Rather it was the increasing boredom that afflicted him in the “no man’s land of German gastronomy”. The “amateurish way” in which gastronomy was conducted in his home country, with no thought given to economic and ergonomic aspects. This was simply grotesque for a perfectionist like Eichbauer. One could do these things so much better.
And so, together with his wife, he began to philosophise about “quite a special restaurant”. It should be large, modern, divided over several levels, with an open kitchen and, of course, an open rotisserie area. In no way should it be so “antediluvian” as people in Munich had grown accustomed to. “I wanted a circus”, recollects Eichbauer and laughs at the thought, “my wife even contemplated an amphitheatre – on the stage the kitchen ringed around by tiers of guests.”
The decision was finally made in Zurich in 1967 at a culinary evening in Möwenpick’s gourmet restaurant “Baron de la Mouette”. That was it! This was precisely the style they had envisaged for their own project. In the architect of the “Baron”, Justus Dahinden, the Eichbauers immediately detected a likeminded soul and the work could begin straight away. For 18 months various ideas were mooted and rejected. While their planners discussed various designs, the Eichbauers travelled again to France – this time to study menus. They were in agreement – Tantris, Balinese for “the search for perfection”, was exactly what their guests should enjoy.
But who could cook to this level of perfection? Looking for guidance, Fritz Eichbauer consulted Michelin star chef Paul Haeberlin. His immediate answer: “There is only one man for the job - Eckart!” At that time Eckart Witzigmann, a young up-and-coming culinary artist, was chef in Washington’s Jockey Club, with guests like the Kennedys. But it was worth a try, Eichbauer thought, and so he flew across the Atlantic, the building plans in his suitcase. Witzigmann was not unwilling but tore up Eichbauer’s kitchen plans. “I cannot work in a kitchen like this.” The linear kitchen designed by the property developer was perhaps visually attractive, but completely unsuitable for professional purposes. “The hearth”, said Witzigmann, “belongs in the middle.” While still on the plane on his way to another business meeting, Eichbauer redrafted the plans and placed them in the hands of a stewardess during a stop-over, imploring her to forward the plans to Munich as quickly as possible. The fax machine was still unknown at the time.
Head Chef Eckart Witzigmann and Restaurant Chef Gerald Grazer in 1972
Whitsuntide 1971 “Ecki”, as Eichbauer to this very day still fondly calls his kitchen’s first shooting star cook, arrived in Munich. In December “Tantris” opened its revolving door for the very first time. The reaction of the invited journalists was eloquent. However, instead of commenting on the dishes, they focused on the highly individual architecture of the new restaurant in Munich’s business park, its rather peculiar mythical creatures at the entrance, the interior design in black and red, and the carpets, which extended up the wall to ceiling. A well-known delicatessen trader from Munich was visibly shocked: “Why did you not panel the wall with wood instead of carpet?” Another topic of conversation was the concrete façade of the building that housed Tantris on its ground floor. Soon the nickname chop chapel [German - Fresskirche] was born, since the information material revealed that the architect, Justus Dahinden, specialised in the construction of churches.
Five long hard years it took before Tantris made its breakthrough. “We practically had to educate our guests”, says Eichbauer remembering the painstaking beginnings. “Back then there was nothing in Germany similar to what we were doing, and definitely not in Munich.” The lunch menu for 15.50 Marks had to stand comparison with the price of a schnitzel dish. Our guests, too, had to learn that if the maitre d’ recommended something not included in the menu, like perch pike in smoked stock for instance, this did not mean that the restaurant needed to get rid of the fish as quickly as possible. Therefore, the charcoal grill in front of the kitchen was a blessing. It was something familiar, sturdy and not French.
Today, 35 years later, Tantris has affirmed its fixed position in the culinary firmament. Two Michelin stars shine onto this singular place, a place that cannot so easily be classified, and in which the classical avant-garde mixes undisturbed with the colourful pop culture of the early 1970s: Orange carpeting covers not only the floor but also – like formally - the walls, orange lighting lends an intimate ambience and, in the ladies toilet turquoise patterned curtains and make-up tables in screaming pink welcome the guests. Barbarella would have fun in this place. One can scarcely believe that only recently “renovations” have been carried out. “We will keep it just like it is”, promised the owner, Fritz Eichbauer, once and has stayed true to this promise to this day. For after all, Tantris in some way is a monument to an era rich in building culture. Only the charcoal grill disappeared. Today it accommodates an exquisite collection of brandies.
One evening as a select choice of Austrian wine-growers presented their noble wines to a no less select group of guests, the conversation turned to the naming of the restaurant. That was no simple matter, the host declared. “It was important to us that the name could be pronounced in all languages, even by a Bavarian taxi driver.” If only, he said, he had known back then what the real meaning of Tantris actually entailed, it would have probably been better to have chosen his wife’s suggestion. She preferred the name “Pirol”.
As the food critic Eva-Gesine Baur had discovered, Eichbauer recollected to the amusement of his guests, the term “Tantrism” describes the idea that women possess more spiritual energy than men and that a man can only discover his true godly being through sexual and emotional union with a woman. “Controlled sexual intercourse is the fundamental ritual.”
Our guests will experience the manifestation of superior spiritual energy of women in the person of Paula Bosch. Germany’s most famous and highest regarded sommelier has been an integral part of Tantris since 1991. Even the most intractable guest will soon realise that he or she should submit his selection to this woman, a sovereign of over 70,000 bottles of wine of the very first order. This submission is rarely regretted.
With respect to wine, says Fritz Eichbauer, it took years to establish different habits. “Can you still remember what your parents drank back then in 1972? There was Mosel/Saar/Ruwer or Chianti out of a two-litre wicker bottle. People were not ready to spend 100 marks for a bottle of good wine.”
While a waiter with perfect manners serves cream strudel with apricot compote to go with coffee, a man in a white kitchen apron is going from table to table - Hans Haas, the radiating fixed star and centre of the restaurant. For more than fifteen years now and with all due modesty, the Tyrol native ensures that the two Michelin stars hold sway over Tantris. From the very first words he utters, it is clear that here is someone who prepares food precisely in accordance with his temperament – refreshingly natural. His dishes are light and enchanting not through some fanciful frippery but merely and precisely by the masterful use of natural products and their rich variety of aromas.
Fritz Eichbauer has experienced and survived many highs and lows with Tantris over the past three decades. The change of personnel was exploited by the media – Eckart Witzigmann was followed in 1980 by Heinz Winkler, who for a short time won a third Michelin star for the restaurant. Another challenge to be surmounted was the economic recession. But while other gourmet temples by and by closed their doors, due to a stagnation-related loss of appetite, people continue as ever to wine and dine in the concrete landscape of Schwabing. And this is due not least to the many people – be they chef, waiter or kitchen help – who, with their love of detail and personal dedication, have made this place something truly special. When asked how much money he has invested in his dream over the past 35 years, Eichbauer takes a short puff on his cigar, with his lips forming into a smirk and a waggish sparkle in his eyes, before replying “enough money to buy a castle for myself. But then where would I have eaten?”
TANTRIS Restaurant GmbH & Co Betriebs-KG
Telephone: +49 89 361959-0
Fax: +49 89 361959-22