During this long, grey, miserable winter, in the absence of a good pub with a roaring log fire, a pint (or two) of cloudy scrumpy and a packet of pork scratchings, there’s nowhere I’d rather spend an evening than at a Mainzer Weinstube. Jolly, cheery, cosy and warm, they’re the perfect place to hide from this cold, damp weather with a couple of glasses of wine and a hearty dinner. Mainzers are spoilt for choice for these little wine taverns (we’re not quite so lucky on this side of the river) and, depending on what I fancy, I have a couple of regular favourites. For something a bit special, however, and in terms of consistently excellent and high quality local, seasonal food, as far as I’m concerned, Weinhaus Schreiner’s at the top of the pile.
I’ve spent many an evening at Schreiner’s and poked my fork into many a plate of food there (not just my own). I’ve scooped up mouthfuls of stewed white beans and tomatoes serving as a bed for slabs of boiled fillet of beef, a chunk of ham, a couple of enormous lyonnaise sausages and, just in case you thought the dish sounded a bit on the mean side, a goose leg thrown in for good measure. I’ve sampled a friend’s moist, slow-cooked shank of lamb drizzled with a chestnut jus; and devoured my own two thick, long venison sausages served on a heap of sweet red cabbage (above). There’s been venison goulash with Spätzle; fresh spaghetti with wild mushrooms and cream; and a perfectly pink rump of lamb balanced neatly on a bed of white asparagus and topped with roasted vine tomatoes (below).
Last night, I tucked in some neat nuggets of baked wolffish (Steinbeißer: white, meaty and delicately flavoured) that sat in a moat of sublimely creamy truffle butter surrounding a mound of wilted spinach and wonderfully fluffy mash (17,80€). I gazed with envy at my husband’s vast, golden-breadcrumbed cutlet of Duroc pig served with cabbage and fried potatoes (16,20€). For the sake of attempting a vaguely balanced review, I must admit I’m not wild about Schreiner’s fried potatoes: I find the salty, golden potato slices just a little too greasy for my liking plus, wonderfully rustic as they are, they sometimes detract from the often rather elegant-looking plate of food they accompany.
Schreiner’s take on my favourite German winter dish, Tafelspitz mit Meerrettichsoße (above) is, however, simply sublime: two or three melt-in-the-mouth slabs of boiled beef fillet draped across a heap of buttery, creamy savoy cabbage and adorned with a generous handful of fiery freshly-grated horseradish. It wasn’t on the menu last night, but I did spy a veal version on the specials’ board that was served with salsify. And this, you see, is why I love Weinhaus Schreiner: for their consistently clever takes on classic German dishes that are thoughtfully prepared, adapted according to the available ingredients and carefully executed, using excellent, quality produce. The food might not be cheap but but in my opinion, it’s worth every penny.
If you don’t fancy a whole meal out at Schreiner’s, you can also pop in of an afternoon for a couple of glasses of wine and a proper German snack. I love the idea of their trio of Mainzer specialities – Spundekäse with pretzels, a couple of slices of Fleischwurst and Handkäse mit Musik – and the wine selection is excellent, comprising very good local wines by the glass and more expensive German and international high-end wines by the bottle. You could always start your evening with a beer instead, of course, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself being told off by a grannie at the next table who’s busy sampling a couple of wines herself. (I speak from experience.)
Schreiner’s is clearly a smarter-than-average Mainzer Weinstube: the food is a little more refined, with prices to match, and the atmosphere a little quieter and calmer than its competitors. But though the restaurant is larger and airier than many others and the young staff in their neat black and white uniforms take their work rather seriously, this is Mainz, after all, so the atmosphere remains extremely warm and friendly and tables are often shared, with inter-table chat not entirely unlikely either. And I must say, after an evening in a cosy, traditional German wine tavern feasting on wolffish and mash drenched in creamy truffle butter I did briefly think to myself, well, who needs a pint and a pork scratching anyway?
Website: Weinhaus Schreiner (in German; see Speisen und Getränke for their wine lists and regularly changing, seasonal menu)
Address: Rheinstraße 38, 55116 Mainz