I was invited to the exhibition and the launch of the menu by OpenTable, who I’ve worked with before and I think are fab. All opinions my own.
Victor Vasarely (1906–1997) was the French-Hungarian artist who led the ‘op art’ or optical art movemen, making use of shapes, colours and patterns to create various sorts of optical illusion. Influenced by Bauhaus design principles and Constructivism, Vasarely’s work, with its colourful geometric shapes and graphics, heavily influenced the wider art and design of the 1970s: if you think of the sorts of colours and shapes and patterns that that decade is known for, well, apparently that’s all down to him. But I didn’t know any of this before being invited to view the new Vasarely exhibition – “Victor Vasarely. In the Labyrinth of Modernism” – at Frankfurt’s Städel Museum, and to attend the launch of a Vasarely-inspired menu at the museum restaurant, Holbein’s.
Victor Vasarely: In the Labyrinth of Modernism
The evening began with a guided tour of the exhibition by art historian Pascal Heß. It’s so often the way that I wander around these sorts of exhibition thinking, ‘well, that one’s nice’, or, ‘not sure about that one’; but when you’re provided with a bit of background and a broad understanding of it all by a expert passionate about the subject, it completely alters the whole experience. It was a thoroughly interesting exhibition and a very enjoyable tour: if you go to see it as I did, unfamiliar with Vasarely or the op art movement, I’d highly recommend picking up an audio guide.
The Vasarely Menu at Holbein’s
After the tour, we were led back downstairs to Holbein’s restaurant, where we ushered into the extraordinarily high-ceilinged space and invited to choose from a selection of brightly-coloured cocktails. (I picked red, which was bitter, but delicious.) Before we sat down to eat, head chef Patrick Großmayer appeared from the kitchen to talk us through the menu, which he explained had been visually inspired by the forms and colours of Vasarely’s work, and culinary influenced by France, Italy and Hungary.
Though I was hard pressed to tell that the dishes had been influenced by optical art visually-speaking, the flavours fit the brief beautifully, and the food was very good. Smoked Barbary duck breast with caramelised goats’ cheese, lamb’s lettuce and port wine figs was followed by a deconstructed monkfish saltimbocca, the chunk of white fish garnished with a crisp shard of cooked prosciutto and accompanied by Hungarian-style red peppers and cabbage and mashed potatoes.
For dessert, my fellow diners enjoyed a layered Hungarian Esterházy cake with citrus ragout and sorbet, and I was presented with a very good crème brûlée, which passed the caramelised sugar crack test with flying colours. The accompanying wines – a 2016 Frontignan Terres Blanches Muscat Sec, and a 2016 Terra Montosa Riesling from esteemed Rüdesheim winemaker Georg Breuer – were both excellent.
Exhibition and Menu Details
The Victor Vasarely exhibition, “In the Labyrinth of Modernism“, is on at Frankfurt’s Städel Museum until 13 January 2019. The 3-course Vasarely menu is available until 19 January 2019. The dinner menu costs 60€ including exhibition entrance and can be booked online via OpenTable – scroll down to the “Specials” tab. A lunch menu is also available.
Städel Museum, Schaumainkai 63 60596 Frankfurt am Main (website).
Holbein’s, Holbeinstraße 1 60596 Frankfurt am Main (but also accessible via the museum foyer; website).