Jakob, Theresa and Xaver Portenlänger run “Xaver‘s” restaurant in the heart of Munich. A restaurant that feels like a living room, as hearty as it is stylish. And the cuisine? Traditionally Bavarian, sustainable and regional. We visited the trio
Jakob, Theresa and Xaver Portenlänger
Why would you open a restaurant with your brothers and sisters? This crazy idea had never even entered the heads of Jakob, Theresa and Xaver Portenlänger – all of them around 30 years old. “No chance, no way, that’s what I would have said five years ago,” says Theresa with a laugh. Ultimately it had been agreed that Jakob would one day take over the family business: the “Alte Wirt”, an organic restaurant in Grünwald, has been in the family for over 100 years.
But then the Augustiner Brewery offered them the lease on a traditional old hostelry in the heart of Munich and the three of them leapt at the chance. In April 2018 they opened “Xaver’s”, named after the youngest sibling.
Evolution of “Wirtshaus” culture
Pine walls, rustic wooden tables and chairs with carved hearts, a wooden panelled ceiling and lamps made of antlers: at first glance, “Xaver’s” looks like a classic Bavarian inn. But what other inn has chic bar stools with velvet upholstery at a long table, where you soon get to know your fellow guests? No frills, no bells and whistles, but instead a totally diverse clientele, and that was the aim of the Portenlängers: “Not a revolution, but an evolution of Bavarian Wirtshaus culture”.
Living room for gourmets
“There are so many Bavarian inns in Munich but none in which we really feel at home at our age. That’s why we wanted to open our own,” explains Xaver. And Jakob adds: “A living room! Just like a Wirtshaus used to be. Ten of you would sit round a single table, each with a beer, and you’d set the world to rights.”
This approach has resulted in an original mixture. “Xaver’s” is hearty yet stylish, traditional yet sustainable, typically Bavarian yet hugely cosmopolitan. Or, as the siblings sum it up: “A restaurant for gourmets, an oasis of wellbeing for hedonists and a platform for communicators”.
Designer Bavarian costumes
The three restaurateurs have worked out how to divide up the work between them: Jakob, the eldest, is a trained chef and hotelier, so he forms the link between the kitchen, the service and the guests. He is also still running the family business in Grünwald. Theresa, or “Resi”, with her sunny nature, forms the golden centre of the team, and Xaver, with his background as an events manager, is the creative force.
It goes without saying that all members of the team wear traditional costumes in their work. “It’s a really lovely side of Bavarian tradition and has great recognition value,” finds Theresa. For the women, the restaurateurs have bought a collection of dirndls, while the men sport waistcoats by Frederic Meisner, the moderator and hip Bavarian costume designer.
Organic schnitzel and ceviche
The highest accolade that the Portenlängers have received came from 3-star chef Jan Hartwig: he claims to have eaten the best Spätzle in his life at “Xaver’s”, according to Theresa. The menu of head chef Fabian Huber includes classic dishes such as Schweinebraten, Wiener Schnitzel and Kaiserschmarrn, but also more unusual ones such as a Bavarian take on Peruvian ceviche using char from the foothills of the Alps.
Most ingredients come from sustainable and fair trade sources, and not just as a way of supporting regional added value: “For us, there’s nothing nicer than going with the team to visit a producer, watching them at work and talking with them,” explains Jakob. “Whether it’s the boys from the fish farm on Lake Schliersee or the baker at the organic bakery Brotzeit in Grünwald, they all stand behind their products and give it their all.”
Three siblings, three wine lists
But how does it work when brothers and sisters work so closely together? “It can be treacherous, as the emotions are different to those of business partners,” says Jakob. “But issues like sustainability and regionality are important to all of us. We share a sense of unity that radiates in the same direction.”
It’s only when it comes to wine that their opinions diverge: “We have such different tastes that we can never agree on a wine,” says Theresa. That’s why “Xaver’s” has not one but three wine lists. When guests explain what they want, they are likely to hear: “That sounds like my sister’s kind of thing; I’ll send her over.”
For ages it has not been possible to get into “Xaver’s” without a reservation. “It’s overwhelming how quickly we’ve established a reputation,” says Jakob in amazement. “When concierges at five-star hotels keep trying to secure a table for their guests, that was a really nice endorsement.”
But “Xaver’s” is no posh boutique restaurant: “We are certainly not the cheapest place to eat out in the area,” says Jakob. “But we have something for everyone: guests who order three beers and want a Wurstsalat to go with them, and others who are looking to enjoy a three-course menu with wine. And for us, that’s exactly what a Bavarian Wirtshaus should be: a place that caters for everyone.”
More about "Xaver's" restaurant: xaver-s.de (only in German)
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