Sylt, the northernmost of the German islands, is known as one Central Europe’s last remaining wild regions. Our reporter-writer François Simon went there to inhale the invigorating breezes of this maritime clime and taste the marvelous local cuisine of Chef Holger Bodendorf.
A Timeless Journey
It is a place where Germany’s upper crust comes to jet-set about in Porsches and on bicycles. You may remember that it was here that Karl Lagerfeld, as a child, scampered on the beaches, surrounding himself with wicker chairs and broad, colorful stripes. It is here, too, that the solid Landhaus Stricker hotel makes its home, regally removed from the dunes and tea rooms. At this sumptuous property, a Relais & Châteaux member since 2011, we quickly understood that its location amidst the trees was not intended to promote hiding away. It need not trumpet its existence, either, with its five-star ranking and well-considered dimensions: nearly forty capacious rooms and suites comfortably spread about, with terraces and balconies and small verdant yards – fresh air, peace and quiet. Landhaus Stricker knows its clientele well and strives to exceed guests’ exacting expectations: a superb 700-square-meter spa with a large swimming pool, steam room, and, of course, the sauna, an essential component of the northern countries’ raison d’être.
But one of the hotel’s greatest assets is having a chef – Holger Bodendorf, who asks himself an essential question on a daily basis: “How can I keep my clients coming back?”
With ever-evolving cuisine, no doubt, driven by the renewed pursuit of an earlier reputation as one of the region’s best restaurants (1972-1986). So Holger Boldendorf has chosen to challenge himself, mixing meridians and inflections to create cuisine that is alive, tossing in a bit of Italy, Asia, and Mediterranean, but most especially by embracing local ingredients and a sustainable philosophy, avoiding products that require long journeys from farm to table. Nationally renowned “HB” could have contented himself with posing for magazines, crossing his arms across his chest in classic chefly stance, but he does not.
Despite his Viking looks and proud bearing, he practices what few chefs allow: the crucial asset of doubt, rethinking, calling into question. Which leads to cuisine that regularly changes direction, one that echoes with originality an archetypal terroir: the imperious sea and a land of authentic, unadorned products that make their way to the hotel’s two restaurants – the contemporary bistro Siebzehn84 and the gourmet restaurant Bodendorf’s. “The lamb,” he says, “comes from nearby, from Denmark’s Knuthenlund Farm, and the meat is rich with the taste of the herbs we also have here on the island of Sylt: chervil, rosemary, wild garlic.” All cooked slowly, at low temperature... probably one of the keys to Sylt’s well-being.