Luxury can mean very different things to different people, and often it can be quite simple things. For me, it can be as simple as getting away to unspoilt places that offer high standards, authentic and unique experiences, exclusivity, friendly and approachable staff and the opportunity to unwind and re-charge from a busy timetable.
Four-star country hotel Schafhof Amorbach is such a place.
Originally built as a small cloister by the Benedictine abbey Amorbach in 1446, the carefully restored complex is tucked away in a secluded area in the midst of the lush forest of the gorgeous Odenwald region in the German countryside; and yet just about one hour drive time from Frankfurt. Hence it is the perfect getaway for a relaxing weekend.
Schafhof, which means ‘sheep’s farm’ takes its name from the abundant herds of sheep that are characteristic to the Odenwald region. A small herd is indeed making its home in proximity to the hotel and can be often seen grazing the grass on the surrounding hills.
Family-run Schafhof Amorbach is looking at a 30 plus years history as a hotel and since its early days, its style has remained nearly unchanged. Yet the classical furnishings typical of historic German rural homes by no means appears old-fashioned. Instead, the wooden fitting together with a colour scheme of cream and terracotta underlines the hotel’s unique character and makes you feel cosy and welcome right away.
The various buildings making up the hotel complex host 24 guest rooms, a Spa, a small lobby bar and two restaurants.
The little bar and lounge area in the cloister building is the perfect place to chill after a day out in the hills and forests of the surrounding Odenwald area (and possibly have a drink or two as well).
On warmer days, the terrace right in front of the cloister building invites to take you coffee/tea or afternoon drinks outside to be enjoyed with the sweeping views over the surrounding green hills.
Otherwise, walk the grounds around the hotel to explore some of the other buildings and the beautiful little garden.
There are four different room categories – standard, deluxe, junior suite and suite – and we were lucky enough to book the hotel’s lovely suite for our recent stay. It is furnished in the typical rustic style of the hotel yet has all the modern amenities you would expect, including a large flat-screen TV and free wifi.
For our stay we opted for the hotel’s happy weekend special, which is a two-night stay including a 3-course dinner in the hotel’s Benedictine parlour restaurant on the first evening and a 5-course dinner in the Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant Abbots and Shepherds parlour on the second.
Benedictine parlour located in a separate building offers Mediterranean inspired cuisine in a relaxed rural setting. The restaurants centre piece is a large chimney made of red sandstone.
We started our dinner in the Benedictine parlour with a glass of Helmstetter sparkling rose. Just to kick-off the evening in the right manner.
The first course was a delicious grilled seabream complemented by a salad of chickpeas.
The next course was a very tender filet of lamb accompanied by a tasty gorgonzola tart and a green bean salad; a very traditional Italian dish served with no frills but perfectly showing off refined Italian country food.
The menu finished with a heavenly Panna Cotta with strawberries compote and a strawberry sorbet. Can it get any more Italian indeed?
The hotel’s fine dining restaurant Abt- and Schäferstube (Abbot and Shepherds parlour) located directly in the cloister building offers a French-inspired modern cuisine in an intimate setting with only few tables available. I’ve eaten here before and I knew the food would be excellent. In fact, the restaurant holds its Michelin star now for more than 20 years!
The first food to arrive was a plate of small amuse bouches: a beef tartar, aspic, a piece of melon that beautifully added some sweet to the mix and a very thin slice of focaccia-style bread with a cut of delicious Italian ham.
Next came a very smooth liver paté complimented by a small bite of quails breast that tasted just heavenly, slices of pear and a slightly sweet-tasting brioche on the side. All in all a dish that showed a perfect balance in flavour and texture.
It was followed by pike-perch fillet sitting on a bed of spaghetti alla sepia and soaked in a thick brew of mussels. I am not the greatest fan of mussels, but I felt the broth really enhanced the flavour of the fish nicely.
Next was a very tasty interpretation of bouillabaisse with prawns.
The next course was perhaps my favourite: rack and filet of lamb along with a tasty soft potato puree, artichoke and grilled onion.
The menu finished with a chocolate tart made of Valrhona chocolate, a vanilla mousse and a truly delicious caramel ice cream, which I absolutely loved.
Breakfast at Schafhof Amorbach is served in the Benedictine parlour and includes a bread and pastry buffet, cheese and charcuterie, homemade jams, a selection of juices an if you want freshly made eggs all styles.
The hotel also has a licence to produce its own fruit brandies which are sold at a small gift shop located in the Benedictine parlour. The wild cherries was my absolute favourite.