In summer 2021 there was a flurry of headlines in the gourmet media: A change of generations at the Söl'ring* Hof in Rantum on Sylt! After cautious preparation, the restaurant’s long-standing patron Johannes King was passing the scepter on to Jan-Philipp Berner and Bärbel Ring. “The two know the establishment better than anyone else, they live this very special DNA. They bring passion and energy, have grown together with the whole team,” said Johannes King. Restaurant Manager Bärbel Ring revealed to us exactly what makes the Söl'ring Hof different. We met with her and spoke about drug-counseling, wine and saltmarsh herbs.
Söl'ring Hof – the holiday home
“For many of our guests we are like a big holiday home with a built-in 2-Michelin-star restaurant”, says Bärbel Ring, describing her Söl'ring Hof. “Our strength is the personal aspect. We know our guests well – and that is very decisive for me. We want to have fun here together with our guests, to be a lively restaurant. This describes our Söl'ring Hof DNA very well.”
From drugs counselling to sommelier
Bärbel Ring is passionate about what she does today. However, at the start of her career, one would never have predicted that she would end up on Germany’s jet set island. Because actually she wanted to go where things are really bad: Drugs-counselling and street work. But while she was studying education, she did casual jobs at a restaurant and fell in love with life in catering. She suddenly switched direction and completed an apprenticeship as a restaurant specialist. “That is also when I got hold of my first wine book. Very many of the wines from our restaurant cellar were there in the book. And my bosses back then could smell and taste everything from the wines. I wanted to be able to do that too. And so I decided to become a sommelier – also a kind of drugs counselling...”, laughs Bärbel Ring.
The value of good glasses
In her first years in catering she also recognized the value of good glasses. “The way you set a table has a lot to do with presentation. You are conveying a feeling. Glass, porcelain, fabrics or silver – tactile perception conveys directly to the guest a sense of value that feeds into the overall experience. Take the JOSEPHINE: It has a beautiful, remarkable shape. It is delicate and light. The more delicate something is, the more reverently and respectfully you approach it.”
“A perfect wine in the JOSEPHINE glass – that is like a beautiful woman in an enchanting dress.”
After various different positions, Johannes Kling then brought Bärbel Ring over to the Söl'ring Hof as Chef de Rang. At the end of the year, she took over the position of Chef Sommelière, and then in 2015 finally became Restaurant Manager. The rest is gourmet history!
Two-star Landhaus cuisine
From a purely gastronomic standpoint, the culinary change from Johannes King to Jan-Philipp Berner was a very smooth transition for the guests of the Söl'ring Hof. After all, Berner had already been influencing the restaurant’s menu for years. “We have altered things a bit. But the concept has remained the same”, said Bärbel Ring. “Our cooking is regional and seasonal. But that is already almost standard now. The products from the island are not standard, however. They are extraordinary. For example, we have access to saltmarsh herbs – the herb meadow in Rantum is flooded twice a day. The herbs here have to break down the salt and they develop an intense flavor. For example, the plump leaves of the sea sandwort are iodinous and salty. Suaeda on the other hand resembles a salty coriander and looks like chives. Then we have the Sylt oyster banks around the island, with Pacific oysters. We also like working with Sylt roses and cranberries. In addition to these we also use imported products. Of course we would not want to have to do without truffles. We are always searching for the best ingredients. Our guests appreciate our light Nordic cuisine with classic influences!”
Wine cellar and menu
It is not often in life that one has the opportunity to build up a wine cellar without having to finance it oneself. Not even as a sommelier. Bärbel Ring has seized this opportunity at the Söl'ring Hof. “Here it is possible for me to put everything together the way I think it should be. That is a privilege”, said Bärbel Ring with a grin.
Her cellar has a European character. France, Germany, Austria, Portugal including Madeira, Italia with a focus upon Piedmont and Spain, especially Priorat. “Our dishes are light and subtle – white wine goes just excellently with them. I have very classic tastes in this respect and believe in the grape varieties that have been typical of certain regions for many years. Why choose a Sauvignon blanc from Germany?”, wondered Bärbel Ring. Very important for that tingly Sylt feeling: German sparkling wine and champagne from smaller producers. “When it is warm here we drink champagne, when it is cold we drink port!” Matured port wines are a linchpin of the wine menu. “I love port. This passion was passed on to me from Johannes King. With these producers, you think to yourself that it will be their grandchildren who will be pouring out the wine. You don’t get much more sustainable than that. I have great respect for that.”
JOSEPHINE – love at first sight
Bärbel Ring happened across our glass collection by chance: “I was in a restaurant on Sylt and saw my first JOSEPHINE. My spontaneous reaction: Wow, that glass looks spaced out and feels great! A friend gave us a JOSEPHINE as a gift and I didn’t want to drink out of anything else.”
“The JOSEPHINE is not just about design and delicacy. Above all, it is about the taste. It shows the wine pure and au naturel. That is why the glasses are also good for tastings. Faults are discovered straight away. It hides nothing. Figuratively speaking, the JOSEPHINE makes the wine naked!”
She decided to finally use the glasses for Söl'ring Hof as well. “We use the JOSEPHINE for very special wines. As the final touch for our guests. The shape also fits in so well here. I find the champagne glasses particularly beautiful!” Many guests are now also asking for the glasses explicitly. They want to know who is behind them and what the iconic kink is for. “But the JOSEPHINE is not just about design and delicacy. Above all, it is about the taste. It shows the wine pure and au naturel. That is why the glasses are also good for tastings. Faults are discovered straight away. It hides nothing. Figuratively speaking, the JOSEPHINE makes the wine naked!”
*Söl'ring is a North Frisian dialect spoken mainly on Sylt.