Review of The Grill im Casino Baden-Baden
A disturbingly cheap flight landed me in Baden-Baden for the weekend, as ever I was keen to blow the budget on a great piece of steak. The Grill im Casino seemed to be just the place to bet on a great steak. Instead I endured one of the worst restaurant experiences in my life.
Baden-Baden is a spa town set in the black forest, deep in South-West Germany and beloved by the 19th century aristocracy. This legacy leaves Baden-Baden with a stunning Casino that is more Versailles than Vegas; it is impressive with ornate ceilings, painted roofs and enormous Chandeliers. This Casino even enabled Dostoyevsky‘s vices, inspiring him to write the novel “The Gambler”.
The steakhouse is located inside the Casino right next to the roulette tables. Getting in isn’t easy, the management apparently deciding that the fittings require men to sport a jacket and shirt. Though I met this requirement, the doorman looked down at my shoes and greeted my casual Adidas shoes with a caustic “Sportlich”. Nonethelss I was admitted (Entrance to the Casino usually attracts a €5 fee which is waived if you have a reservation at the steakhouse).
Lost in Grill im Casino
Oddly, for a modern restaurant, the Grill im Casino has no online reservation system. The inconvenience of having to contact them to get a reservation became an almost fatal flaw when the Casino front office could not find my reservation (I had booked three weeks in advance). Fortunately I had arrived well ahead of my booking time to soak up the atmosphere (and an excellent Manhattan). This gave the restaurant a chance to sort out a table.
I sat at the bar and soaked up more atmosphere. The Casino was heaving. In the foreground Men in Tuxedos sipped on old Fashioneds while pointing at Roulette tables. In the background a cabinet of enormous cuts of aged steak loomed, reminding me why I was here.
After finishing my drink I arrived on time at the restaurant’s front of house. I then had to reiterate that I did have a booking and even had to pull out my phone to show them the email exchange. Not to worry though, I was lead to a table within inches of the restaurant’s front of house and asked “would you like to sit here?” I said “of course not”. Unfortunately, for me they weren’t really offering, stating the place was “fully booked”, but with no apparent irony.
Almost immediately after being given the menus we were set upon by one of the waiters. He assertively suggested we have the Australian Tomahawk steak. I hadn’t come to Germany to eat steak from Australia so I asked about what size Porterhouse steak they had (the porterhouse steak was from the same state of Germany).
While the waiter was checking for sizes I got to have a decent look at the menu. The steakhouse had a good selection of individual and sharing steaks from individual fillets to sharing Chateaubriand. The waiter returned to tell me that they had no porterhouse steak and once again asserted that we should get the Australian Tomahawk steak. I told him I was not getting that steak and that I wanted a German steak. I asked for a T-bone and the waiter once more went to the kitchen to check what size T-bones they had. He came back after a few minutes and told me that they had 600gm and 800gm T-Bone steaks.
I ordered the 800gm T-bone cooked rare. The waiter was about to leave when I asked him if he would like to take our order for wine and sides. I was becoming wary of the restaurant now, but what was to follow was both infuriating and comical.
The Gamble backfires
The wine had just arrived when the steak came, frighteningly fast. So fast in fact that the restaurant had not even prepared plates for us to eat the steak.
The waiter held the T-Bone steak for me to look at. Immediately I noticed that the Fillet section of the T-Bone had been removed. I asked the waiter what happened and he said they had to remove it for the right weight. This was stunning, they had previously told me that the largest T-bone they had was 800gm.
I refused the steak (hence the lack of photos) and the waiter did not know what to do. Moments later one of the managers came over with the steak. He stated that the steak was indeed a T-Bone and that there was a very small piece of fillet which made it a T-bone steak. There was nothing there but bone. He insisted we should take it so I got out my phone and showed him a picture of the kind of T-Bone an honest steak house would serve. He stated my picture was of a Porterhouse, I disagreed. The manager then said we should take the steak as it was getting cold. For the first time I lost my temper in a restaurant. I’ve had bad experiences but this was piss poor and an utter disgrace.
I ordered the manager to get the bill.
Insult to injury
The bill arrived promptly and contained a full charge for the bottle of wine we had barely touched as well as a charge for a bottle of water that had never been served. I started laughing, loudly. After metaphorically pissing all over me, the restaurant had just charged me for the privilege of doing so.
I called the waiter and asked for the manager. “Again?”, he said. This time a different manager called Katja arrived. She wasn’t aware of the issues and I vented the full list and told her I was leaving. She was horrified and, with due credit to her, managed to defuse the situation and salvaged the evening by convincing us to stay and try another steak. It was late, I was frazzled and I caved into her suggestion.
The Second Chance
We ended up with two fillet steaks, as per the manager’s suggestion. Going for fillet seemed like a cop-out, especially when I was after a large cut like a porterhouse or T-Bone.
The fillet was local to the area (within the state of Baden-Wurttemberg). The Fillet was tender, warm on the outside but a little below room temperature in the middle. It had a pleasant taste but without that beefy taste that I’ve come to savour. However, it was by all means a decent fillet.
The manager (the good one) managed our table directly after this point. She offered us free desserts and waived the charge for the sides. The bill came to 128 Euro which is not heavy damage for a top steakhouse, but in light of our ordeal perhaps some further good will should have been offered.
For the lost reservation, poor service and deceitful handling of the T-bone, Grill im Casino deserve 0 stars. However, that would not reflect the rescue effort of Katja whose personal effort defused what would have been my first ever 0 star review. That said, I can only give Grill im Casino 1 1/2 stars. My experience at Grill im Casino was bitterly disappointing and not one that any steak lover should endure.