The country-style hotel is located in an idyllic landscape surrounded by a large garden in the village of Binzen in the Markgräflerland. In the midst of the Corona Year 2020, the restaurant in particular is undergoing an interesting transformation. Instead of traditional Markgräfler cuisine, Restaurant Mühle offers authentic southern Italian food.
Southern Italian cuisine is my DNA
From an early age, Fabio Elia went several times a year to visit his grandmother in Puglia, a small village between Brindisi and Bari. Even before arriving, his Nona had asked him for his favorite food for the arrival. On the long car ride south, the boy from Basel could then look forward to his first meal at Grandma’s.
When Fabio Elia was not yet in school, he tells us in conversation, he spent the entire summer with his grandmother and by the end of the vacations barely spoke German. In addition to the language, Fabio Elia also internalized his love of Apulian cuisine during this time. When he explains the dishes on the menu at his Ristorante La Cucina, he can go into depth. From the main ingredients to the spices, from the method of preparation to the cooking time, he knows how to answer all questions.
Recipes and retrospectives
Whether it’s bread salad Citted or giant bean cream Crema di Fagioli. Both sound much more appealing in Italian culinary terms. But they remain simple, country dishes. Of course, bread is taken from the lecture for the bread salad, of course, giant beans are cheaper than beef tenderloin. But that is not the point here. Here, a traditional, regional cuisine is served that takes the guest on a surprising journey. Fabio Elia talks about festive tavolatas. 20 to 30 people at a long table, filled to the brim with food. Or how, when they were young, they bought the fish straight from the boat from the fishermen and prepared it while still on the beach. In times of travel warnings that pop up as unpredictably as hits in sinking ships, it’s nice when a visit to a restaurant manages to stir up vacation feelings.
Concept change and Corona – he who dares wins
In October 2019, there was a change of leadership. The old patron Hansjörg Hechler, uncle of Fabio Elia’s partner Sonja Hechler, handed over the mill to his niece and the restaurateur from Basel. 35 years of Margravian cuisine that had made a name for itself is not something you just wipe off the table. So the new duo Elia / Hechler decided on a gentle redesign of the menu, only to discover over the turn of the year that the response was reserved. Then Corona came along and had a cathartic effect on Fabia Elia. He realized that now was the time for the radically different concept. The forced break was used intensively. New menus were written and a relaunch of the premises was tackled.
The transformation – from restaurant to ristorante
The area around the restaurant and Hotel Mühle is large and offers a lot of room for maneuver. The centerpiece of the transformation from Markgräfler cuisine to Apulian cuisine was really well received in a very short time. The response of the guests is the impetus for further plans.
Fabio Elia will turn the garden into a giardino and place more olive trees. The old stable building, which has been the pavilion for meetings and wedding ceremonies, will become La Barraca, an event space. The courtyard behind the house on the old mill stream will be transformed into a piazetta. For balmy summer evenings, Elia already envisions an open-air cinema here with garlands of light and old Fellini films. With the authentic food and the suitable scenery Fabio Elia offers a journey into the old longing country of the Germans. Italian lifestyle without traveling, an attractive thought, which since Corona no longer sounds kitschy at all, but is trendy.
You won’t find boring appetizers like tomato – mozarella at La Cucina. Instead, some unfamiliar dishes that arouse curiosity. One can easily imagine large bowls of bread salad and plates overflowing with giant bean cream being set on a long table. Guests can taste simple dishes with refinement and the deep and ripe flavors of Italian tomatoes, the fearless use of herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage, and the addition of bitters like those contributed by finely chopped radicchio.
The menu at Restaurant Mühle does not overwhelm diners with countless pizza and pasta variations, but comes up with unfamiliar antipasti such as something called “scamorza fritta” or a delicate octopus salad with small pieces of lemon and lots of paprika. This dish has become a favorite of the guests. Little sour bits of lemon keep flashing through next to the octopus, and the paprika mousse is slightly smoky and rich in flavor. Fabio Elia says his Italian vendor always holds his breath when he passes through the order quantity for octopus.
Meanwhile, a transformation is also taking place in the rooms of the Hotel Mühle. The Davidoff Lounge, a smoking room used less and less by guests, is becoming an Enoteca with bar service and small dishes. The smokers now only blow their clouds of smoke into the air in the black-and-white photographs on the walls.
Hotel Mühle with Ristorante La Cucina is just a 15-minute drive from Basel. The hotel has 32 spacious country-style rooms. The rural surroundings offer many recreational opportunities. Nearby are a golf course and also a riding stable. Cultural opportunities are also offered by the city of Basel, the Vitra Design Campus in Weil am Rhein or the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen. Fabio Elia and Sonja Hechler also offer combined arrangements. For example, a stay at the design hotel Krone in Weil am Rhein, managed by Sonja Hechler, and a visit to Ristonrante La Cucina.
Out and about in Basel – a self-guided food tour and a visit to the Fondation Beyeler
Basel, the city on the Rhine. It has served as a refuge for idiosyncratic thinkers
Visiting Basel – from Hotel Krone in Weil am Rhein by bike or streetcar.
The cost of half board was not charged by the hotel