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Renthof in Kassel – history and zeitgeist

The center of attraction in the evening: the Pudelbar. At least as noteworthy as the poodle is the bar's cladding. It consists of the rusted sheet metal of an old barn, which Rainer Holzhauer discovered on horseback during a ride / © Photo: Georg Berg

The center of attraction in the evening: the Pudelbar. At least as noteworthy as the poodle is the bar's cladding. It consists of the rusted sheet metal of an old barn, which Rainer Holzhauer discovered on horseback during a ride / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Renthof Kassel, founded in 1298 as a Carmelite monastery, has survived the turmoil of many centuries. It has served as a court school, a knight’s academy and briefly as a university, and later as a court and administrative seat. The name refers to the rent, the dues in the landlord system at that time. The Renthof and the Old Brethren Church belonging to the building complex are located close to the Fulda and are something like the nucleus of old Kassel. Here and there in the city, which has borne great urban scars since the Second World War, historic buildings still gleam out of the brittle post-war development. The steeple of the Old Brethren Church, which was desecrated 15 years ago and has been available for events since then, can be seen from afar. In the Documenta year 2017, a building that the city has never seen before will now open its doors to travelers and also to the people of Kassel.

Old Brethren Church and the part of the Renthof facing the river Fulda: Built in 1298 as a Carmelite monastery. Many architectural treasures have been unearthed during the renovation / © Photo: Georg Berg.

In June 2017, the Renthof Kassel opens after three years of renovation, as a hotel, restaurant and event location. There is no longer any question of a soft opening with sufficient familiarization time for the entire team, as hotel director Undine Bay would ideally have wished. The Renthof team has to face great challenges from day one. German President Steinmeier and his Greek counterpart Pavlopoulos opened Documenta 14 and were also guests at the Renthof for the occasion. Also, the already booked wedding ceremonies and conference dates can finally take place.

The plan to open the 800-year-old monastery complex to the public is working / © Photo: Georg Berg

The weather is good, the Documenta guests have conquered the city and the people of Kassel are curious about their new “old” building. The best conditions, which ensure that the formerly closed courtyard, the former cloister of the monastery, is now a popular and lively meeting place with around 50 seats.

Many secrets were revealed during the renovation / © Photo: Georg Berg

The new Renthof Kassel in figures

The hotel offers 55 rooms. Among them are superior double rooms, suites and a family room. The restaurant has seating for about 100. In summer, the medieval courtyard is the crowd puller. For conference guests, there is the library for up to 20 people and a conference room for up to 100 people as a retreat for meetings.

The library with readings on the Documenta artists allows creative work for 20 conference guests. Afterwards, the meal from the Renthof restaurant can be served there / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Old Brethren Church then allows for the really big number. Banquets, weddings and receptions can be held here for 300 guests. Always with the possibility to enjoy the ambience in the courtyard, restaurant or bar during and after the work or celebration is done. Even a complete booking is possible. Then in the area of the Renthof up to 600 people can celebrate and up to 100 people can stay overnight.

Offers space for about 300 guests, the Old Brethren Church has direct access to the hotel and the beautiful courtyard since the conversion. Co-owner Uwe Kleinkauf considers the interplay of hotel, restaurant, conference venue and event location to be very promising / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Old Brethren Church is Kassel’s oldest building. And so today’s center with the Fridericianum can be reached on foot in just 10 minutes. A nice walk along the Fulda to the Orangerie in the Karlsaue takes a quarter of an hour. These are the facts about the Renthof. But a place with history offers many topics and requires a look in depth.

A look in depth: Those who want to go to the restaurant or the bar enter through the lounge and immediately get into the mood. A bold style mix of colors, furniture and tiles always with the charm of the old stone as a contrast / © Photo: Georg Berg

The transformation into a hotel – every arch a gift

Behind the unusual hotel project are the entrepreneurial couple Uwe Kleinkauf and Kirstin Homburg-Kleinkauf and Rainer Holzhauer. In Kassel, Rainer Holzhauer is known as a 6th generation restaurateur. Holzhauer is also already the tenant of the Alte Bruderkirche, which is part of the ensemble. When the Renthof was put up for sale in 2014, he saw an opportunity to use the previously inaccessible courtyard as an event location. The concept for the hotel, restaurant and event venue was then developed together with the Kleinkauf couple. Among several applicants, the trio prevailed with their concept at the city of Kassel.

Staircase with character. There is an elevator, but those who don’t depend on it should take the pleasure and walk through original creaky baroque with chic 1970s lights. It’s also a place where people like to be photographed: from right to left, owners Rainer Holzhauer, Kirstin Homburg-Kleinkauf and Uwe Kleinkauf together with Angela Berg / © Photo: Georg Berg

Kirstin Homburg-Kleinkauf, who is an architect herself, speaks very calmly of the adventurous construction phase. In the course of the renovation, she has learned to regard every archway, every hidden passageway and every barrel ceiling as a gift. Even if it has meant construction delays and cost increases each time. The owners also see it as an opportunity to give the Renthof more individuality. What hotel has a medieval outhouse in the stairwell or imposing masonry arches as liquor shelves?

Each arch is a gift, says co-owner Kirstin Kleinkauf. This arch, which connects the entrance area with the bistro and bar, is a special eye-catcher that no guest carelessly passes by. A little observation on the side: When entering the bar, the men are more interested in the statics of the old stone, while the women let their eyes wander over the velvety armchairs and sparkling lamps / © Photo: Georg Berg

Challenging obliqueness

The charm of the old walls is already exuded in the stairwell and hallways. What the craftsmen initially cursed, says Kirstin Kleinkauf, later becomes their pride and joy. Right angles are the exception. Everything is crooked here. Customization, rather than mass production, is required. The 300-year-old late Baroque staircase is deliberately preserved in its existing crookedness. It creaks in a friendly way and on the landings one can stop and look at the facade layers of the past centuries. Small glimpses from times of the large construction site, where every step was also coordinated with the monument authority.

Layer by layer – 300 years of exterior facade on a few square centimeters / © Photo: Georg Berg

Hospitality and service

“The Renthof Kassel is a privately run house where hospitality and service in an informal atmosphere are writ large. We deliberately do without a star classification,” explains hotel director Bay. There is no minibar, no luggage rack and no bathrobe. Instead, there are very individual rooms.

Suite with charm: old meets new and velvet meets stone. The wooden floor is newly laid throughout the hotel from Hessian oak and oiled for old / © Photo: Georg Berg

Each room is marked by found objects that showed up during the renovation. For example, entire room walls are left in raw stone. In the maisonette suites, one encounters adventurous courses of beams. Especially in the beams of the maisonettes, small retreats with cozy sitting areas and views of the Old Brethren Church are created.

The old beams are in surprisingly good condition. The builders only held their breath when it became visible in the south wing that the beams of the second floor were no longer in the wall and were only holding with mud and spit / © Photo: Georg Berg
The corridors to the rooms are crooked and charming. The walls bear either fancy wallpaper, clay plaster with environmentally friendly wall paints based on potato starch or old monastery stone / © Photo: Georg Berg
Small but fine maisonette suite with everything the Renthof has to offer: fine wallpaper, old beams, raw stone, and from the bathroom the view of the Old Brethren Church / © Photo: Georg Berg
Single room for modern pilgrims. Kirstin Kleinkauf and Rainer Holzhauer discovered the wallpapers from the Rasch company during their shopping tours through Europe. The expressive wallpaper can be found throughout the house / © Photo: Georg Berg
Simple and beautiful a double room with many natural materials. In the center, the premium bed from Coco-Mat for maximum relaxed sleep / © Photo: Georg Berg
Suite with furniture from Sweden – and not what you think now – throughout the house are seats from the traditional company Gärsnäs / © Photo: Georg Berg
Bathrooms in marble or stone. Old style with new comfort / © Photo: Georg Berg
Bathroom comfort from the past: the medieval outhouse in the stairwell / © Photo: Georg Berg

The heart of the house: bar and restaurant

The poodle marks its territory. The bar in the Renthof is centrally located between the lounge and restaurant and impresses with its masonry arches and imposing ceiling height / © Photo: Georg Berg

Findings with symbolic power

Those who feel poodle comfortable have no reason to complain, they say. The poodle has become the symbol and mascot for the Renthof. This dog is also the first piece that Rainer Holzhauer and Kirstin Kleinkauf acquired for the interior design. The poodle makes the leap as the star on the counter of the bar of the same name. This is also dominated by the two arches in the wall, in which spirits and bar equipment are now impressively displayed.

Evening attraction: the Pudelbar. At least as noteworthy as the poodle is the bar cladding. It consists of the rusted sheet metal of an old barn, which Rainer Holzhauer discovered on horseback during a ride / © Photo: Georg Berg

But the four-legged friend won’t let go. He is now the first big dog love of restaurateur Holzhauer and thus he is also represented on the porcelain of the restaurant. More poodles are to follow. A Pudel library, so Kirstin Kleinkauf reveals in the discussion, could be just still prevented.

Poodle with gold rim on the restaurant china. Bright yellow in the middle a wonderful summer dish: burrata with mango-mint salad. Effectively seasoned with olive oil, crunchy sea salt and white pepper / © Photo: Georg Berg

Open House – Open Kitchen

It’s the eye-catcher in the room, the open kitchen at Restaurant Renthof. Turquoise tiles, shiny brass trim and a rounded glass front facing the restaurant. The open kitchen is reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s famous painting Nighthawks.

Chef Philipp Hühner and his team keep an eye on the guests and vice versa / © Photo: Georg Berg

Restaurateur Rainer Holzhauer agrees with his chef Philipp Hühner. “At Renthof, we offer cuisine that focuses on regionality and freshness.” Holzhauer is a trained chef. After his training, he also got to know the work in the brigades of the French top gastronomy. “We don’t want to submit to that dogma,” he says. We value fresh products, work where possible with organic products and suppliers we know. We’re open-minded and want to appeal to guests from 18 to 80 years old.”

In the center of the restaurant is a “Table Commune” with seating for 20. It usually remains free for guests without reservations. It’s a nice opportunity to strike up a conversation with strangers. Already the room with its architecture and the view into the kitchen offers enough conversation starters! / © Photo: Georg Berg
A good team in turbulent times. Chef Philipp Hühner (r.) and his sous chef Till Retting (l.) are extremely busy during the Documenta days / © Photo: Georg Berg

Dining at long tables – the Fo(u)r Friends menu

Already in the few weeks that Renthof Kassel has been in full swing, one offering has emerged as a favorite among guests. The Friends Menu can be ordered for four or more people and shared among them. The kitchen then puts together a menu of many vegetable side dishes, meat and also fish. The food comes in pots and bowls. Is placed on the table and shared among themselves.

Ideal for larger groups. The Menu For Friends is placed on the table and the guests serve themselves / © Photo: Georg Berg

Philipp Hühner notes that the For Friends menu is ideal for guests and the cooking crew, especially at Documenta time. Larger groups with a tight time window can dine in a relaxed manner and the kitchen can deliver faster. Fish, meat and vegetarian dishes are served with six side dishes. Among them, crispy sweet potato, broccoli and carrots with vanilla. Also available on request as a menu with soup and dessert.

Great atmosphere and satisfied guests. At the long tables in the historic courtyard, you feel like you’re in an old Italian town / © Photo: Georg Berg
The Fo(u)r Friends menu can be ordered and shared for as few as four people! / © Photo: Georg Berg

Chef Hühner is very pleased with how the first few weeks have gone. His team has settled into Documenta mode. For the period after the art show, there will be a new menu with the first autumnal notes. He has no regrets at all about returning to Kassel. It was clear to him that something similar to the Renthof would not open a second time in Kassel.

Happy cooks despite Documenta continuous operation. With five cooks, the Renthof restaurant serves lunch and dinner seven days a week. The pot never stops boiling! / © Photo: Georg Berg

Hotel director Undine Bay and the owner trio Kleinkauf and Holzhauer are looking to the future with confidence after the successful start. “The project, which has demanded a lot of time and energy in the three years of the conversion phase, should now learn to run without us, says Uwe Kleinkauf and adds: “But we are also very happy to be here.”

Those responsible for the unconventional overall Renthof, in which the guest is to achieve nothing less than a state of poodle well-being, are carved in stone on the mantelpiece: Kirstin, Uwe and Rainer / © Photo: Georg Berg

Click here for a detailed report on Documenta 14 in Kassel

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The cost of half board was not charged by the hotel

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