On Oct 14th, The Fellowship invited our German friend, Ernst Vogtle from our German affiliates for a wonderful lunch at Beng Hiang (茗香) Authentic Hokkien Cuisine Restaurant at Amoy Street hosted by Lohcifer. Like what our member Rob says, it is steeped in history. The restaurant was established in 1978 with more than 30 years of reputation.
I’ve not been to this restaurant even though I’ve heard of it before. It occupies four units of rejuvenated old shophouses along Amoy Street off nearby Chinatown. Amoy street used to be populated mainly by Hokkiens in those early days. From the exterior, it looks like an old Chinese temple with little semblance of a Chinese restaurant. But when one enters, one is charmed by so many Chinese ink paintings of mountains, rivers, flowers and calligraphy on almost every side of the walls. It is indeed a huge restaurant with a cosy atmosphere steeped in Chinese traditions and culture!
Our German friend Ernst Vogtle is most pleased and honoured for the wonderful lunch. All of us took time off on a beautiful Sunday to get in touch with Ernst even though we never met before. It’s through the German Forum that we communicated and got to know each other. Our friendship with our German Club members is an on-going process when we recall Joerg and Heinz visiting us sometime ago. We hope that other than our “permanent resident” Uncle Bodo, more members from our German affiliates will visit us. We really love to meet them and keep each other updated.
Prior to meeting Ernst, the only on-line contact which I had with him when he replied to a discussion thread in our German Forum about “Twitter” and “FB” dated 24/1/12. I blog about it here. We then started chatting when he asked about Beijing. I told him to try the “Peking Duck” when he go there. I didn’t expect to meet him this afternoon. When I saw him, he looked like an imposing German athlete – big stout serious, no nonsense athlete coach with a troupe of athletes!
I was seated next to him. As usual, AG did most of the “tour guide” on all the food dishes served. Whereas, I did most of the “interrogation!” The lunch commenced at about 12 noon and by the time, we left after 2pm, I have got much more information about Ernst than anyone else present there!
Ernst even though at the age of 55 yrs, is still working for a huge Brazilian MNC IT company. He is in-charge of the European operations and now looking into Asian operations. That is why he visited China recently and is in Singapore only for few days to meet a German client. He says that he may visit Singapore often in future due to his work.
Ernst is soft spoken and gentle in his manners even though his appearance gives the impression of a tough army general with a certain air of confidence and command. He is fluent in his English. I suspect he also speaks Portugese well since his wife is from Portugal.
In fact, he told us that he owns a vine yard slighty biggger than a football field. He plants his own grapes and brewed his own wine. He brought a sample for us to try. He told us that he bought a small cottage in a small remote village in Portugal where his in-laws live. The property came with a vine yard in a package. From there, he started through trial and error and even attended a 2-week course from a German professor in wine brewing to get started on this new hobby. Every year, he brewed 2 thousand bottles for his own consumption and give away the rest to relatives or friends. His name is printed on the bottle. It’s not for sale. Only friends could taste it. We all agreed that the red wine brewed from “Tinta barocca” grape specimen in Ernst’s vineyard is awesome! According to Ernst, there are more than 200 types of grapes. That’s surprsing cuz I only thought that grapes are different in colors only such as purple, blue or green colors.
Ernst lives in Mettmann, a rural town in the North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany with a population of more than 39,000 on 42 square km. Density of population is only 921 per sq km. Compared to Singapore, we are so much compact. We only about two times bigger than Mettmann town but with 5.3 million people, our density is more than 7,000 per sq km.
Ernst has two children – a 23 year old boy and a 17 year old girl. His son is doing law in a local university. Surprising, he told me that his son also smokes a pipe. He would buy a lighter or tobacco for his son’s birthdays but for his daughter, it’s a little troublesome. So he let his wife buy the presents for his daughter’s birthdays.
Compared to Joerg or Heinz, Ernst really loves chillies. He takes lots of chillies that even locals are taken aback. Every now and then, he would add some chillies to his food. I then told him that he should try some of our local spicy Indian fish head curry in little India.
Unfortunately, it is such a short trip that we could not arrange more activities for him. He arrived around midnite yesterday but will be leaving on Wednesday. Besides meeting his clients for business over the next days, Ernst would try to visit some of the interesting places. This is his second visit. The previous visit was more than 10 yrs ago. Much has changed since.
When the lunch was over at about 2pm, Freddie and myself sent him back to Marriott Hotel. He was most delighted about the fantastic Chinese lunch and our company. Even though we never met before and we were meeting for the first time, we were just like old friends in jovial mood and good company. We could see that he loves Chinese food and chillies. The suckling pig was the best dish for him cuz he remarked that it is much better than Peking duck! He also enjoyed our local Chinese “hamburger” – bun stuffed with marinated black sauced meat.
“Rob’s email … sums it all!
Thanks again for a wonderful luncheon!! The food was really wonderful, the company was splendid and the venue was steeped in history. Hearing Ernst tell the story about his vineyard was fascinating, and I hope we all get to cross paths with him again in the near future… his wine was certainly very good and we appreciated his kindness in letting us sample his ware. Clearly, everyone had a great time and now we’re all feeling the pleasant effects of the food and drink – I’m going to celebrate by taking a Sunday siesta!
Photos taken by Alec Ee.