The trendiest restaurants in the city I
14 April, 2014
By Ferran Imedio from Gastronomistas
Nancy Albrecht, who was born and bred in Berlin and, as the marketing manager at a luxury hotel, knows everything that’s going on in the German capital, tells us that what is happening here in gastronomy is “crazy”. With a new places opening every weekend, she does’nt know where to start, because what is on offer is ever more overwhelming, as vast as the city itself.
“What has happened here food-wise over the last three or four years is incredible. Incredible“, confirms Matthias Diether, one of the city’s most renowned and youngest chefs.
We had heard that in these parts that something was going on in the German capital. We wanted to see for ourselves, so a few days ago we travelled to Berlin to get to know a city that is ‘on fire’ gastronomically. We went in search of places that were trendy, good and nice to look at (and several of them cheap), like the Bread & Butter trade show to be held from 14 to 16 January. Our base of operations was the Wyndham Grand Berlin Hotel, a modern establishment, well located (about 500 metres from Postdamer Platz), clean and with impeccable service.
One restaurant definitely not to be missed is the Tim Raue. A worthy example of a Michelin two star restaurant in one of the most centrall districts (in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood, a few metres from the historic Checkpoint Charlie). The suggestion may surprise you because you’ll think that an establishment so recommended by the bible of gastronomy will be very expensive and luxurious, but when I tell you there’s a three course set lunch for €38, things change, right? And with no etiquette or ceremony. The winelist offers 500 wines, many of them quite affordable, with prices starting from €28.
Tim Raue is a modern, pleasant place frequented by famous Berliners. So many come here that taking photos has been banned to protect the intimacy of celebrities.
And why do they go there? For its fusion Asian cuisine, always light, a marvel playing with aromas, hot spices, sweet flavours… Exoticism passed through the filter of a German who knows to how connect with the Western palate. Squaring the circle. Its cuisine is well rounded, always with some hot spice (not too much, just enough to be enjoyable), some sweetness (fruit) and some sharpness. And never any bread, potatoes, rice or pasta, so as not to detract from the symphony of flavours in each of its dishes. This makes it unique in Germany.
If you go there and your budget doesn’t stretch to the taster menus (from €118 to €168) but can stand the lunch menu (three dishes for €38; four for €48, five for €58 and six for €68), don’t miss the Cantonese style shrimp with mango, carrot and wasabi mayonnaise. Or duck reinterpreted on one of its variations: foie gras, broth, breast on waffle, or leek and apple. Unbeatable. Closed on Sunday and Monday. The rest of the week the kitchen is open from 12:00 noon to 2 pm and from 7 pm to 9 pm.
LA SOUPE POPULAIRE
How to convert a brewery into a restaurant. The ubiquitous Tim Raue knows how. You’ll find it done here with a radical industrial design: iron beams, cement, bare bricks in the walls…
The menu is based on softened, modernised versions of German recipes. The Königsberger Klopse is a meatball originally accompanied with mashed potato, capers and a butter and flour sauce. Here it is the same, but much lighter, not overpowering as you would expect from such ingredients. The cod with vegetables and citrus touches, and the beef and vegetable broth, are well worth the visit.
Open Thursday to Saturday, from 12 noon to 11 pm. Average price between €30 and €40.
Prenzlauer Allee, 24
You’ll have to look for it because it’s hard to find. It is in the inner courtyard of a block of flats. This is a charming old brewery, built in the late 19th century, that stopped producing beer and is now a most welcoming, modern restaurant.
The light, international dishes, with a touch of sophistication, are made with organic produce. We really liked the salad with goose pâté, the beetroot broth and the salmon with mashed potato and marinated quince.
The taster menu costs €50 for four dishes (€25 more with wine) and €60 for five dishes (€30 more with wine). A la carte is around €40.
Open Monday to Saturday, from 6 pm to 11 pm. It has two floors with a cocktail bar on the ground floor.
While the DJ spins tunes (club and disco – no classical music because this is a superdiscofashion venue) you go on dining. Sage is considered one of the coolest venues in Europe. When the good weather arrives, it opens a ‘beach’ by the river, with sand and sun loungers where you can enjoy views of the river to the opposite side: on the other bank you can see the East Side Gallery, a long stretch of the Wall painted by graffiti artists from all over the world.
Here, in what was an old loom, they serve uncomplicated, contemporary international cuisine: pizza, soup, meat… Average price between €35 and €40. There are special menus with three dishes (€35), four dishes (€42) and seven dishes (€69). Ah, and of you’re a smoker, there’s a space reserved for you… And it’s covered.
Köpenicker Strasse, 18-20
CAFE AM NEUEN SEE
A must for anyone who likes spots that are quiet, bucolic, romantic even (if you go at night, there are those candles, those little lights by a lake in the Tiergarten, one of Berlin’s big parks). It gets full at weekends because the setting is so nice. Open every day from 9 am (they have a huge range of breakfasts) until midnight and beyond. The menu has simple, international dishes like pasta, pizza, soups, etc. But there is also German food. All products are local. If you’d like to have a drink at night, there are no cocktails but they do serve beer, soft drinks, spirits and liquors.
The city’s fashionable vegetarian restaurant. “It’s Berlin”, sums up Diether, our spontaneous guide on this getaway. “It’s in a hidden away spot, where you’d never expect to find a restaurant. And when you walk in you see all kinds, from punks to people wearing suits and ties”.
Hidden away means next to the trade door of the neighbouring five star hotel. It’s an ugly door, with just a chandelier, suggesting there’s something different here, as a clue that you’re on the right track. The premises are a building that includes a restaurant (Cookies Cream, on the first floor), a disco (Cookies, on the ground floor) and a cocktail bar (Draytone, next door). So you’ve just finished your dinner (a three course menu with a starter, main and dessert, drinks not included, costs €36) and now you can enter the disco free of charge.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, evenings only.
Its name makes it quite clear what to expect here. Curry is king. But, only applied to sausages of all kinds and chicken. Nothing else. They put it on the sausages, on the chips that go with them, in the ketchup… It’s a simple take away (you can also eat at high tables in the street, sheltered by an awning) but it’s always full of Berliners hooked on its way of preparing the hot dog and its variants, and on its prices that start from €1.20. Open every day from 9 am to 5 pm. If you don’t fancy this idea, right next to it there are similar places offering pizza and Chinese food.
Berliners love this little Turkish place. They travel kilometres to get to this street kiosk next to the entrance to Mehringdamm underground station and to try its shawarma. It’s famous for its queues. We went at 11:30 am an it took us 30 minutes, but friends in the city tell us that at busy times you can wait for up to two hours.
The portions are huuuuuge, tasty and spicy hot (just enough). They have golden brown chicken with vegetables, sauces and spices Prices are between €2.80 and €4.30.
Open week days from 10 am to 2 am, and weekends from 11 am to 5 pm.
THE CASUAL BY PACO PÉREZ
Inside the Das Stue luxury hotel there are two restaurants by Paco Pérez,:the outstanding Cinco, with a Michelin star, and the The Casual, based on Spanish tapas. They are separated by a curtain. The famous restaurant’s taster menu is priced at €140 (€230 with drinks) and the price at The Casual is between €35 and €50.
There are unforgettable tapas like the Galician octopus on mashed potato with caramelized onions (the delicious sauce is paprika-based), the Iberian ham croquettes and spicy garlic shrimp with a perfect poached egg. There are also non-Spanish dishes, like steak tartar with truffled egg yolk and Chinese brioche (filled with Iberian rib pork).
The greatest care is taken over the quality of the ingredients to the point where the fish is brought to Berlin from Catalonia .
The Casual never closes (the kitchen is open from 12 noon to 3 pm and from 6 pm to 11 pm). On Friday and Saturday nights there is live music or a DJ.
In Kreuzberg, one of the city’s most exciting areas, it is owned by Daniel Brühl. It serves tapas, including its unbeatable chicken and ham croquettes (look out Joselito) and cod fritters. There ate hot, cold and speciality tapas, and dishes of the week. And on the first Monday of each month there is paella for 40 people. A real party.
If you stay the night you can try from their list of gin tonics (not a usual drink in Berlin), added recently with 30 types of gin and 3 types of tonic.
Daniel Brühl is not always there because of his acting commitments, but this place is not just another investment for him, he really loves it. An example: he bought the syphon bottles that decorate the room from Barcelona’s Encants market and he also bought the traditional floor tiles in Barcelona.
Open from 5 pm to 11 pm (weekends to midnight and later). Weekends in April to October from midday. Average price between €20 and €25. If you’re going for a weekend it’s better to book through their website a week in advance because it’s always full.
Ah, and if you go to the Bread & Butter trade fair, look out for them because they will have their own space. This year they will serve tapas and Spanish tortillas.
Lübbener Strasse, 1
If you want to give yourself an even bigger treat and you don’t mind digging deep in your pocket, check out First Floor, naturally enough on the first floor of the Palace Hotel. While the décor is elegant and classic, the kitchen is run by a chef who has fun with his staff and with his food, Matthias Diether. I’d call him Matthias Donald Duck Diether because his duck dishes are incredible. You’ll have to cough up at least €109 (a four-course menu, with six starters and two desserts included, but there are also menus at €129 and €159), but it’s worth it because eating there is great fun. Modern dishes based on French haute cuisine.
The colourful presentation plays with textures, each ingredient being served in different versions on the same plate, always with a visual artistic touch. And the taste. The dish called Duck Through and Through is a must: pâté, ham, broth, breast, chutney… Breathtaking! But the crab from Australia and the halibut are also very good
Ah, and one other thing. The wine selection is unbelievable, infinite. There are 1,500 wines. They are in a winelist that the waiters call the ‘Bible’. Some are so good you’ll feel you’ve been in the divine presence.
Budapester Strasse, 45
And if your budget runs low you can always grab a hot dog for €1.50 at a street stall like the one in the photo. You can see why it’s so cheap, when to sell a sandwich all you need is an umbrella and a hotplate, some sausages, mustard and ketchup. The one you see in the photo was in front of the cathedral, but they sell them for €1.35 in Alexanderplatz. You can’t beat that!
A trendy, cozy spot in the heart of the Kreuzberg district. You go in and feel like you’re in your living room. Simple warm decoration, windows onto the street, quiet background music… Ideal on cold rainy/snowy days.
Here you can order light meals like sandwiches and salads, and enjoy drinks, cold (juices, beer, wine, cocktails, spirits, water) or hot (tea, coffee), while you relax listening to music, chatting quietly with friends (even better with your partner) or reading a book.
After 6 pm it changes from a modern welcoming café into a restaurant with international cuisine cooked with local ingredients. Open every day from 9 am to midnight, and weekends from 10 am to midnight and later.
WYNDHAM GRAND BERLIN
And why not eat at a hotel? Where I stayed, the Wyndham Grand Berlin, is a safe bet, and not just because it’s a great BBB (Bedroom with Bathroom and Breakfast) at a good price. The breakfast has a variety and quality that many top class hotels would be proud of, while the elegant restaurant, called The Post, offers really good Mediterranean cuisine (including gazpacho and Catalan-style grilled vegetable salad) at an average price of €25. Salads, pasta, pizzas, meats, fish… For lunch from 12 noon to 3 pm and in the evening from 6 pm to 10:30 pm.
Hallesche Strasse, 10
Makes you want to go, right? Do it! Check out our prices here!
14 April, 2014