Berlin, April2013 Dynamic, permanently new, cheerful, metropolitan and diverse – that’s Berlin. The city sets trends, is modern and is considered as ‘hip’ and ‘trendy’. However, it does not ignore its traditions and history or its down-to-earthness.
This also applies to the culinary scene of the German capital. Some ten years ago an exciting development started. An increasing number of restaurants with an own concept and creative cuisine opened. During the past five years they took off the ground: Berlin has become a gourmet metropolis with a broad culinary range from curried sausage to luxury restaurants. No other city offers such a culinary diversity, so much creativity and readiness to experiment. Everything is available: Alpine cuisine, Asian delights, Spanish tapas, oriental food, snack stall with bar tables, German classics, traditionally or modern as well as Italian pasta. In fact that Jewish culture is blossoming again in Berlin kosher cuisine has been on the rise: Restaurant Lechaim, It’s Gabriel’s, The Kosher Classroom at the former Jewish girls’ school.
The creativity is, however, not only sensational on the plate, but also in their names the restaurateurs are very creative: “Mädchen ohne Abitur” (Girl without High School Diploma), “An einem Sonntag im August” (On a Sunday in August) or “Kauf dich glücklich” (Buy Yourself Happy). The best is, however, that compared with other German cities and international metropolises prices in Berlin are moderate. There are 6,500 restaurants in Berlin, 546 ice cream parlours and cafes, 2,800 snack stalls, 225 bars, discos and pubs. Most restaurants are concentrated in the districts Mitte, Charlottenburg, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg, but also Neukölln and Wedding are in demand among hosts.
Master Chefs wanted
Every September Berlin Partner awards the best chefs in Berlin and Brandenburg. Representatives from major gourmet magazines and editors of the regional and national press award the prize in six categories such as “Berlin Top Chef” and “Brandenburg Top Chef”, “Newcomer of the Year” and “Best Innovator in the restaurant scene.” Criteria for the selection are originality of the creations, their presentation as well as the restaurant service. The excellent chefs are representative of the quality and innovative restaurant culture in Berlin.
New German cuisine
For a good two years German cuisine has been back “in”. For a long time, cooking in the whole of Germany was focused on other countries such as France or Italy. In light of the trend for organic food and the associated return to regional products, many young chefs have been rediscovering the dishes their grandmothers prepared, making them lighter and giving them a new burst of life. Berlin chefs were amongst the first to work with the ingredients growing just beyond the city gates: vegetables like the local turnip “Teltower Rübchen”, the local pig species Havelländer Apfelschwein, fish from Müritz Lake or wild boar from nearby Schorfheide.
A fantastic example that these products can be used to create a top-class menu is the “Fräulein Fiona”, a restaurant in Charlottenburg or alternatively the “Volt” restaurant in Kreuzberg, located in the old transformer substation built in 1928 along the Landwehr Canal. Chef Matthias Gleis delicately combines ingredients so that the palate is not overwhelmed with flavours, but rather the ingredients complement each other sublimely – quite ingenious! A sample: kohlrabi soup with curry powder and fried prawns or black feathered chicken on a bed of peas, chanterelles, carrots and mace.
One of the most sensational restaurants, highly acclaimed by gourmet critics and still an insider’s tip, is the “Naked Lunch”. Don’t worry though, no one has to get undressed to dine here; it is more about highlighting regional products ‘au naturel’. The cuisine is a sensation, delightfully simple and yet also tremendously artistic: for example, herring fillets with apple and onion sour cream and roasted potatoes remind you of grandma’s cooking and give a wonderful homely feeling, and yet still have a gentle kick of modernity and freshness. Equally masterful are the homemade carrot gnocchi prepared with orange and sage butter: fruity, with a strong spicy flavour and yet unbeatably subtle at the same time. And also: modern regional food meets typical Berlin architecture. The restaurant lies hidden away in a second inner courtyard on the Anklamer Straße in the Mitte District.
Sausage and beer – this is what many foreigners think of as German cuisine. And they’re right! The restaurant “Meisterstück” shows just how diverse both of these can be and serves sausages in all shapes and sizes, some even made with salmon! In addition to this, there is also the typical German “Stulle” – bread with ‘something on it’, for example, herb-crust bread with honey mustard spread, young leeks and garden cress. The range of beer consists primarily of craft beer, home-brewed limited edition types of beer. It all comes with a portion of humour on the side: the walls of the rustic-trendy restaurant are covered with cuckoo clocks, from very traditional to very modern editions.
Berlin melts in your mouth
Shabby chic, queer and nonetheless highly modern and innovative – that’s the “new Berlin”, which imbues in particular Mitte, Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg. But the “old Berlin”, not ‘hip’ or ‘trendy’ but down to earth and very relaxed, had never disappeared either. Berlin cuisine goes with this Berlin: pungent, solid, direct and without any flourish. A typical example is Eisbein – a salted pork leg, served with pea puree. In the same way schnitzel with lukewarm potato salad is served, just as aspic or tasty meatballs. In large parts of Germany they are referred to as “frikadelle”, in Berlin they are called “buletten” – derived from the French “boulette”. The typical Berlin language has been strongly influenced by the French of the Huguenots. This solid tasty comfort food fits perfectly for the rustic pubs and innkeepers who offer them. At the “Zum Schusterjungen” in Prenzlauer Berg cold aspic with roast potatoes and remoulade are easily complemented by a funny comment by the innkeeper with “heart and Berlin charm”.
Close to Hackescher Markt “Sophien 11” is located in a house built in 1750 with bull’s eye panes and a dreamlike courtyard. The legendary “Henne” is loved by Berliners because it offers the best chicken in town. The oldest restaurant has been around since 1621 and is hence a culinary sight. In 1924 it was renamed “Zur letzen Instanz”, when a court building was erected close to it. The dishes have fitting names such as “Kreuzverhör” (Cross Examination): calf’s liver, “the Berlin way”, shallots, sweet apples and mashed potatoes. This was already enjoyed by celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin.
The Berlin cuisine is also marked by cooking traditions of immigrants. During the 17th century Huguenots came from France but also people from Bohemia and Silesia moved to Berlin. Ramona Azzaro with her “Marjellchen” is almost a legend in Berlin. Her grandmother came from East Prussia – this means that the restaurant also serves Königsberger Klopse (cooked meatballs in a white sauce with capers) or Pommersche Spickgans (spiced goose from Pomerania).
The liquid speciality is Berliner Weiße, a top-fermented beer on draught based on barley and wheat malt. It can be consumed pure but often you also receive it with “Schuss”, ie sweet fruit syrup with the classical tastes of woodruff or raspberry.
Hotspots of the dining scene
In Berlin inventiveness is just as pronounced as the inclination to try out new things – both for the hosts and for the guests. Permanently new restaurants, delis or cafes are opening. And if you think that you have seen it all in the city, a new one is opening which is even astounding connoisseurs. In particular around Torstraße, August- and Linienstraße as well as in the trendy district “Kreuzkölln” between Kreuzberg and Neukölln you can find dining outlets with an own touch. At the Pantry, for instance, guests are seated on leather armchairs and wooden tables and are served, for instance, free-range chicken with liquorice asparagus and watermelon. At the “Nordbahnhof Two Buddhas” in the former suburban station there is a cosy atmosphere brought about by wicker furniture and in culinary terms, Asia meets California, with sushi and pan fried dishes from the grill. Beyond the usual TexMex food with nachos and fajitas, the chef at “Katz Orange” provides its produce, sourced primarily in the region, in a creative manner with a South American touch. Beverages are just as exotic and extraordinary, because even widely travelled gourmets do not know watermelon juice. A refreshing delight for the palate is also offered by the home-made lemonades with the flavours lavender orange or mango coriander.
In the trendy restaurant “Katerschmaus” of the club “Kater Holzig”, original food is served – like truffled brussels sprout soup with straw potatoes and homemade ham of venison or Bouillabaisse à la Kater with homemade saffron and basil tagliatelle, to Rouille, walnut and olive bread and homemade bottarga.
The old and the new Berlin are united in a spectacular manner in some new dining hotspots. The former Jewish girls’ school in Mitte has become very fashionable with the restaurant “The Kosher Classroom” as well as the former charity school from 1842 which now shelters bar, club and restaurant “The Grand” in its historical ambiance. The two former schools have one thing in common: the interior design takes the past of the buildings into account, it is straightforward but nonetheless cosy and pays tribute to the ‘20s when Berlin was already one of the most dynamic and exciting metropolises.
French cuisine currently experiences a renaissance in Berlin. The “3 minutes sur mer”, a branch of the “Bandol sur Mer” nearby, is a meeting point for people who love French bistro atmosphere. They enjoy fish and classics of the Grande Nation. “La bonne franquette” in Chausseestraße comes up with a daily changing French menu. French specialties such as quiche, soups or tarte flambée are served at the “Fleury” in Weinbergsweg (Mitte), and more recently also at the “Petit Fleury”. Aromatic stews in a cocotte are enjoyed by guests at the “La Cocotte” in Schöneberg, with selected wines and charming service. In Prenzlauer Berg Martin Liber cooks in “le midi” Provençal dishes such as quiches or Roquefort and pear. In the southern-french-styled café or at small tables in front of it you can also have excellent breakfast.
The Berliners are waiting with a lot of excitement for a highly decorated French chef: Pierre Gagnaire, awarded three Michelin stars, develops the culinary concept – the maestro stands for classical French cuisine with an innovative touch – for the restaurant “Les Solistes” at the Hotel Waldorf Astoria in the City West, which is to open in spring 2013.
Russian culinary culture is centre stage at the restaurant “Berlin Moscow”. The menu embodies German Russian encounters with borscht, soljanka, Berlin soup or Berlin black pudding, served in a chic atmosphere with black walls, white tablecloths and lamps and pink coloured spotlights. The “Pasternak“, named after the Russian author of the famous novel “Doctor Zhivago” is located between the largest synagogue of Germany and the water tower in the district of Prenzlauer Berg. Here visitors can enjoy Russian and Jewish food, homemade beer and every evening a piano player in a sophisticated atmosphere.
With own wallpaper designs, decorated with small crowns, the “East London” enthrals its guests. Classics of English cuisine such as bangers mash or the tasteful Sunday roast around which the family assembles in Great Britain, is highly appreciated by British expatriates. Sometimes the food is prepared traditionally but sometimes also with a special twist. The batter for fish and chips, for instance, is refined by dark ale which assembles on the palate of the guest at last with vinegar for a malty sweet note. As far as the sandwiches are concerned, Britain meets Berlin – the bread comes from a Kreuzberg organic bakery and it is offered for instance with a heavenly filling of roast beef, chutney of red onions and cream of wasabi and horseradish. Exclusively British chefs are working here – Scots, Irish and English, and they all contribute recipes from their region. Often this gives birth to completely new compositions which are offered as weekly specials.
The atmosphere is relaxed at the “Hops Barley” in the fashionable district of Friedrichshain. Tasteful beer is brewed in the cellar of the cosy pub: owner Philipp Brokamp is not only an innkeeper but also a master brewer and brews his own beer. He also produces cider in the narrow vault – slightly sparkling, rich in content and marvellously refreshing.
Gourmets see stars
The German capital is the city with the highest number of starred restaurants in Germany. 12 restaurants were granted Michelin stars in 2012, including eight with one and four with two stars. The starred chefs all have their own signature. Michael Hoffmann, who focuses in his restaurant “Margaux” above all on vegetables, likes to break up classical dishes into their individual ingredients and put them together anew. For the German classic chicken fricassee he serves peas, with the support of molecular cuisine, in the form of a jelly. Moreover, the chef is a gardener, because Hoffmann offers 40 different vegetables and 30 herbs from his own 2000 square metre large garden at the periphery of Berlin. The success formula of two-star chef Christian Lohse (“Fischers Fritz” at the Hotel Regent) is based on fish and seafood. The maritime specialities enthral even the most discerning gourmets. This also applies to Tim Raue, a Berliner with a special biography. Raue used to be a member of the street gang “36 Boys” in the famous district of “SO 36”, but he succeeded in getting out of the scene and has become an acclaimed chef de cuisine. His restaurant Tim Raue belongs to the best addresses in Berlin. Raue is inspired by his travelling through Asia and uses ingredients from Vietnam, China, Thailand or Japan and re-interprets them. He does not use any carbohydrates such as bread, noodles or rice. For this he was rewarded with a second star in 2012. The newly opened SRA BUA in the Hotel Adlon Kempisnki is Raue’s second restaurant. According to his concept, the new restaurant enchants its guests with western-inspired crossover Asian cuisine.
The starred restaurants at a glance:
Weinbar Rutz: www.weinbar-rutz.de
First Floor: www.firstfloor.palace.de
Pleasure with an experience factor
The creations of the Berlin-based chefs are already spectacular in themselves. But some of them go the extra mile – here guests can experience what they are not offered elsewhere. A Berlin sightseeing tour of a special kind, for instance. The restaurant “Sphere” is in the sphere of the television tower which turns around its own axis in thirty or sixty minutes. At an altitude of 207 metres, guests are dining at a very high level in the literal sense of the word and can oversee the entire city through the panorama windows. A similarly stunning view is offered by the “Solar” in Kreuzberg. With the glass elevator guests move up the bulky building into the chic restaurant which is followed by a bar on the next floor. And a divine sunset over the city comes on top, free of charge!
If you believe that chocolate is always sweet and only suitable as a dessert, you should take a seat in the chocolate restaurant of the chocolate specialists, “Fassbender Rausch” on Gendarmenmarkt. Savoury dishes are prepared here with top cocoa and fine chocolate or refined with these ingredients – such as penne with a sauce of minced veal meat and refined milk chocolate (47%) on tomato salad. And if you want to practise the art of chocolate making yourself, you will find the fitting ingredients in the huge chocolate store on the ground floor.
If you are in Berlin there is not always time to taste the full splendour of the dining scene. A culinary city tour can help – tastings inclusive. With the “Eat the World” the guides tour the districts of Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Schöneberg with their guests. A gastro rally is offered by “Berlinagenten” just as tours with truly delightful stopovers, for instance, at the best delicatessen or chocolate stores in town.
Only taste counts in a dark restaurant where guests are sitting in a pitch-dark room, cannot see anything and are served by blind or visually impaired guides. Unless it is selected in advance, the menu becomes a true surprise. The first dark restaurant of the city opened in Berlin ten years as “Nocti Vagus”, but also the “Unsichtbar” offers this experience for the senses.
No contradiction: vegetarians and meat lovers
In Berlin there have been two trends in the last few years: vegetarian meals and the pleasure of eating meat. The city is big enough for these two tastes. The vegetarian offer is not at all limited to bleak grain feed but rather exciting creations are served. The purely vegetarian restaurant “Cookies Cream” is amongst the trendsetters of green cuisine. Typically Berlin: guests first walk through a hardly representative back yard, climb on sort of a loading ramp and find themselves finally back in a loft-like room. Smart meals based on seasonal vegetables are served here, which are cultivated in the vegetable and herb garden on the rooftop of the restaurant. In his second restaurant, “Chipps” vis-à-vis the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Gendarmenmarkt, manager Heinz Gindullis turns away from his penchant for trash-back ambience and sets metropolitan chic with lots of chrome, glass and steel. The kitchen focuses on seasonal and local ingredients. In addition, meat and fish are available as side orders, prepared separately and served on an extra plate.
The “La Mano Verde” in Charlottenburg defines itself as a “vegetable gourmet restaurant”. It surprises with creations which also enthral discerning gourmets such as creamy lime almond gazpacho with avocado, chilli and coconut. The vegetarian wholefood originates up to 99.9% from organic farming at the “Natural Mente” in Charlottenburg which focuses on macrobiotic cuisine. Here you can enjoy lentil stew or millet with quinoa, vegetables and uncooked vegetarian food. On the other side of the city the „KussKuss Küche Gemeinderaum“ in the Nogatstraße comes up with vegan burgers, sushi, omelets and daily changing soups and salads. It is also very popular for its brunch buffet every Sunday with live music or the “Acoustic Jam Night” on Friday nights.
If they do not have so much time, vegetarians must not starve in Berlin. Organic French fries, burgers from vegetarian rissole or soy bean fillets or vegan ketchup is offered by the “Yellow Sunshine” in Kreuzberg. Curried sausage from Neuland meat is on the menu of “Witty’s”. The largest bio fast food outlet in the city is the “Supergood” at the suburban train station Friedrichstraße – here veggie burgers or salads with organic ingredients or Fair Trade seal are freshly prepared.
Many restaurants use organic products even if their menu is not strictly vegetarian. Ingredients are often supplied by “Bioland” farmers or meat from “Neuland”. This is the case at the “Engelbecken” at the Charlottenburger Lietzensee with its Alpine cuisine which includes for instance goulash from organic veal with spätzle and green salad. In the “Burgerie” on Schönhauser Allee guests choose between Biobeef grilled on lava rock or eight different kinds of veggie burgers along daily fresh homemade French fries, baked potato wedges and 13 different specially created dips.
If you eat meat it should be perfectly prepared and have top quality – this idea has surfaced again in Berlin some time ago and became a trend. At the “Brooklyn Beef Club” in the chic hotel “The Dude” in Kreuzberg US Black Angus beef is prepared the American way (crispy crusts and never well done). At the “Filetstück” Irish or Pomeranian beef and lamb are prepared, combined with garnishes such as mashed potatoes and chicory or glazed carrots with sesame and harissa (Wilmersdorf and Prenzlauer Berg). Another address for non-vegetarians is the “FleischLust Grill’n Chill“ at the corner Stargarderstraße/ Pappellallee as well as the Märchenhafte Ribhouse just around the corner in Schliemannstraße.
Quick snack stalls
Berliners love their popular curried sausage as a snack. They are intimately convinced that the scalded sausage with curried sauce and curried powder was invented in Berlin. Herta Heuwer offered it in 1949 at her snack stall at the Kant / Kaiser-Friedrich-Straße corner in Charlottenburg and had her home-made sauce, called “Chillup”, patented. At the location of the stall (today: Kantstraße 101), Herta Heuwer who died in 1999, has been immortalised with a commemorative plaque reading “Her idea is tradition and eternal enjoyment”.
Some snack stalls are known throughout the city and have cult status. This also applies to “Konnopke’s Imbiss” under an underground track in Prenzlauer Berg. Max Konnopke and his wife Charlotte sold already bockwürste, knackers and wieners in their district in 1930; in 1960 they offered the first curried sausage in East Berlin and the stall continues to be family-owned. The delightful sauce based on a secret recipe was created by Charlotte Konnopke and is still prepared manually at home by her. Stars like Liza Minelli tasted already her curried sausage.
The West Berlin counterpart is the snack stall “Kudamm 195” where curried sausage has been sold since 1965 – this stall, too, is family-owned and run by the Bier family. It also serves champagne with curried sausage – nothing is too queer in Berlin. Another curried sausage cult address is the “Curry 36” which also offers sausage without casing. It is open around the clock.
Right across from the Curry 36 “Mustafas Gemüse Kebab” completes the snack offering. The doner kebab is served with fresh and roast vegetables, feta cheese, herbs, garlic and hot sauce, chicken meat and secret ingredients. The result has so many fans that there are often long queues in front of the stall.
Breakfast egg and custard pie battle
People love to meet during the weekend for a lengthy brunch or “coffee and cake” during the afternoon. A corresponding institution has always been the “Einstein” in Kurfürstenstraße, installed in an old villa with a cosy creaking wood floor and the charm of a Vienna coffee house.
During the last one and a half years an increasing number of cafes have been opening with a cosy and charming ambience, often slightly nostalgically dainty with home-made delicatessen. At the “Zimt und Zucker” breakfast can be ordered directly on the River Spree until 8.30 pm – and that’s why it is called “Früh- bis Spätstück”.
An amazing coffee selection from own roasting is offered by the “Berliner Kaffeerösterei” close to Kurfürstendamm. Tea fans are likewise taken care of with a comprehensive tea selection. The expertise of the pastry chef is just as amazing; she conjures up works of art in the form of pies or pours very fine chocolate over marshmallow pieces.
Cynthia Barcomi of the USA started with a coffee roasting company in Berlin; today the “Barcomi’s” is a deli with blueberry muffins or New York cheesecake. Cheesecake has been the rediscovery of the past months in Berlin and in particular the American cheesecake has become a top seller. “Princess Cheesecake” in Mitte offers this and other sweet jesters such as champagne cake or lemon cheesecake. At the “My Cheesecake” in Wilmersdorf cheesecake is offered in many different forms on the counter, including carrot, pannacotta or caramel walnut cheesecake.
High quality coffee, hand brewed and for many Berliners the best coffee in town attracts the inhabitants of the Mitte district to “The Barn”. Former banker Ralf Rüller also offers pastries based on recipes of his mother in his deli. If you cannot get enough you should pamper yourself with the home made cakes and tarts at “Frau Behrens Torten” (branches in Wilmersdorf and Friedenau) or in the charming “Der Kuchenladen” in Charlottenburg. In Friedrichshain “Olivia Schokoladen Tartes” in Wühlischstraße is legendary by chocolate fans: everything is lovingly handmade here – from candy over chocolate to hand-painted chocolate chip cookies. And ideal for takeaway or as a gift is the “Cake in a Jar”.
American Diner meets Berlin minimalism in the new “Nalu Diner” in the Dunckerstraße. Original Americans serve a typical “american breakfast” here: fluffy-light-Buttermilk Pancakes with maple syrup, eggs prepared on customers’ wishes and free coffee refill. The buns for the burgers are especially baked at the “Bekarei” on the opposite site of the street. Just around the corner, in the Greifenhagener Straße is also a breakfast Highlight: The “Zuckerfee” is a place of comfort and warmth. In the wonderfully beautiful homes are various breakfast options to order, always with reference to the “sweetness”. Besides the Zuckerfee offers exclusive chocolates, candy canes and sweets.
The offering in the magic “Lula” in Friedenau is even for Berlin very special and ranges from breakfast with home made brioche and home made spreads such as apple elder marmalade or sesame cream up to buttermilk pancakes and strawberry butter, fruit and maple syrup. A similarly refined atmosphere is dominating at the fashionable Charlottenburg meeting point “Sets”, where self-baked bread with fine spreads is served.
If you prefer a buffet and love brunching, you should go to Karl-Marx-Allee in Friedrichshain during the weekend: the “Albert’s” installs a breakfast buffet which offers really everything for a moderate amount of money – different juices, egg dishes in all variations, different bread and roll offerings, yoghurts and junkets, solid food such as antipasti or desserts from chocolate to semolina pudding.
Fruit-based products are also offered by the Bonbonmacherei in the Heckmann Höfe (Oranienburger Straße, Mitte). The owners learned the almost disappeared profession of candy maker and produce original Berlin candies based on traditional recipes with machines dating back 100 years. In front of the customers the altogether 30 different types are cooked over fire and cut out – such as the fire raspberry, aniseed fennel or the delightful Berlin woodruff leaves.
Berlin tastes well
In Berlin there is something for every taste in the true sense of the word. The dining scene is constantly in motion as the city itself. A really good reason to enjoy Berlin again and again.
Topical dining tips also on visitBerlin.de