Berlin’s mayor has described the city as “poor but sexy”. I tend to agree. The wealth of other German cities is not so much on show but that only makes it an even more interesting place to visit. As for the food, Berlin may be most famous for its curry-wursts (more on those in a later post) but there is more to the city’s culinary scene than sausages. From restaurants so cool and so uncomfortable that you eat while lying in bed to giant schnitzels Berlin has it all.
Section of the Berlin wall which has been painted by artists
A friend recommended Nola as having “the best breakfast in Berlin” which meant that although we were staying nowhere near the cafe we had to go there. Nola is set in the middle of a park and has a brilliant outdoor terrace lined with stripy deck chairs that would have been great to eat at if it hadn’t been raining.
The cafe features wood panelled walls and has a ski lodge vibe with old fashioned skis mounted on the walls and cozy arm chairs to sink into. Prices are bargain basement with refreshing fruit salad only €4 and pancakes also a measly €4.
The interior of Nola’s
The pancakes looked as pretty as a picture but were a little too doughy and cake like in their texture for my tastes. There was no such problem with the Swiss breakfast of hash laced with smoked bacon and topped with a fried egg (€10). Admittedy it was a heart attack on a plate, but what a way to go.
Details: Veteranenstrabe 9, Weinberg, Berlin, Germany (Ph +49 30 440 40 776)
Borchardt is where Berliners go to see and be seen. The imposing dining room features huge marble columns, soaring ceilings and an art-noveau mosaic tiled floor. Established in 1853 Barack Obama, Mick Jagger and Karl Lagerfield have all dined here. We didn’t get off to the best start as the maitre ‘d was shocked that we did not have a booking and seemed very unhappy to serve us despite the fact that the restaurant was only half full at lunch time and remained that way for our meal. Once we managed to wheedle our way past him and into the plush burgandy banquette seats a friendly waitress took over and service could not have been more amenable.
What a schnitzel
Executive chef Marcus Herbicht has constructed a menu of French and German classics. There is a serous grill menu featuring a choice of Argentinian, Irish, US and Wagyu beef (€72) along with dishes such as baked whole red snapper (€22) and calfs liver (€18). You have to go to the “Borchardt classics” section of the menu to find the dish that Borchardt is best known for, its Weiner schnitzel (€21) which is reputably the best in Berlin. Not wanting to miss out, everyone at our table ordered one so unfortunately I can’t tell you much about the rest of the menu, only that seven of us thought that the schnitzel was very good indeed. The schnitzel is a huge sliver of tender veal breaded to a paper thin crisp. To counteract the crunchiness of the coating it is served with a creamy potato and cucumber salad. Topped with a wedge of lemon this is as succulent as schnitzel gets.
Details: Franzosische Str 47, Mitte, Berlin, Germany (Ph +49 30 8188 6262)
Kaffestube im Nikolaivertel
Kaffestube’s lovely outdoor eating area (complete with blankets for colder days) makes it an attractive place for breakfast or lunch but the cafe is let down by poor service and mediocre food. The freshly squeezed juice advertised on the menu was straight from a tetra pack rather than a juicer. The “City breakfast” (€8) was typically German with various meats, cheeses, a boiled egg and fruit but the meats and cheeses were rather bland and service was at anything but City speed. Perhaps the best approach was to order like the table next to us who were downing steins of beer at 10.30 in the morning!
Details: Postrasse 19, Mitte, Berlin, Germany (Ph +49 30 2463 0641)
Spindler & Klatt
Walking past riot police and armoured tanks is not what I usually do to go to a restaurant but we visited Splinder & Klatt in the heart of Berlin’s notorious Kreuzberg area on May day and so even the taxi driver looked worried as he dropped us off. The restaurant is situated on the banks of the Spree river in an old biscuit factory so you have to wander through some deserted warehouse type buildings before finally arriving to a red carpeted entrance. The soaring space still retains a sense of history with exposed brick walls and converted cargo containers for toilets but the interior is slick and modern, draped with gauzy curtains and with large beds lining the room for dining or just reclining on.
We opted for an actual table instead and ordered “watermelon man” cocktails (€10). The wine and beer list are pretty limited so spirits or cocktails are really the best option here. Annoyingly, they won’t serve tap water and the only option is expensive bottled water. The food is supposed to be a fusion of Asian, French and German flavours but the only thing that I could spot which was particularly German was the predominance of meat on the menu. To begin there were huge tiger prawns (€14.50) or skewers of chicken satay (€7.50). For €65 you can order a platter for six which includes a selection of all the starters which is the more economical and spectacular option. The platter is actually a huge black slate with everything arranged in spectacular formations. Cherry tomatoes still on the vine have been slow roasted to a sweet and squishy state and are draped alongside spicy beef skewers and slightly dried out sashimi. Main options include salmon steak (€15.50) teamed with a stack of Asian vegetables and a disappointingly tough bavette steak (€20.50) served with a bowl of creamy Hollondaise sauce. However it is not the food that is the main attraction here, instead when the clock strikes midnight like the opposit of Cinderella’s ball the tables are removed and the whole warehouse becomes a huge dance floor until the early hours of the morning.
Details Kopenicker Strasse 16/17, Eastern Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany (Ph 030 6956 6775)
Gourmet Travel Tips
We stayed at Art ‘otel which is a modern hotel fairly centrally located in the Mitte district. It was clean and comfortable and not to pricey at €79 a night but did feel a little impersonal at times.
There is so much to do in Berlin that the three days we spent there were nowhere near enough. Highlights were a fat tyres bike tour which gave us some orientation and a chance to find out some of the history, the Norman Foster designed Reichstag, the Jewish museum, the DDR museum and visiting what is left of the Berlin wall.