Boy Mestizo’s food (and drink) adventures in Berlin
When people ask me how my recent trip to Berlin was, I recount the moment when my friend, having just had a digestive post-lunch nap in Kollwitzplatz, opened her bleary eyes, propped herself up on her elbows in the grass, looked up at the blazingly blue sky, and said thus:
“Mark, I want to live in Berlin now. It’s like London, but less insanely busy. Mark, can I live here now, please?? I can get a tech job, learn enough German to get by, have a dog… Mark, let’s all move to Berlin!”
One could therefore draw the conclusion that we may have had a good time out there (just).
Before we had gone, though, a friend of ours had mentioned that unless we loved house music, we’d hate Berlin; another had called it the Shoreditch of Germany, contrasting it against the Kensington & Chelsea of Germany (Munich, of course).
But what we were finding was that there was a lot of variety and a lot of different characters all across the city – from the smart and preppy Friedrichstadt to the leafy and wealthy calmness of Charlottenburg, to the grime and edginess of Friedrichshain, there was a lot going on everywhere. It was, as my travelling companion had very boldly stated, like a quieter and less hectic London.
The eclecticism was reflected in the food and drink we enjoyed whilst out there – although we stuck primarily to the German classics, the delivery and packaging made all the difference. So, let us begin with this non-comprehensive guide of good eats and fine drinks in Berlin.
Gendarmenmarkt, 10117 Berlin
The first food to pass our lips in Berlin was, of course, that firm Berliner favourite: the currywurst.
Our choice of Dom Curry, a simple fast food stall in Gendarmenmarkt, was based purely on the fact that it was the nearest snack stall to our flat. However, it was a very serviceable purveyor, probably a bit different from the others in that they also offer a whole range of different mustards (with my banana mustard being pleasingly sweet) to go with their standard wurst and their Brandenburger speciality wursts. So far, so okay – but let us not forget to mention their fries, which were delightfully crunchy and textured, if perhaps a little over-salted.
However, the real clincher for your visit to Dom Curry would be the fact that you can enjoy your currywurst whilst sipping a beer and admiring the views of the beautiful French and German cathedrals that frame Gendarmenmarkt, one of the key highlights of Friedrichstadt.
Capital Beach Bar
Ludwig-Erhardt-Ufer, 10557 Berlin
Having been frustrated in our efforts to visit the Reichstag (not knowing that we needed to make a booking to visit the dome, silly us…), we decided to aimlessly stroll through the adjoining gardens towards the river. There, to our pleasant surprise, we found the Capital Beach – a pathway and embankment by the River Spree that had been jam-packed with bars, food stalls and deckchairs.
One of Berlin’s urban ‘beaches’, Capital Beach is open just for the summer, so as far as we were concerned our visit was very timely. It just so happened that it was Beer O’Clock as well, so of course we had to settle ourselves down on some of the deckchairs on the grassy bank sloping towards the river.
Here I had my first taste of Schöfferhoffer hefeweizen, a Frankfurter wheat beer: crisp, fresh, ever-so-slightly citrusy; it was the perfect beer for a warm summer’s day.
It may not be much of a beach, but when you have deckchairs, sunshine and beer involved, you’ll feel exactly like you’re on the French Riviera (maybe). Catch it while you can – prost!
Friedrichstraβe 106, 10117 Berlin, +49 30 40520594, http://www.friedrichs106.de/
Feeling rather cheery after our beers at the Capital Beach, we took a stroll along the River Spree, enjoying the cool evening sun and breeze and taking in the modern sights. We talked of life, we talked of love, we talked of the future – but as we passed more and more riverside eateries, with the smells of grilled meat wafting their ways towards us, our conversation eventually turned to food. Finding ourselves by the Friedrichstraβe bridge, we felt that Friedrichs 106 looked like a decent enough option for that night’s dinner.
It’s an attractive traditional Viennese restaurant perched right by the bridge, with nice views towards the northern end of Museuminsel. With deep booths, a long classical bar and some uniformed garçons et demoiselles, Friedrichs 106 offers up a taste of a proper continental bistro – not quite the Berlin we were led to believe existed.
Grabbing a table on the terrace, we warmed ourselves with a couple of glasses of German rotwein and watched the sun go down. It was a pleasant and genteel atmosphere, aided by our merry temperaments – but it most definitely helpful that the food was pretty good too.
My friend’s flammkuchen was crunchy and lavished with toppings, whilst my braised ox cheek was so tender and moist, and doused in an extremely savoury and rich celery-salt-caramel sauce, a surprisingly good combination. Coming with a soft and substantial Bergkäseknodel (mountain cheese dumpling) and a smattering of red chard, my ox cheek was a definite winner of a dinner. A delightful meal overall.
Simon-Dach-Straβe 35, 10245 Berlin, +49 30 2913863
Transport yourself away from the pretty cobblestones of Friedrichstadt, all the way across the Spree, Museuminsel and Alte Berlin, and you find yourself in the graffiti-strewn pavements of Friedrichshain, where we must have counted nearly ten dreadlocked men and women playing either guitars or accordions by actual barrel fires.
“What’s happening here?”
“This… this is counterculture in action”
We were here to meet my old friend for a drink, and had been directed to Blechbilderbar on Simon-Dach-Straβe. Having been previously told by her that this was one of the places to go out in Berlin, when we finally got there I was finding it hard to picture her as the type to hang out with the overly-bearded hippies – my mum had once commented, in a very complimentary fashion, that she dressed like a very classy grandmother – and was sort of wishing that I hadn’t overdressed myself.
But that was the nice thing about Berlin – it was so achingly hip and avant garde, but no one seemed to care about it. It was all so effortless and… non-judgemental.
However, I do reserve my judgement about a German alcoholic concoction that another friend had led me to believe would be mind-blowing – the Diesel or, as we would probably see it, perfectly good beer ruined with Coke. Nah, actually, it wasn’t that bad, but it was weird.
The other cocktails, of which there were perhaps a few too many, conversely were rather well-put together – and strong. And, from what I remember, rather cheap. So, whilst my travel buddy was being a cheap date and finding herself drowsy and a bit drunk, I was able to take in a bit of the bar’s setting: exposed brickwork everywhere, shabby chic furniture, pictures within frames within other frames, random art pieces hanging around, chalk sprawled across the walls… yup, this was a place with character.
It was a good night cap, and a great way to end our first action-packed and alcohol-fuelled day in Berlin. And, rather nicely, the last-minute visit to Blechbilderbar did help me to fulfil my prophecy from the night before:
Currently listening to: Smoke or Fire – Irish Handcuffs