Continuing our coverage of Berlin's burgeoning food culture, we take a look at the restaurants that shifted the culinary conversation over the past decade.
Eating well is an integral part of life for most of us. The past few years have seen the rise of a new interest in cooking, healthy produce and, in particular, dining out, with exciting options increasingly available for every appetite and budget. Here to report on what’s happening in food in Highsnobiety’s hometown of Berlin is Mary Scherpe, author of blog stilinberlin.com, who’ll provide a delicious new update every couple of weeks.
It’s unlikely that, in 2015, anyone could dispute that Berlin has come a long way in its culinary offerings. With a plethora of food trucks, fine dining restaurants and casual eateries with increasingly varied menus popping up in all areas of the city, Berlin has pushed itself into the awareness of both local and international food lovers. But how did that happen? As little as five years ago the only food-related reputation the city had was the unbelievably low price of a döner kebab.
Without doubt, it took a lot of effort by some enthusiastic locals to finally put Berlin on the food map (and there’s still some way to go). Still, these days there’s no need to feel ashamed of the city’s lack of sophistication, and that’s largely down to the work of some brave pioneers. Here are just a few of them...
Grill Royal and Pauly Saal
Stefan Landwehr and Boris Radczun opened Grill Royal in 2007 with the intention of doing “something new” for fine dining in Berlin – namely, a high-class restaurant that offers top-grade meat of the kind not yet available anywhere else in the city. This included offerings like the Temmener Queen – a 90-day dry-aged organic beef entrecôte sourced from rural Gut Temmen, a farm north of Berlin, with whom the Grill have worked since the start. Beef is nowhere near as widely consumed in Germany as in other parts of the world (pork being, by far, the nation’s preferred choice), but what seemed courageous back then has proved to be a huge success and is now a firm favorite of local politicians and international celebrities alike.
Expanding on this venture, Landwehr and Radczun opened Pauly Saal in the beautifully restored Mädchenschule (literally, "Girl’s School") in 2012. This elegant yet approachable venue offers a much more courageous kitchen concept: a radically local, seasonal and thoroughly modern interpretation of German food (still a rarity in the capital). Dishes like fresh turbot from the Baltic Sea served with quail eggs from Ruppiner Schweiz (also north of Berlin), or glazed ribs of Pomerian ox with homemade potato croquettes showed just what could be done with Germany’s notoriously simple cuisine. Their head chef Michael Höpfl earned his first Michelin star last year, but Landwehr and Radczun are nowhere near finished and we can’t wait to see where their next venture takes them.
Grill Royal, Friedrichstraße 105, Mitte, +49 30 28879288
Pauly Saal, Auguststraße 11, Mitte, +49 30 33006070
Bandol sur Mer, 3 Minutes sur Mer, Lokal and Kantine
We doubt anyone could’ve predicted that one of the ugliest streets in Mitte (Berlin’s central district) would one day turn into the number one street to be seen on. But, long before the copious fashion and interior design concept stores lined Torstraße, a tiny French restaurant helped explain why it’s worth coming to Berlin to eat. Opened in 2006 in a former Dönerbude (kebab shack), the tiny Bandol sur Mer (just 21 seats) shot to fame not because Brad Pitt dined here, but because its enthusiastic kitchen introduced French food to the city in a whole new light – free from snobbery or elitism.
Adding to the fame was 3 Minutes sur Mer, a brasserie next door serving more casual French dishes (the Bouillabaisse is sublime) in a more spacious atmosphere, giving Bandol the opportunity to become even more experimental. Today the complex five-course menus have a distinct focus on top-quality produce, with daily changing options featuring such delicacies as Fin de Claire oysters, Ètouffée squab and Zander (perch) direct from the River Havel.
Just across from Bandol in a quiet side street lies Lokal, opened in 2011 by the restaurateurs who used to run the wonderful Kantine of David Chipperfield architects (designers of Valentino flagship stores all over the world, among other things). The latter was torn down only to be reopened last year more beautiful than ever before, serving German lunch classics like Senfeier (boiled eggs in a mustard sauce), in a sleek concrete building in the backyard of the architect’s studio. While Lokal’s looks are more cozy, their food is far more advanced, with a modern approach to traditional Germanic food that puts long forgotten specialties like sweetbreads and veal tongue back on the menu.
Bandol sur Mer, Torstraße 167, Mitte, +49 30 67302051
3 Minutes sur Mer, Torstraße 167, Mitte, +49 30 67302052
Lokal, Linienstraße 160, Mitte, +49 30 28449500
Kantine, Joachimstraße 11, Mitte, +49 30 6111412
Markthalle Neun and Street Food Thursday
When the historical Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg (the ninth of Berlin’s original market halls) was saved from mindless investors in 2011, a sigh of relief shot through the neighborhood. Since then Bernd Maier, Florian Niedermeier and Nikolaus Driessen have helped revive the spirit of the old market with slow food concepts, farmer’s markets and innovative food events. The domestic fame of the place skyrocketed when they were joined by Kavita Meelu, who started Street Food Thursday in the spring of 2013 – a weekly event of food trucks and small food entrepreneurs so popular it inspired countless copies.
While streetfood is nothing new to many international capitals, Berlin had yet to truly get to grips with just how versatile the concept could be. To this day the event is the most interesting in the city, with its bold mix of chefs serving dishes from all around the world. Braised saddleback pork is sold next to Banh Xeo, Nori Tacos mingle with hand-pulled Chinese noodles, and ceviche nuzzles up to delicious wines from across the region and beyond.
Besides offering delicious food options, Markthalle Neun is committed to food politics, organizing regular demonstrations, conferences, talks and seminars to promote good practice in food consumption, making this a real focal point for the foodie scene of Berlin.
Markthalle Neun, Eisenbahnstraße 42-43, Kreuzberg, +49 30 61073473
Street Food Thursday, every Thursday from 17:00
Breakfast Market, every third Sunday of the month from 10:00
Burgers & Hip Hop
Kavita Meelu wasn’t only responsible for Street Food Thursday (and the equally renowned Breakfast Market), but also perhaps the coolest food party in Berlin: Burgers & Hip Hop. The event combines two timeless passions – the artistry of placing grilled meat in buns and the pumping sound of hip-hop music. Such a straightforward combo struck gold with the city’s energetic youth, with crowds flooding to Prince Charles every two months to discover Berlin’s Best Burger – a public vote organized by Stil in Berlin.
The coveted trophy went first to Mitte’s District Mot, then Kreuzberg’s Piri’s Chicken, on to Neukölln’s Ban Ban Kitchen and is now to be found on the shelves of Gorilla Barbecue’s food truck. The winning burgers, meanwhile, have ranged from classic cheese stacks made with Brandenburg beef, to Asian twists using Bulgogi patties with Kimchi slaw on steamed buns, to Peruvian varieties with fried plantains and sweet potato chips. The humble burger, after all, never gets old.
B!urgers & Hip Hop at Prince Charles, Prinzenstraße 85f, Kreuzberg, check the website for dates.
On a deserted lot at the once very unremarkable, yet increasingly interesting, Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg (just a stone’s throw from Highsnob HQ, in fact) emerged one of the city’s most important urban gardening projects. Prinzessinnengarten (or Princess Garden) was started in 2009 by enthusiastic locals who created a mobile garden concept that served as the role model for many projects around the world. The organic urban farming initiative not only created a beautifully green oasis in a built-up corner of the city, bringing delicious, homegrown produce to people’s plates and shopping baskets, but it helped start a wider discussion about urban living. In its center lies a small garden where a simple-yet-delicious rotating lunch menu is served, made entirely from their own produce. Delicious and down-to-earth, this refreshing approach to inner city alfresco dining is a truly typical taste of Berlin.
Prinzessinnengarten, Prinzenstrasse 35 – 38, Kreuzberg