Having shown us plenty that London’s food scene has to offer, our lovely friend Klaus curated a trip for us and some pals to Berlin. This great city has got a wealth of history – much of which we explored – but, of course, we were also there for the German cuisine.
Our first meal in Berlin was currywurst – the city’s iconic street food. Cat sat next to a fella on the plane on the way to Berlin who, on discovering that she was interested in food, recommended Curry 36 (which was also on Klaus’ radar). So we went there and ate sausage – and it was good. The ketchup was surprisingly tasty; not all vinegary like Heinz, just concentrated tomatoes really.
On day two we had a prelunch kebab. Now, Cat normally won’t go near a kebab but she did today because 1. She was hungry and 2. it was a Mustafa’s chicken kebab with delicious roasted vegetables and some rather yummy dressing in nice soft bread. We had also our second and third lunches at a fabulous street market, Markthalle Neun which is along the lines of London’s Borough; plenty of fresh produce, cheeses, salamis (including a particularly scrumptious wagu beef sausage). We shared huevos rancheros from Kantine; soft tender beef – with the ubiquitous egg on top. Lovely. Matt was also recommended ‘the finest burger in the Berlin’, so he popped by Kumpel Und Keule to see if it was true. It was certainly the best he’d had! For pudding after our kebab, huevos ranchos and burger we had a very nice carrot and ginger cake by Aunt Benny.
Despite unification, East and West Berlin do have pockets of distinctiveness. We had some authentic German food at Zum Schusterjungen, in the old East Berlin. Meat, pickles and cheeses were the order of the day. Matt had Sauerbraten for his main: roast beef marinated in vinegar, red wine and herbs with red cabbage and potato dumplings. The dumplings were an unusual texture, a bit like polenta. Pretty heavy-going; Matt didn’t manage to eat them both. Cat rather fancied salad but went native with Boulette: fried German meatball, mixed vegetables (peas and carrots) and fried potatoes – with a fried egg on top. The meatball was sausagey and the sauteed spuds were delicious.
Offal and raw meat
At Zum Schusterjungen Matt had also courageously ordered Hackepeter: fresh, minced raw pork with chopped onions, bread and butter, and a raw egg on the top. The pork was mild and enjoyable; it was more about the texture than the taste. Matt also manfully scoffed his was through the Dicke Wirtin (Fat Landlady) dish of beef liver, with onions, apple and mash potatoes. It was ‘solid and regional’ as the menu promised.
Our evening meal on day two was at the stylish Herz and Niere – which translates as heart and kidney. The ethos behind the restaurant is ‘nose to tail’ eating. Three tasting menus were on offer: meat, vegetarian and offal. Cat chose veggie with a bit of fish and was slightly taken aback when her first dish was soft trout tartare. Still, when in Berlin… She ate the raw fish and found it rather pleasant. The whole meal has some amazing flavours. Matt was braver than Cat and had the meat option with a touch of offal; he really enjoyed his dish of duck and beef heart with additional kidney. The team at Herz & Niere also make their own salamis and pickles; nothing is wasted.
After a VERY late night at the A Trane jazz club, we went deep into the heart of East Berlin to the surprisingly homely SkyKitchen at the Andel Hotel. Our corner table at this fantastic lounge had breathtaking views over the city. On Sundays the kitchen is run by the chef’s mother, serving a typical German Sunday brunch of cured meats and fish, cheese and pickles. We also shared a couple of plates of pork knuckle, boiled veal and perch. All of the meat was deliciously soft and tender. The perch was Matt’s favourite of the whole trip. As well as the meat and cheese buffet, there was also a decent choice of desserts at the pudding bar. Here’s Cat’s raspberry ‘Berliner Luft’; a light foamy dessert made of eggs.
Breakfast on the last day and Matt was really getting into the swing of German cuisine. While Cat pecked at muesli with a sprinkling of fruit and Greek yoghurt, Matt had croque madame – with an egg on top, obvs!
So, as well as discovering that the Berlin people were very friendly and patient with us English folk, what did we learn about food in Berlin? 1. They like their meat. 2. It’s not ALL about the sausage. 3. If you liked it then you should’ve put an egg on it. Oh, and they can’t make a decent cup of tea!