I spent two and a half weeks visiting family in Berlin. I was staying in a pension in Weissensee, which was a borough in East Berlin and is now part of the larger borough of Pankow. Fun fact – it is the location and title of a popular German soap opera set in the 1980s, which I think would be great to see. I had little opportunity to prepare my own meals other than breakfast so I got to sample the varied tastes of Berlin including the famed currywurst. There are two key things to note about eating out in Berlin. You can rarely pay by card so you will need to carry wads of cash, and be prepared to be pestered by wasps if you are eating outside in late summer. Berlin is home to a huge range of cuisines, brought by immigrants and then, as is usually the way, tweaked to suit the local palate. I think the most popular and one my favourite Berlin cuisines is Turkish. I had a great Turkish meal at Osmans Töchter in Prenzlauer Berg, which serves modern mezze style food. I can recommend the hummus and the fried haloumi with spinach, red onions and oregano. I had a very basic and very delicious lunch at 1001 Falafel, also in Prenzlauer Berg, which describes itself as middle eastern late night food with outdoor seating. I had falafel and haloumi with hummus and yoghurt. This is where I was introduced to Ayran. For the uninitiated, this is a popular Turkish drink of yoghurt mixed with water and salt. It is similar to the Iranian drink Doogh and Armenian drink Taan and is unbelievably refreshing. I went immediately to the supermarket to stock up and drank this for breakfast every morning for the rest of my stay in Berlin. I will be making this at home.
I had wonderful avocado on toast for lunch at Father Carpenter in Mitte. I think I said in an earlier post that I was not a fan of bagels but I may need to retract that statement. I have to admit that I enjoyed delicious bagels at Books and Bagels in Friedrichshain, not once but twice. Books and Bagels is a combination of the English language bookshop Shakespeare and Sons, and the bagel bakery, Fine Bagels. I absolutely loved the black sesame bagel with goat cheese, avocado and tomato. And I found the perfect book to send my sister for her birthday. Koshary Lux in Charlottenburg was my introduction to Egyptian food. I had Daoud Basha, which is meatballs served on a mix of basmati rice and vermicelli with a spicy tomato sauce. After we walked off the lunch, we treated ourselves to a traditional German cinnamon scroll.
As you know I am a fan of German breakfast. I made two visits to Café Tasso in Friedrichshain, which also doubles as a secondhand bookshop and triples as a music venue in the evenings. They do a great frühstück. In Weissensee, I enjoyed dinner at Parkstern on Parkstrasse. This restaurant sits on the corner of a suburban street and looks unprepossessing but serves up wonderful German food with an excellent wine list and service to match. I can recommend the pork schnitzel with preiselbeermarmelade and the pink duck breast with pfifferlinge. Still in Weissensee, I had a delicious lunch at Babushka. This is a daytime café in an old smokehouse and it is understandably popular. Many of the diners appeared to be regulars. When they paid, a number of people said, “See you tomorrow”. I had meatballs with mashed potatoes and charred leeks. The beetroot soup was highly recommended. On our last day, combining culture with food we had a stupendous lunch at the Café Dix at the Berlinische Galerie in Kreuzberg. I usually steer away from gallery cafes because they are often overpriced and underwhelming. This was neither. The quality of the café matches the quality of the art and both are well worth a visit.
To wrap up, I’ll share three bar experiences. On a very hot day, when we just wanted to sit for half an hour with a cold drink, we discovered Piccolo Giardino in Mitte. I ordered an aperol spritz which came with a tube of pasta in place of a straw. This was very welcome – I have been both surprised and disappointed by the number of cafes serving drinks with plastic straws. We were introduced to Botanical Affairs, a gin bar in Mitte, where they serve a huge range of gins and tonics. Here we encountered an issue that I have experienced across Europe. The barman wanders over and asks you what you want almost before you have sat down and certainly before you have been presented with any menu. I don’t know what I want yet and I am struggling to decide because I don’t know what they serve. In the end I asked for a German gin with whatever he thought best and it was delicious. But I would have liked to see what was on offer. And finally there is the biergarten. A very German institution and a lovely place to visit on a hot day. This is a good place to try a dish of currywurst. If you aren’t familiar with this, it is a bratwurst cut into slices, doused in tomato sauce then liberally sprinkled with curry powder and served with a side of fries. I am not really sure how this became a thing, and I am not sure I am recommending it, but I did share a plate of this celebrated Berlin favourite at the biergarten in Weissensee, and I have nothing more to say about it. Auf wiedersehen, Berlin!