A recent summer jaunt to Berlin confirmed to us that Europe has few better cities for a long weekender. Feel like wining and dining with boundary-pushing, contemporary tasting menus? You can. Late night burgers at half the price of London’s? Easily done. Open-air bars with views across the Spree? We could go on and on. Long story short this city is the shit - don’t just go expecting beer houses and pork knuckles, especially not once you’re armed with this food & drink-centric guide.
By Mikey Williams, @epicuriousinlondon
The New High-End Dining Scene
If you’ve decided you want to challenge your conceptions of fine dining in this city, look no further than Nobelhart & Schmutzig. You know a restaurant’s going to eschew convention when its nondescript exterior has a mannequin wearing a T-shirt saying ‘Who the fuck is Paul Bocuse’. Helmed by sommelier Billy Wagner, this joint certainly does that. Located in an unattractive part of town near Checkpoint Charlie, the inside is a dimly lit room dominated by an open kitchen around which you sit at a counter. And there you will sit for around 3 hours being fed dish after hyper-locally sourced dish on a 10 course tasting menu. The highlights? A crack-like elixir of buttery potato soup and black pudding was up there, as was a far more delicate Ike Jime cured trout. If you’ve got the cash to splash let Billy go nuts with his drinks pairings - the man’s a goddamned font of wisdom and reels out anything from Spanish cavas to fruity whites or faux-wines made from blackcurrant depending on what you’re eating.
Equally serious about beverage pairings is Einsunternull, located in the Mitte district. You take an elevator down to a very elegant and minimalist space within which a slick, synchronised show of wine and food unfolds. We knew were in for a good’n as soon as we got stuck into a next level bread and butter course, and what followed didn’t disappoint: an intense beef short rib with a root vegetable consommé in particular. We’re still a little mind-fucked as to how they managed to insert smoked trout roe into a cucumber jelly; its safe to say this is a place for checking out technical wizardry in Berlin.
For those date-night vibes
We reckon even we could impress someone at Zenkichi. It’s got to be the most tranquil Japanese restaurant we’ve ever been to with its maze of bamboo shoots, mirrors and unbelievably calming staff who personally attend to your private booth. At the push of a button they’ll emerge likely holding sake, finessed dishes like seared Hokkaido scallops or veal entrecôte shabushabu, or all three if you play your cards right.
If you’re there in summer, check out the leafy neighbourhood of Neukolln. More specifically grab a salad takeaway from Stella and head to a nearby park on the canal for a picnic with your buddies. Closer to the Prenzlauer Baug ‘hood? Go for something slightly less healthy (but equally delicious) in the form of a loaded Pastrami Reuben from Jewish-style deli Mogg.
Huhnerhaus 36 can only be described as Berlin’s answer to Nando’s, just cheaper and not rolled out as a chain concept. A half chicken with a side comes in at around €6 and is so, so worth it whether you eat in or grab it to go - it’s right by Gorlitzer Park in Kreuzberg should you want to perch outdoors. Just across the river lies the hip neighbourhood of Friedrichshain and a bookstore in which you’ll find Fine Bagels. A lox & cream cheese bagel costs about €4 and makes good eating while you get stuck in to a good read.
The Classics (Both Classy and Not Classy)
We heard a lot of pre-trip chat about Berlin’s burger scene. ‘Check out the latest Asian hipster burger that uses ramen noodles’ they cried. We considered it, we really did. But ultimately we know from experience that only one thing sorts you out in the AM after a night on the tiles - Burgermeister. We love its iconic Kreuzberg location in an old public convenience. We love that its open ’til 4am. We love that a burger of such quality can cost around €5. It’s an institution, basically.
Cookies Cream seems like the kind of place only Berlin would produce. It’s owner used to work in the clubbing world, felt he had outgrown it and so produced a vegetarian restaurant with the hallmarks of his former life. It’s very noir and very hard to find, but the food’s worth it with artfully presented plates like white asparagus with pearled barley.
Bars & Clubs That Don’t Require Staying ’til 10am
You probably know Berlin does techno and gurning ’til 10am. But its the likes of Badeschiff, an open-air beach club on the Spree, that get us going. You’ll probably have to queue but once inside grab a deckchair, a drink and soak up the rays while DJs drop tunes that get progressively livelier as the evening descends. Less sandy and slightly higher up is Klunkerkranich in Neukolln. It’s a rooftop bar which hosts anything from hardcore partying to more chilled film nights: one of which should be your cup of tea.
Or if they’re not, and you’re all about those Brooklyn-esque bars, check out Parker Bowles. Technically a restaurant, we rate it for crisp cocktails and banging Asian-inspired bar snacks - just what’s needed in the heat of Berlin’s summer.