My boyfriend calls me a fussy eater. I call myself a vegetarian who avoids bread, pasta, rice, and who can have some fish and cheese every now and then. Daily I need lots of water, two portions of fruits, and some yoghurt/kefir. We handle this well at home, but it tends to get a bit more difficult when we travel.
Considering all the above, Berlin is one of my favourite destinations in terms of food. Obviously, I am not talking about wursts and steaks, but rather about the city’s progressive take on nutrition, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan friendly places. In a previous post about our latest trip to Berlin I promised to come back with a list of the places we tried for food and drinks, and I guess now it is the time.
House of Small WonderHouse of Small Wonder is one of my favourite breakfast/brunch spots in Berlin. I like to go there for the comforting food – most dishes display Japanese influences – served in a most welcoming and beautiful interior with lots of wood and plants. A heavy summer rain caught us on the way there. As we made no reservation – a bad idea for sure! – we wanted to arrive no later than 9AM, when they opened. We waited for the rain to stop, then we walked in. Five minutes later the place was running at full capacity, with all tables occupied. I was happy when my absolute favourite item on the menu, “Croissants as French Toast,” appeared on a plate in front of me. The eggs with baked potatoes, melted cheese, and Mediterranean salad – which I tried in addition to the croissants – were both savoury and filling. I cannot picture a visit to Berlin without a stop at this place, a stone’s throw from Friedrichstraße.
The absolute finding of this visit to Berlin was Superfoods & Organic Liquids, conveniently located a few blocks away from our hotel at Rosenthaler Platz, in Mitte. While there is no shortage of eateries on Weinbergsweg, Superfoods & Organic Liquids is one place that stands out. The first time we went – our first morning since arrival – we ordered a salad, a sandwich, and a smoothie. They were all healthy, good looking, and tasted delicious. But I was to be mind-blown the following day, when I went for their “Mango Bowl.” My decision might have been influenced by looking into some other’s people plate – bowls, in this case – but was, nevertheless, a very inspired one. I became a fan of the dish, and had to return to this place for the third consecutive morning. Yoga girls would park their bikes and get inside only to return five minutes later with the greenest of smoothies, which they would carefully place in the crate before resuming their ride. At the table next to ours, a lady was telling her breakfast companion how she knew people who come there every day and how including those dishes into their diets had a significant influence on their health. I am too skeptical to believe everything I hear, but if I lived in Berlin, I would definitely become a regular at Superfoods & Organic Liquids – if only for the “Mango Bowl”!
My boyfriend is a big fan of Asia and he loves Asian cuisine. What I think of Asian cuisine is rice and noodles, so two times rice! Every now and then, however, I gave in and allow myself a good Asian dish. We were in Boxhagener Platz, in Friedrichshain, when we passed by Nyom. There were lots of other places facing the square, but I could see this Vietnamese restaurant was by far the number one choice of my boyfriend. So we stopped and took a seat on their terrace. Waiting for our dishes, we googled the restaurant and found out it was in fact very highly rated. My noodles didn’t disappoint for one second. I suggested we have Vietnamese more often!
The first time we passed by this Lebanese restaurant on Kastanienalle, in Prenzlauer Berg, I had no idea it was an institution in Berlin’s food scene, nor that it was in business for fifteen years! It was rather the big vases with lilies and gladiolas that caught my attention. The following evening, when our friends – who had recently moved to Berlin for work – suggested we have dinner at Babel, we were more than delighted by their choice. We could finally try and see if it was more to that place than beautiful flowers in tall vases. It was hard to find four seats, but not impossible. On the menu, countless options to mix hummus, falafel, halloumi, shawarma, kafta, and other Lebanese dishes whose name I cannot remember. I went for the hummus and halloumi plate. Whatever you ordered, it came with a salad. Portions were so big, I was full before eating half. The atmosphere – more Berlinesque than Lebanese – was the cherry on top.
When I had to choose the restaurant for my birthday dinner in two, I knew it had to be either Italian or French. That’s because I wanted a combination of romantic atmosphere and good food. Sucre et Sel had the advantage that it was located just next door from our hotel. With no reservation we showed up at around 7:30PM to find the place full, both inside and on the terrace. On a Monday evening! We were told to come back in 45 minutes. There was only one free table when we returned. We took it. Candle light, Bordeaux red wine, old photos, a staff and clientele speaking French… Were we really in Berlin? A few sips of wine and I was in a fuzzy, romantic mood. French restaurants always do this to me. And then came the dishes! I went for “Ratatouille with potato purée”, my boyfriend had a chicken dish because the duck was all gone by that time. “We had a big group and everyone at the table ordered canard,” the friendly waitress apologised in the sexiest English there is – that with a French accent. My ratatouille was divine. Who says you can’t be a vegetarian and eat delicious food? By the time dessert arrived – tarte tatain, what else? – the candle on our table melted away. I was sure that was it for the night. No way they were going to replace it at 11PM, soon before closing. They did, without us even asking. Oh, those French! They do know how to keep things romantic, don’t they? “Au revoir, merci beaucoup!” I said on our way out, getting back in touch with the French in me.
There is no way to get back to normal coffee after having tasted specialty coffee. And we need our good coffee fix every day, including when traveling. Luckily, we didn’t have to go too far for this either. A few streets from our hotel, there was The Barn! We took a seat outside, in the sun, facing Auguststraße. Berliners make interesting characters to study, and there are plenty of people watching possibilities at The Barn. Next to us, an Asian looking young lady was smiling at her laptop, her fingers scrolling down and down and down. The gentleman sitting next to us must have noticed her, too. He waited to finish his coffee, then asked her something. She smiled, then I heard the word “gallery.” So she was an artist and what made her smile was her artwork selected to be displayed in a gallery? I could only make assumptions. Lacking the bravery of the gentleman, my curiosity was not satisfied. If that’s what it’s like at The Barn, I would probably come more often – if I lived in Berlin. That and the coffee, of course!
A coffee roaster with a Spanish name in Berlin? We didn’t investigate enough to find out the story behind Tres Cabezas, but we did stop there on our latest visit to Friedrichshain. My filter coffee was exactly what I needed, and I enjoyed it while peeking at other people – the old man sitting next to me, browsing a newspaper, the younger one reading a book, some girls chatting, some others checking their phones. Laid back coffee places at the ground floor of austere looking buildings? I could definitely get used to it! In fact, isn’t my hometown Bucharest starting to look a lot like this nowadays?
When my boyfriend suggested we go back to The Barn on our last day in Berlin, I said we try something new instead. I had mentally bookmarked Father Carpenter when researching for coffee places in the city on our previous visit, in October last year. We didn’t manage to go back then, but we finally did it on this occasion. Hidden in a courtyard near Hackescher Markt – again, a short walk from our hotel – Father Carpenter impressed me through design, coffee, and the melting-in-the-mouth banana bread with peanut butter and rhubarb spread. The brunch in other people’s plates looked just as appealing, I must say. Too bad we had to leave Berlin in a few hours, else we would have returned the next morning for food.
Apart from being a fussy eater – see first paragraph! – I am also a big fan of tea. I cannot imagine a day without having at least one cup, preferably two – one in the morning, and one before bedtime. I always carry some tea bags with me when I travel (I gave up on carrying loose leaf tea when my verbena raised suspicions at Schiphol airport), but in spite of all the advantages of our hotel, there was no kettle in the room. Luckily, East & Eden was just across the street. We stopped there for tea almost every day. I was happy with their green tea, my boyfriend, with their taste in music and the fruit juices. “They don’t play music like this in Amsterdam,” he kept on saying. I was more preoccupied with studying the design chair poster, with models dating from 1920 until 1970. When staying outside, on their terrace, Torstraße was more than captivating – a family cramming luggage in the back of the car, ready to drive to an exciting holiday destination, a guy smoking a cigarette while looking out of the window from his shared apartment (I assumed that as there seemed to be more people inside) in a building that looked so austere I thought it resembled more a factory than something meant for residential use. Ah, Berlin! Always something to catch my eye. I guess having tea is not such a bad habit after all.
A bier garden is something very usual in Berlin. More relaxed during the day, the space becomes packed as the night falls. We passed by the garden on Kastanienallee, in Prenzlauer Berg, several times, yet we never stopped. Somehow it felt strange for the two of us alone to go to a bier garden! Only when our friends suggested to go there for one last drink together, before my boyfriend and I returned to Amsterdam, we said yes. Again, so many characters to watch! Like the old lady at a table in front of us, having a tall glass of bier, alone, nostalgia written all over her face. The place got busier and busier, until there were no more free tables when we left, shortly before dinner.
* * *
I mentioned it several times in this post, always referring to its convenient location in the centre of Berlin – the hotel we stayed at. It’s MANI Hotel part of AMANO Group. It was my boyfriend’s choice and I must say it was a smart one. I did enjoy staying there. I got so used to classic hotels, white walls and old furniture, that the black, mysterious look of the hallways and rooms at MANI, accentuated by spots of strong colours and eclectic, interesting pieces of decoration, felt like a breath of fresh air.
* * *
If you happen to be in Berlin and decide to stop at any of these places, I hope you will have a pleasant experience, just like we did. And then maybe you will think of Amsterdamming! 🙂