Just back from a fabulous city break to Berlin where thanks to my Polish roots I consumed various pots of sauerkraut, plates of dumplings, goulash and sausages with gusto. I thought I’d share my highlights (I’m not affiliated in any way):
An Original Berlin Walks half day walking tour with a brilliant Irish tour guide called Darren who had just finished his PhD on the Nazis. Darren painted broad yet complex brushstrokes about the background to many of the ‘why’s’ of the city’s history, without dumbing anything down. He explained the Wall, the age of the city, the Wall’s fall and he also went into the politics of today, touching on the huge amount of thought that goes into city’s current buildings and monuments. I really recommend his tour!
Foodwise, the highlight was Felix Austria just slightly south of the city in a district called Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. It’s totally unpretentious and not at all corporate. Order the large schnitzel and two the size of a frisbee arrive stacked on your plate on a pile of potato salad. While the honed-to-perfection schnitzel were amazing, probably the cheesy Frankfurter sausage for starter was the tastiest thing consumed – it was served with three different mustards and some freshly grated horseradish that made my nose, ears and eyes nearly explode (although thankfully not quite).
Then there’s the Lang Bar on the first floor of the Waldorf Astoria hotel – a special treat dinner – my Cosmopolitan cocktail with Tanqueray and raspberry puree totally glamorous and delicious.
Also worth a visit is Schwarzes Cafe in Charlottenburg – modern German food across two very busy floors. Schnitzel was consumed there again, along with goat’s cheese gnocchi in truffle oil and something called Kaiserschmarren – a sort of fluffy shredded Austrian pancake served with a fruit compote.
For great coffee, don’t miss the Barn – it’s expensive and many reviews say how snobby it is but being a coffee snob myself, that suits me fine. I want my baristas to be OTT about coffee! There are quite a few branches now but the one I went to was in a former old cafe’s location called Kranzler. I was half expecting it to be a little counter in a department store – as it’s in an Oxford St equivalent area – but it’s not. It’s circular, first floor cafe, with a charming red and white canopy and it’s actually circular! It’s some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. There’s also Silo in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg – super coffee preceded by a perfect roast squash salad with broccoli and radicchio in a Stiltonesque sauce with toasted almonds for crunch.Berlin. Totally unique and endlessly interesting.
And finally, the little Green Man or Ampelmännchen. The beloved symbol in Eastern Germany introduced in 1961 was almost lost from its home on pedestrian crossings all over the city’s soviet sector. But after public outcry, they were saved and now you can see them in their rightful place in the east as well as a few lights in the west and as souvenirs.