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The 30 best Berlin restaurants and cafés

From fine dining to munching on a classic döner, discover the best restaurants Berlin has to offer – plus top cafés to suit every budget

© Frederic Urban

Berlin's dining scene, like its drinking scene, has evolved in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and today, there are a multitude of excellent Berlin restaurants jostling for your belly's attention.

Where once, a limp sandwich and dessicated piece of cheese was held by many Berliners to be the epitome of culinary excellence, the city is now buzzing with choice venues, from esoteric food halls and hipsterish pop-ups flogging gourmet street food to grand, Michelin-starred institutions.

Still, for most of us with modest wallets, the Berliner's love of food on-the-go - the city claims to be the birthplace of the glorious Döner kebab, a traditional Berlin dish - means there's no shortage of fast, hearty and cheap street food options. Attracting many worshippers is the unholy sausage trinity: Currywurst, Bockwurst and Bratwurst, found everywhere from the ubiquitous Imbiss snack-joints to the 'jet-pack'-toting street vendors. But should you feel the need to explore, diversity comes with the flavours of Berlin's ethnic communities that have made the city home over the decades, such as Turkish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian and Slavic and eating here can an exciting (or disappointing) experience.

But waves are also being made at the more salubrious end of the scale too, with high-profile openings such as Glass and Les Solistes. Tim Raue has picked up a second Michelin star. Contemporary mores for sustainable and locally sourced produce are flourishing too at places like The Store, Richard and Lokal and while home-grown contenders are beating the best of them, the New York Times' food critic recently described his pastrami-on-rye experience at Mitte's Mogg as an experience 'only a handful of delis in New York can match'.

The last few years have seen the city's flourishing expat community fuelling the rise of hipster hangouts such as the fiendishly-tempting foodstalls at Kreuzberg's Markthalle and the equally eclectic (and delicious) participants at the fortnightly Bite Club. The latter, a riverside party of DJs, beautiful people and food stalls from around the city (and world) dispensing truly droolworthy offerings - brilliantly demonstrates Berlin's ability to assimilate and reflect its energetic, multi-cultural character.

So, for today's visitor, there is no excuse for huddling fearfully fast-food chains bemoaning tepid wurst - exciting things are happening in Berlin's kitchens and now is the time to explore!

Fine dining in Berlin

Les Solistes

Recommended

French chef Pierre Gagnaire has enough Michelin stars to his name to have a small constellation named after him, and Les Solistes is his latest effort at the new Waldorf-Astoria in Charlottenburg. An anodyne luxury hotel interior is quickly forgotten once the splendid tasting menu begins (four courses at €115 or seven at €150). Changing seasonally, French classics are reinterpreted with panache by head chef Roel Lintermans, such as roasted pigeon in a blackcurrant and cherry compote, its leg served atop a heavenly dome of offal jelly, or a foie gras custard with sautéed squid. The chef’s signature showstopper ‘grand’ dessert course is a steady stream of jellied liquids, sorbets, caramels and reductions involving everything from coconut milk laced with tapioca pearls to luxuriant slabs of passion fruit fudge. Booking advised.

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Charlottenburg

Tim Raue

Recommended

Local Kreuzberg lad done extremely well, Tim Raue has been extremely busy of late: his flagship picked up a second star from the bods at Michelin, he curated the Thai concept restaurant at the Adlon Kempinski hotel as well as opening La Soupe Populaire, an upmarket spin on rustic German classics. For a real splurge, head to his main restaurant near Checkpoint Charlie where the menu best showcases his fusion style: far east meets west on the former borderland of Berlin. The sleek restaurant, decorated with delicate Chinese pottery and dark wood furniture sits just 30 and while many of Berlin’s fine dining establishments follow the traditional French service dictum, here they pride themselves on informality, the front of house staff sporting jeans and trainers (the kitchen even has a TV mounted in the corner for football fans in the kitchen). None of this detracts from the exacting dishes. The 6-course ‘Unique’ tasting menu (€148) is preceded by amuse-bouche, such asspicy cashews, prawn sashimi and marinated pork-belly, moving on to main courses featuring Wagyu beef, lobster, Australian winter truffle and tofu, all flaunting Japanese technique and served with blobs, smears or foams of contrasting flavours and colour. Booking advised.

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Hugos

Recommended

Probably Berlin's best restaurant right now, and with the awards to prove it. Chef Thomas Kammeier juxtaposes classic haute cuisine with an avant-garde new German style. Dishes such as cheek of ox with beluga lentils and filled calamares bring out the best of a mature kitchen. The beautiful room occupies the entire top floor of the Hotel InterContinental.

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Tiergarten

Grill Royal

Recommended

With its entrance on the promenade by the Spree below the Weidendammer Brücke, this comfortably cavernous restaurant is more reminiscent of London or Paris than Berlin. In the beginning it seemed full of local celebrities but has now settled into a lively eaterie for a well-heeled, colourful crowd. A favourite destination for the art scene in particular, locals and tourists come to enjoy fine steaks of Irish, French or Argentine provenance, plus many other meat and fish dishes. Reservations essential.

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Mitte

Glass

Recommended

Inside a brutalist apartment building at the top end of Uhlandstrasse, Gal Ben-Moshe has been spinning straw into culinary gold. The Israeli-born chef cut his chops under two of molecular gastronomy’s leading lights, Claudi Bosi at Hibiscus and Grant Achatz of Alinea, the menu here reflecting the movement’s playful use of science to alter taste perceptions. The black dining room is dominated by a central space walled off by undulating reflective silver fabric, which conceals a compact kitchen from which impeccably plated dishes of surprising flavour combinations emerge. Starters come impaled on smoking cinnamon sticks; soups are adorned with savoury sorbets and most impressively, the showpiece ‘Candybox’ dessert re-imagines the staff’s favourite childhood sweets – there’s Snickers snow, passion fruit Gummy Bears, popping candy and a flash-frozen chocolate mousse, all served directly onto the table. Choose from two rotating tasting menus, of which one is refreshingly vegan, a lifestyle choice often hard done by in the haute cuisine world.

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Charlottenburg
More fine dining

Moderately priced restaurants in Berlin

3 Minutes sur Mer

Recommended

On a slightly less trodden stretch of Torstrasse – a little past Rosenthaler Platz – a splendid sequence of restaurants are flying the flag for French cooking. One of the first to open was the expensive brasserie Bandol sur Mer, which in typically French fashion opened a superb brother next door, a bigger and livelier bistro. Come to 3 Minutes sur Mer with its neon wreath signage on the corner for something a little more louche: the traditional Parisian aesthetic of art deco bar stools, copper-pots lining the open kitchen, paper tablecloths with reservations scrawled on them sit alongside Nouveau Berlin touches such as the DDR crenulated glass light fixtures and 19th century photographs which have been manipulated into eerie artworks. Excellent fish options such as red mullet and bream come impeccably cooked, all crisp skin and translucent flesh. There are also more gutsy dishes: a reduced coq au vin and escargot de Bourgogne dripping in garlic butter. Plating is visually spare, any jus neatly daubed and portions squared off, their suckling pig dish a geometric wonder. Start with some foie gras pate (ethical stance dependant) and end with their stacked Tarte Tatin. Booking advised.

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Mitte

Der Goldene Hahn

Recommended

This local’s stalwart combines the prevailing Kreuzberg taste for zany vintage with the more typical cosy trattoria look, and inside you’ll find a solid wine list and Italian favourites. The dining room veers between the twee (an antique apothecary with hundreds of little drawers looms behind the bar), the humorous (an artwork scrawled with ‘Bunga Bunga’ portrays a hirsute man exposing his black briefs) and the familiar (exposed red-brick to match the chequered tablecloths). Expect homely plates of gratineed scallops, caponata (Sicily’s cold sweet-and-sour aubergine stew), caramelised goat’s cheese and excellent fresh pastas with seasonal ingredients. For secondi there’s everything from lamb cutlets to grilled breams, ever changing according to the chalkboard menu. As is typical for the area, the restaurant stays open late on weekends, the record-player is turned up and regulars stay for the excellent cocktails. If the restaurant is full, hop next door to their wine bar.

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Kreuzberg

Das Lokal

Recommended

Das Lokal comes from fine heritage: formerly Kantine, a cult pop-up of sorts which had occupied a space earmarked for demolition in David Chipperfield’s architectural office. Their relocation to a permanent location on Linienstrasse sees the restaurant decorated with beautiful furniture, handmade from wood salvaged from the forests around Berlin. Das Lokal flies the flag for Portland-style locavore cuisine, using only the most sustainable of ingredients for its changing menu of German staples. The Mitte location makes it a popular lunch spot for local media types who come to talk shop over roast veg with salad or gulasch soup. The dinners are more elaborate affairs, starters of pigeon with chestnuts, mussels in broth or asparagus croquettes all designed to demonstrate the superior flavour of well-sourced produce. The kitchen is an oasis for offal dishes and game, with which Berlin’s surrounding forests abound – a welcome sight in today’s age of cheap industrial farming. Book ahead for dinner.

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Mitte

Bar Raval

Recommended

The economic struggles of many European countries has seen a steady stream of young migrants coming to Berlin in recent years – and the upside is a palpable surge of energy in the local culinary landscape. Nowhere is this more visible than in the ‘New Spanish Wave’ of restaurant openings, with tapas, Basque and Catalan cuisines well represented. At the helm is Bar Raval, owned by actor Daniel Brühl, of Goodbye Lenin and Inglorious Bastards fame. Half-Spanish and a Barcelona tapas expert, Brühl teamed up with an old friend, restaurateur Atilano González, to show Berlin how it’s done. In a modern canteen-like setting overlooking Görlitzer Park, the pair imported tiles from Spain and filled their cellar with excellent wines (you’ll find plates paired with excellent cava, a crisp Albariño or fragrant Manzanilla sherry). The open-plan kitchen serves classics such as Spanish omelette, salt-cod fritters and succulent Bellota hams. They do a weekly paella night and regional monthly specials, such as Valencian monkfish in paprika sauce or Basque veal cheeks in red wine. Come during Barcelona FC matches where the place gets really lively and try working your way through their extensive gin menu.

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Kreuzberg

Sasaya

Recommended

One of the city’s greatest culinary gripes is the poor availability of fresh fish, something blamed on geography but more likely to do with local tastes traditionally running to the freshwater varieties or smoked and pickled preserves. This poses a challenge for Japanese restaurants and other than the scores of combination Asian places serving ‘discount’ sushi, the Real McCoy is hard to come by. An authentic menu and a bustling atmosphere have kept Prenzlauer Berg’s Sasaya a long-term favourite. The sashimi here is eye-poppingly fresh and they also serve the interesting thick sushi rolls futo maki alongside fine cooked dishes of grilled horse mackerel and kakuni (braised pork belly). For a real taste of the ocean though, try one of their dressed seaweed salads, those emerald-green strands’ slimy crunch akin to a muscle-memory of their previous maritime home. This place packs out: reservations required.

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Prenzlauer Berg

Jolesch

Recommended

Some of the greatest spots for Germanic food in Berlin are actually Austrian: classic dishes such as Wiener Schnitzel (which is with veal) and Tafelspitz (braised beef) originate in Vienna, the ancient Imperial centre of Europe. One of the best-loved restaurants for schnitzel is Jolesch, a low-lit, wood-panelled dining room in Kreuzberg, catering to savvier locals since 1992. A proper schnitzel is a true glory to behold: an enormous disc of golden brown should leave no part of the plate exposed. All it requires is a slice of lemon and a side of potato and cucumber salad to cut through the fat. The classics here are undisputed, but are also accompanied by a chef’s menu with seasonal and often adventurous dishes such as venison with quince or hay-smoked lamb’s tongue. Spare room for one of the luxuriant cream cakes laid out on a central dessert table or a plate of Kaiserschmarrn to share: the fluffy, eggy pancake with plum sauce that was an imperial favourite.

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Kreuzberg

The Bird

Recommended

Head to The Bird up in Prenzlauer Berg (now opening a second branch in Kreuzberg) for a dip into that emotional, American relationship with beef. A dip, in the literal sense, as the menu hectors diners to ditch the ‘uptight’ knife and fork (rolls of kitchen towel are supplied on each table for those wishing to get elbow-deep). Get stuck at one of the large chunky tables for a long-haul meaty experience. Staff stick to the hard-bitten New Yorker stereotype and the restaurant gets rowdy: ‘angry hour’ runs from 6-8pm every day, with a two-for-one offer on Schneider Weisse draught beer and 25 cent spicy chicken wings. The Bird’s burgers (starting at €9.50) are mighty: 250g of freshly minced meat is smothered in molten cheese and caramelised onions, with a toasted English muffin perched jauntily atop the sloppy pile. Alongside this glistening beauty lies an enormous pile of hand-cut fries, one of the restaurant’s highlights. Options for burger variants include blue cheese, guacamole, bacon, and so on, but any addition here seems like overkill. Don’t plan on doing much after tackling one of these gut-busters; you should roll out virtually prostrate.

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Prenzlauer Berg

Da Baffi

Recommended

Many of what people consider the most ‘classic’ of Italian dishes hails from Emilia Romagna and an Italo-Dutch couple of have been serving up the real deal at this Wedding favourite since 2011. Low-hanging lamps, vintage furniture and charming flowers adorn each table, match their menu of fresh pastas and seafood perfectly, making for the perfect romantic occasion. Their brief menu changes weekly, following the traditional Italian formula of antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci, each dish designed to champion a specific seasonal ingredient, their creamy burrata a recurring favourite. Start with an octopus carpaccio fired up with fennel and then Puglian fresh pasta with baby octopus and tomato followed by a main of trout with a herb crust.

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Beyond the centre

Gasthaus Figl

Recommended

The Eckekneipe (corner pub), has always been part of the Berlin fabric, but much like London’s original pubs, is suffering. You’ll still see them dotted around back streets, bearded men in sleeveless denim jackets propping up the smoky bar. Figl occupies a former kneipe in Neukölln, and has maintained its beautiful original fittings, a giant ceramic coal heater in the corner, the dark wood bar and best of all, a two-lane skittles alley in the basement. The menu is based around their beefed-up Flammkuchen: Alsatian flatbreads usually topped with crème fraiche, smoked bacon and red onion. Here they utilise the stone oven to full effect, putting Tyrolean flavours such as blood sausage, ham, apple and Bergkäse on more of a pizza base, as well as offering Italian toppings of artichoke, anchovies, taleggio or plain Marinara. Be warned, all this cured meat and rich cheese takes its toll: best to balance a pizza with one of their generous herb salads. Otherwise, there is a short menu of southern German classics like organic roast pork with red cabbage or a beef in a red wine sauce with bread dumplings. The large spacious dining room makes it perfect for large groups and you can even order pizzas down to the bowling alley.

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Beyond the centre
More affordable dining

Cheap eats in Berlin

Imren Grill

Recommended

A trip to Berlin isn’t complete without sampling the city’s most popular fast food – the Döner kebab. As legend has it, in 1971 one Kadir Nurman decided to adapt the traditional Iskender-style kebab from north-western Turkey to more local tastes by putting it in a toasted flatbread with some fresh salad and sauce. Cheap, portable and filling, the Döner caught on massively and the industry is today worth some €2.5 billion a year. Naturally some of the best places can be found in the Turkish areas of Berlin, of which Imren Grill is in the lead. Their outlet on Boppstrasse, close to Kottbusser Damm has a big bare-bones dining room, popular with families; there are plenty of lunch specials including baked fish with stew and rice, but first thing’s first: order the classic dönerim brot (kebab in toasted bread), with its stuffing of lamb grilled in neck fat, fresh salad, sesame sauce and chilli flakes. Goods in hand, you might want to join the suited elderly gentlemen at the park in front, who congregate to put the world to rights over cups of sweet black tea.

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Kreuzberg

Aroma

Recommended

You’ll find Berlin’s little Chinatown in Charlottenburg’s Kantstrasse, where a number of Chinese supermarkets, cafes and restaurants serve up various Asian cuisines. If hankering for a dim sum fix, head to Aroma, easily the best in town, where you can have it in its traditional genteel tea-time style of yum cha or as part of a full dinner with more substantial plates. The restaurant itself will win no awards for ambience, all the conventions gladly met: red carpets, dour-faced male waiters and some billowy koi carp floating in a fish tank. Sadly, there is no trolley creaking around as is Hong Kong custom, but the menu is extensive and unlike a lot of places, the dim sum are made fresh to order. Go with classics such as Har Gao (steamed shrimp dumplings), fried turnip cakes or Cheong Fun, pillowy rice noodle rolls stuffed with prawn or beef. For the more adventurous there are Phoenix Claws (steamed spicy chicken’s feet) or the glutinous Lo Ma Gai (mashed rice with meat in a lotus leaf), as well as a further menu with Peking duck and pancakes, stir-fried Chinese broccoli or barbecued pork to really get the lazy susan groaning.

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Charlottenburg

Mogg

Recommended

Mitte’s gallery scene has been swelled by the regeneration of the Ehemalige Jüdische Mädchenschule (former Jewish girl’s school), built in 1930 and whose walls have borne out the turbulent history of the city. The impressive New Objectivity building houses gallery spaces, the Pauly Saal restaurant, a private Kosher dining space and also Mogg (formerly Mogg & Melzer), an artisan deli founded by two DJs with a shared love of cured beef. A hotspot at lunchtime for local galleristas, all the necessaries are pitch-perfect: pickles pack a crunch, fresh coleslaw is just the right side of creamy sour, the toasted rye bread reveals a fluffy interior yet all play second fiddle to the thick wodge of smokey goodness that is their pastrami meat. On the menu are classics such as the Reuben, topped with melted ‘Swiss’ cheese, sauerkraut and a special dressing, Matzo ball soup and cream cheese bagels.

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Mitte

Volta

Recommended

Wedding is Berlin’s second major Turkish area after Kreuzberg. Touted for years as the next happening spot, signs of gentrification are beginning to be visible. Volta opened to much fanfare, especially as it is part-owned by the chef behind Cookies and Cream, the not-so-secret vegan restaurant above the long-running Mitte nightclub. The space ticks the hipster boxes: exposed concrete walls, low-hanging industrial lamps and a make-shift long wooden bar. The place buzzes at night with a young crowd supping on cocktails or the flavoursome unfiltered beer from the nearby Eschenbräu brewery. The menu serves up familiar booze foods such as Caesar salad or Currywurst, as well as some fusion dishes like braised pork belly with five spice dip and raita. Everyone raves about the Volta burger, a solid wodge of rare mince, stacked with the usual trimmings, then doused in a spicy BBQ sauce and a sesame-brioche bun. The burger comes crowned with a couple of onion rings, a local Spreewald gherkin and hand-cut fries on the side.

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Wedding

Fischerhutte am Schlachtensee

Recommended

Berlin can seem sprawling, with its large GDR housing estates and empty old factories, but it is easy to escape to its surrounding network of beautiful lakes, which have crystal-clear water running through them. Berliners love nothing more than the short trip to lakes like Müggelsee or further afield to Leipnitzsee, where they can swim, picnic and hike, often combining it with that very German enthusiasm for nudism. One of the most accessible by S-Bahn is Schlachtensee, to the west, which feeds into the much larger Wannsee. There’s a marked path around it as well as miles more through the nature reserve of the Grünewald forest. Overlooking the lake is the Fischerhütte, housing both a large outdoor beer garden and a more formal restaurant inside. It was originally built in the mid-18th-century as a rest house on the road between Berlin and Potsdam (the official residence of the Prussian kings). After a good stroll, nothing beats a hefty bratwurst and, depending on the season a fassbier (draught beer) or creamy hot chocolate. From the terrace you can watch the rowing boats slowly drifting around or, if it’s been below freezing for long enough in winter, the ice-skating. Inside, the modern brasserie features plenty of old photographs from its heyday in the 1920s when these lakes were Berlin’s answer to the French Riviera. The menu is suitably traditional, with mainstays like Schnitzel and Flammkuchen as well as seasonal specials like venison or white asparagus.

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Beyond the centre

Cocolo

Recommended

Authentic Japanese-style ramen is booming everywhere. Originally imported from China into Japan, the dish consists of three key constituent parts: the base broth (usually made from pork stock), the noodles (varying wildly in size but made with alkaline water giving them elasticity and their characteristic yellow colour) and finally the ‘style’, which includes both the added soup flavouring and toppings. Head to Cocolo for the best in Berlin: originally a tiny bar in Mitte, due to popular demand it has opened a spacious second space by the canal in Kreuzberg. There’s a small choice of sides, such as gyoza dumplings in both pork and vegetable varieties, edamame and extra portions of braised pork belly. Then there are representative versions of all the classic ramen styles, from the light shoyu (soy sauce) soup with roast pork to more unconventional varieties like Tantan, a spicy broth with sweet corn and minced meat. Ramen fads in Japan change as hyperactively as their street fashion and Tonkotsu is a style of soup hailing from the southern island of Kyushu currently reigning supreme in ramen shops the world over. The pork stock is kicked up to a piggy eleven by adding the milky liquid derived from hard-boiling bones, collagen and fat for hours. This is then topped with a soft-boiled egg, red pickled ginger, crispy seaweed sheets, slices of roast pork and braised sweet pork belly.

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Mitte

Masaniello

Recommended

In Berlin, the Turkish have adapted the formula of the Italian pizza al taglio to dominate the take-away pizza stück (piece) vendors; stück comes pre-prepared on a thicker base and is heated on demand. For something altogether more authentic, head down to Masaniello – fans keep it a closely guarded secret. With its kitschy trattoria interior, outdoor decking and domed, wood-fired pizza oven, it is run by a family of true Neapolitans, whose regional pride is plastered all over the walls. They operate a menu of excellent pizzas, pastas and daily meat specials, options including lamb cutlets, Italian sausage and the occasional offal cut. They also boast a fantastic selection of freshly made antipasti – freshly sliced salumi (cold cuts), grilled and marinated vegetables and cheeses. But best of all, they offer the three true Neapolitan pizzas, as protected and guaranteed by the EU-wide ‘Tradition Specialty Guaranteed (TSG)’ status. These are the classic Marinara, Margharita and Margharita extra, which, at a slightly higher price, comes with the only true buffalo mozzarella from the DOC-protected marshlands of Campania. For these three beauties, the dough must be made from strictly controlled ingredients and it must be hand-kneaded, with no mechanical input. For those accustomed to the wafer-like base of Roman pizzas, a word of warning: the Neapolitan pizza is slightly thicker. It is flash baked in an oven at exactly 485°C for just over a minute, producing the deliciously soupy mé

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Beyond the centre

Ixthys

Recommended

Right across from the charming square which hosts Schoeneberg’s excellent Winterfeldtplatz Market, is the excellent Korean eatery Ixthys. Named after the Greek word for fish, a traditional Christian symbol, the two Korean ladies who own the place do more than wear their faith on their sleeve: reams of handwritten scripture adorn the wall and they even include bizarre flow diagrams in the menu explaining man’s relationship with original sin. If this sounds a little too ‘hellfire and brimstone’, the service is warm and the kimchi suitably fiery. They do a brisk service of bulgogi marinated meats with rice, or spicy broths but the star of the show is undoubtedly their bibimbap, a classic dish of rice, layered with sautéed vegetables, chilli paste, sliced beef, crowned with a glistening fried egg and served in a scalding stone bowl so as to continue cooking on the table.

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Schöneberg

Monsieur Vuong

Recommended

There are many pseudo-Vietnamese restaurants in Berlin on the China-pfanne end of the scale, filling boxes of MSG-laden fried noodles or rice for dirt-cheap prices. Higher-grade places serve restorative noodle soups and curried meats on rice, still in a street-food style, with communal tables and brisk service. Monsieur Vuong, with its chic interiors, central Mitte location and flawless pho stock, is a guidebook darling and has set a template for plenty of passable copycats. There’s no reservations but the experienced staff keep the place turning over at a head-spinning rate so there’s usually not too long a wait for a table. It offers up two daily specials usually something saucy with rice or noodles, plus a short, regular menu of phos and noodle salads: a large bowl of the glass noodle dish in broth is topped with chicken or beef and crunchy beansprouts, chopped coriander and a squirt of lime. Their pho is balanced, its stock deeply savoury (none of the tell-tale over-saltiness of MSG) and freshened up with a generous amount of coriander.

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Mitte
More budget food

Fast food in Berlin

Imren Grill

Recommended

A trip to Berlin isn’t complete without sampling the city’s most popular fast food – the Döner kebab. As legend has it, in 1971 one Kadir Nurman decided to adapt the traditional Iskender-style kebab from north-western Turkey to more local tastes by putting it in a toasted flatbread with some fresh salad and sauce. Cheap, portable and filling, the Döner caught on massively and the industry is today worth some €2.5 billion a year. Naturally some of the best places can be found in the Turkish areas of Berlin, of which Imren Grill is in the lead. Their outlet on Boppstrasse, close to Kottbusser Damm has a big bare-bones dining room, popular with families; there are plenty of lunch specials including baked fish with stew and rice, but first thing’s first: order the classic dönerim brot (kebab in toasted bread), with its stuffing of lamb grilled in neck fat, fresh salad, sesame sauce and chilli flakes. Goods in hand, you might want to join the suited elderly gentlemen at the park in front, who congregate to put the world to rights over cups of sweet black tea.

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Kreuzberg

Krasselts

Recommended

As with many trademark dishes around the world, various German cities claim to have invented the wildly popular Currywurst. Berliners know this is nonsense, and there’s a commemorative plaque on the corner of Kantstrasse and Kaiser-Friedrich-Strasse in Charlottenburg to prove it. On the afternoon of 4 September 1949, 36-year-old Herta Heuwer grew bored with waiting for customers at her humble sausage stand and began to experiment with spices and seasonings. Adding chilli powder to ketchup and some Worcestershire sauce for extra kick, she smothered a sliced bratwurst ohne darm (skinless) in the sauce then liberally sprinkled curry powder on top. The story should also be taken with a liberal pinch of salt but to enjoy a real genuine Currywurst, avoid the long queues at tourist favourite Curry 36 and step out further afield to Krasselts, which has been knocking them out for over half a century. Still family-run, they guard their secret sauce recipe and grind and stuff all their own sausages. The East traditionally ate their sausage with skin (pig intestine), but these days the distinction has mostly disappeared. Enjoy at a standing table with a side of fries or a crusty white roll.

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Beyond the centre

Azzam

Recommended

In the city that claims to have invented the Döner Kebab, Turkish cuisine reigns supreme, their community by far making up the largest minority, especially around the areas of Kreuzberg and Wedding. There is however, a visible Arab enclave situated mostly along the tree-lined boulevard of Sonnenallee in Neukölln. People flock from all over the city for Azzam’s renowned hummus, made all day fresh with soda-soaked chickpeas, tahini and seasonings. This simple Lebanese fast food joint looks virtually identical to many other kebab shops along the street, but its dishes are outstanding – their grilled minced lamb perfectly seasoned and their falafel a crunchy sesame-speckled delight. Other special dishes include fatteh, the Arabic equivalent of nachos, deep-fried pita slices smothered in yoghurt, chickpeas, lemon and cashew nuts or musabaha, a variation on hummus made of whole chickpeas. You get a lot for your money too, each dish coming with an assortment of raw veg, bitter olives, garlicky mayo or tahini sauce and an essential basket of stacked pita bread which doubles as cutlery.

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Beyond the centre

Pic Nic 34

Recommended

Overlooking Kreuzberg’s alternative hangout park of choice Görlitzer Park, this micro Italian café boasts some of the best salumi (cured meats) in town. The affable owner Gianni opened it in response to pleas from the city’s sizable population of Italian creatives for the sandwiches of home. The aesthetic is in keeping with the area’s love of urban art and come summer it’s just the place to perch and watch parklife at play. Focaccia are made to order with interesting cold cuts like coppa (cured pork shoulder) and soppressata (a salami) as well as homemade pesto, aubergine paste and a Sardinian specialty of cream cheese and bottarga (dried mullet roe). Hot lunch classics such as melanzane ala parmigiana (baked aubergine in tomato sauce) and crisp polpette (meatballs) with fresh pasta come into their own in the winter months. The main attraction though are their piadina, an Emilia-Romagna street food favourite, something akin to a folded pizza but grilled on a hotplate. The dough is rolled out thin, stuffed with cheese, hams and a cured vegetable paste like olive or red pepper, then folded in half and grilled until crisp coated and molten inside. Perfect fuel for a stroll around the park.

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Kreuzberg

CôCô

Recommended

In the last few years, hungry office workers from New York to London have been rushing for banh mi, a Franco-Vietnamese sandwich and a novel lunchtime option. It combines fatty pâté and roast pork slices, offset by coriander and the zing of pickled daikon and carrot, all in an airy-light baguette (it’s baked with rice flour to combat the humidity in Vietnam). Contending for the title of Perfect Sandwich, there’s now fuel for a banh mi explosion in Berlin. Hit up CôCô at Rosenthaler Platz to judge for yourself. As is the norm for gentrified, faddish ‘world food’ purveyors, the interior is modern to the point of bland, with high stools at communal wooden tables and a large wall of chanh muối (preserved lemons) in enormous Kilner jars. The selection of different sandwich fillings includes banh mi thit nuong (with lemongrass meatballs) and banh mi chay (with tofu), as well as the classic variety – all are made to order at the bar, where pre-prepared ingredients are plucked from an array of containers on display. If the sun’s out, take your sandwich to the nearby Weinbergpark and munch in peace on the hillside.

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Mitte
More budget food

Berlin cafés

Bonanza

Recommended

Acolytes of the so-called ‘Third Wave’ of coffee production, Bonanza serves some of the best cups in Berlin. Its proprietors are fastidiously involved at every step of the process, from relationships with suppliers to roasting the beans in-house for freshness and taking due care over steam temperature. While beans are available to buy for home, the final results in the shop are unbeatable. The bar is dominated by a highly sensitive hand-made Synesso Cyncra machine and seating is minimal: customers perch among sacks of beans, piled high all around the little shop or move outside to benches on the pavement. The flat white, an Antipodean take on a latte, is smooth and divine and their cake selection is small – pretty much carrot cake and brownies – but high grade.

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Prenzlauer Berg

Café Einstein Stammhaus

Recommended

For a taste of Old World decadence visit this Nollendorfplatz institution set in a neo-Renaissance villa built in the 1870s by a wealthy industrialist. Its heyday saw it used as a gambling den for Weimar-era high society but it’s Jewish owners were soon arrested by the incoming Nazi regime. Supposedly gifted by Goebbels to one of his many film-star mistresses, it then continued its illicit history as an illegal club for carousing SS officers. It carries the ignoble distinction of being one of the few original buildings to have survived wartime carpet bombing. Red leather banquettes, parquet flooring and the crack of wooden chairs all contribute to the old Viennese café experience at Einstein. Come for a bracing breakfast of herb omelette with feta cheese and spinach, €8.50, or in the afternoon enjoy a classic apple strudel, €5.80, and a Weiner Melange (a creamy Austrian coffee), all served with a flourish by the charming uniformed waiters.

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Tiergarten

5 Elephant

Recommended

Run by a charming Austro-American couple – she bakes the cakes, he roasts the beans – you can feel the love in this café. Kris learned the coffee trade in New York and brought over a shiny, new Dietrich roaster from the legendary Idaho artisan factory, renowned for its state-of-the-art infrared heat drum system and its beautiful vintage styling. Two things are testament to his roast-mania: not only the many jars of test blends dotting the laboratory-like backroom but also the thick layer of discarded beans fertilising the tree out front (coffee is never made with beans roasted longer than three days ago). This kind of freshness is extremely rare in a city with so few micro-roasters. The house blend (with a majority Costa Rica-grown bean) makes for a delicious espresso or otherwise a variety of different filters are on offer. There are a selection of traditional cakes and tarts, but the Philadelphia cheesecake is transcendental: a wafer-thin layer of spice all that separates the custardy interior from its velvety cheese top. The wholesale supply side of things seems to be booming too - they recently opened a full-scale roastery on Glogauerstrasse where they do special cuppings every week.

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Kreuzberg

Bullys Bakery

Recommended

Countless column inches have been devoted to the city’s battle with accelerated gentrification and one place to witness it first-hand is over breakfast at Bullys Bakery in hipster mecca, Kreuzkölln. Hysterical news coverage aside, there’s no debating that Daniel, the half-Spanish, half-German owner, bakes the best croissants in town, oozing butter and with just the right amount of flake, perfectly paired with a bracing macchiato made from locally-roasted beans. After breakfast, there are various Flammkuchen – crisp pastries from Alsace topped with cheese and pear or ham – as well as fruity crumble cakes, tarts and a selection of muffins. Watch out for Kurt, the café’s resident French bulldog who chucks his stocky little body around in the endless hunt for crumbs.

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Beyond the centre

The Barn

Recommended

Both The Barn and The Barn Roastery are shrines to the black bean. Owner Ralf Kueller has even made headlines for his serious approach: the original Mitte location is certainly cosy enough, but when he opened a second, more spacious roastery in Prenzlauer Berg, customers were bemused by the industrial bollard set in the doorway. Ralf was taking a rather humourless stand against the area’s ‘yummy mummy’ invasion by banning prams and also laptops in the shop. Third wave coffee is about taking absolute care at every step of the process, from direct-trade relationships with farmers, all the way to purifying the water used through reverse osmosis, and so, logic would dictate that a perfectly austere environment would detract least from appreciating the finished product. Australian baristas ‘dial in’ their own special blends roast on site in collaboration with London’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters; try the pour-over Hario V60 for an alternative cupping method – complemented by a slice of moist chocolate tart from the deli counter.

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Mitte
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Comments

2 comments
Sang Yoon L
Sang Yoon L

It gives a great information to me who's gonna have the first business trip.

reformatt
reformatt

thanks you so much for this article, but you left out the funniest restaurant in Berlin called Das Klo, the toilet themed bar. I found an article with additional great places in Berlin: http://www.reformatt.com/blog/berlin