Berlin: New Food Discoveries

Having the luck of being to Berlin many a time now I have started to branch out and explore the food scene of this great city much more. As much as I love Bratwurst mit Brot as a lunch time stop there has to be more to Berlin than sausage. This trip I ended up having the least German food of any of my trips to this fabulous city but it just shows the diversity that Berlin has, that like London you can find any cuisine, fun restaurants and great people watching.

First stop on the trip The Bird. Now this restaurant come recommended by my sisters friend. I am always one to check out a new burger place especially as Berlin does them so well.  We headed out to the Kreuzberg branch ( they have two one in Kreuzberg and one in Prenzlauer Berg ). As it was a Friday night the place was packed and from recommendation we booked a table and glad we did because walking in and getting a table would have meant a long wait or no table at all. Turning up 10 minutes early we waited at the bar and all the staff here spoke English and seemed to prefer to communicate in English rather than my terrible German. So beers in and our table was ready. The list of burgers is vast, and there is really something for everyone. They also offer a range of steaks that come all the way from the US of A!

One of the longest burger lists I have ever seen

One of the longest burger lists I have ever seen

Having wandered through the restaurant to get to the table I saw the burgers and they looked good, so was excited to get one ordered. However, this is where the issues started. We ended up having one of the weirdest experiences of bad customer service I have ever had in a restaurant. We were ignored, then inundated with apologies, food didn’t turn up, and then we were asked to vacate our table before our allotted 2 hours was up ( you are told on booking you have the reservation for 2 hours!). I would like to say it was because it was busy, but this is the kind of restaurant that is always this busy so therefore should know what they are doing. Thank goodness the food was good because otherwise we maybe wouldn’t have seen the funny side of how terrible the service was.  The burger, 250g of premium German beef, was great, the meat juicy and full of flavour . Cooked to order and served in what looked like an English muffin it was piled high with toppings.This was an outrageously big meal but good as a rare occasion. The fries were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, but were huge in number. The size of the meal was like you were in the States. The second beer may have been a mistake, not enough room in the old stomach.

The monsterous burger and fries at the Bird

The monstrous burger and fries at the Bird

Cheesecake, not the best, not the worst

Cheesecake, not the best, not the worst

However, as good as food is I would be dubious to return as I cannot bear paying my hard earned money on bad service!  This was a good burger, but there are burgers just as good in Berlin, such as the one at White Trash, so with bad service marking it down I am not sure about returning any time soon. Maybe I will try the other location before closing my door to The Bird altogether, we will see.

The second discovery was a much more peaceful affair. We discovered a little bit of Californian Mexican at Delores. This burrito restaurant with its neon sign, brightly decorated inside and music beckons you in from the cold winters eve. It’s counter service and it’s small inside but do not be put off by this because it’s fairly quick turn around, so loiter for a few minutes I am sure someone will have left. So with a table secured it was time to decide, burrito, quessadila, taco or bowl! Loving the simplicity and pleasure of a burrito I had to go all carb, choosing from a selection of meat fillings you place your order ( nachos on the side with a range of dips of course obligatory) at the counter and you are given your number so when its ready you just come back. This is great as it means the staff have time to prepare the food properly rather than the conveyor belt style you get in the UK and can sip your beer at a table. The staff were all rather chirpy which was a nice change to the evening before staff.

Dolores

The bright and welcoming decore of Dolores

The bright and welcoming decore of Dolores

The burritos turned up and they were fine, mighty fine. Big and bulging with their range of fillings. The nachos fresh and crispy and the guacamole was big and chunky, none of this smooth stuff you get from supermarkets, this bad boy was made by hand. Everything in the burrito tasted fresh and had flavour and the difference between the chain burrito places that are popping up all over the place.

Nachos!

Nachos!

The monster burrito

The monster burrito

Now I know burritos are not everyone’s cup of tea and certainly not the meal you think of when you go to Berlin, but as someone who goes at least once a year it’s all about discovering these hidden gems and avoiding the tourist traps.  It’s the perfect stopping point after a busy day sightseeing and being on your feet all day. It’s also the perfect location ( just behind Alexanderplatz) for a lunch stop. This place had a constant stream of people coming and going the whole time we were there. Gosh if you lived near by it could be dangerous.

The final find, was a meat haven. I love meat, and am always on the hunt for a new spin on meat. I have now found a new favourite, a new meat paradise and it is called Chicago Williams! It’s hard not to fall in love with this place straight away, as you walk in from the street you are beckoned to the bar area and offered a small cup of soup – perfect when its freezing outside, and the spicy corn chowder hit the spot. The guys working there were so friendly and explained how it all worked, the different things on the menu, instantly feeling like you have been coming here for years. The menu is easy, its meat, it’s all on one big black board and you order up at the bar.

Nothing beats a cup of welcome soup

Nothing beats a cup of welcome soup

Nice Wall Art

Nice Wall Art

Inside my new meat haven

Inside my new meat haven

What’s also great about CW is that it pairs great American BBQ with a great array of German beers, one of which they brew themselves. These are guys passionate about meat and beer – amazing!! And whats more they are happy to talk you through the beer selection so you find the right one.

Back to the meat, this is all about the meat now, its easy, your order your BBQ meat, be it ribs, pulled pork, sausage, brisket or chicken, then you order your sides. The mash was so creamy, and the beans full of flavour, I would recommend them both. There are the options of sandwiches or full on meat platters so you get a bit of everything to try. I went crazy and ordered the lady like ribs and I am glad I did. The BBQ glaze was brilliant, sticky, sweet and full of tang. The meat was tender and just fell off the bone, this was not a meal you had to work at. With everything turning up on a big plastic tray you could have through yourself at a BBQ joint in the deep south. I couldn’t fault this meal. It was everything it said on the tin, relaxed American BBQ with great German beers. This is somewhere I will keep going back to, because it was great good, great service and so relaxed!

No mess plastic tray ribs - dig in!!

No mess plastic tray ribs – dig in!!

Cheesecake with a frozen shot!

Cheesecake with a frozen shot!

This was a trip of many new discoveries and a couple that will be regular haunts. Berlin has so many great restaurants to try so do not get bogged down thinking you have to eat sausage and schnitzel every night. Do as the Berliners do and dive on into their great restaurant scene.

A trip around Fullers Brewery

Beer, it’s one of the oldest beverages in the world! It’s been drunk through every great empire, it became a staple in Europe thanks to the brewing by monks in monasteries and today is a global business. Over the last decade or so the craft of beer has become more and more popular, with fine ale and craft beer societies making their way into the University society lists, micro breweries popping up all over the place and pubs now offering a brilliant choice of beer rather than the run of the mill european larger that have a monopoly on the market.

While at university I was like most people and would drink what ever the cheapest bottle beer was, as it was cheap and you could dance with it in your hand. However, moving to London I have slowly become a lover of craft beers, I blame this partially on long weekends in Berlin, and over the last couple of years with the emergence of micro-breweries around me its hard not to like these new beers. Brixton Brewery is down the road from me, Camden Town brewery is also close, plus the smaller ones like the Kernel Brewery are all temptations. Plus We Bought Beer have just opened their first shop in Balham! Of course all this fine ale drinking means more time in the gym so a beer gut doesn’t form but I feel its worth it!

Now there are some bigger breweries that have been going for much longer but still hold onto the traditional values and want to create fine craft ales that can be appreciated and not just chugged down. One of these which I have been a fan of since moving to London and stumbling upon them ( and their pies!) is Fullers. They are London’s last traditional family brewery and strive to produce quality beer like they have been doing for 160 years.  Based in Chiswick and all their beer is made on site there they are heavy weight in British beer. A majority of their pubs are based in or around London but also get as far as the midlands. They are a familiar scene in London and if I was given the choice of one of their pubs and another brewery, I would take Fullers. Not only is the beer good, the pubs full of atmosphere but the food is also great. They are a company that are focused on quality produce.

I was lucky enough to recently get a chance at touring the brewery. It was great! Not only did I learn about how beer is brewed but I also got to sample some of the fine ales they produce. Now this tour is something they offer and its such a good idea. It runs Monday – Friday between 11am- 3pm and only costs £10 and that includes tastings.

Fullers BreweryThe tour starts in the Mawson Arms, the brewery pub, where your knowledgable guide will collect you. From there you are taken around the brewery, shown the processes, questions answered and all in all very educational. I always had a general idea of how beer was made but now, now I know all. I think on tours like this the guide makes it or breaks it, our guide completely made it. He was humorous and entertaining and was a wealth of knowledge, he clearly loved what he was doing.

Who doesn't love a tour with a high vis-vest

Who doesn’t love a tour with a high vis-vest

On Tour!

On Tour!

At the end of the tour you end up in the tasting room, of course what we had all been waiting for! As it was a hot sunny day, a cold bottle of Indian Pale Ale – the Bengal Lancer was very much enjoyed. We also tried our hand at the Honey Dew, which as its name suggests has a hint of honey about it.

Old School delivery bike

Old School delivery bike

Fullers BreweryThe tour was such a good idea and something I would definitely do again. Its nice in a world where there are so many faceless food and beverage companies that a company like Fullers that has been around for such a long time is still so accessible and open. Its staff are friendly and love what they are doing. Lets hope that it stays a family business for another 160 years as it would be sad to see such a London institution get absorbed into a faceless company!

Fullers BreweryIf you are looking for something a little bit different to do with a day off or a visit to London then head to Fullers Brewery!

Black Pepper and Parmesan Beer Bread

Summer, its the time of picnics, long lunches in the sun and staying out of a hot kitchen for as long as possible. When its hot and the sun is shining you want food that takes little effort and can be enjoyed al fresco or in a picnic. I look for any excuse to have a picnic on the common and having yummy food to bring along is even better.

Last week I went to a fabulous evening of Jazz at Fulham Palace, it was beautiful. Jazz in the background as we sat in the gardens of this historic house and enjoying the wonderful company of friends. It was an uber picnic affair, some people were taking it very seriously. We of course took the Pimms very seriously, but a few home made treats did make it including this delicious black pepper and parmesan beer bread which just goes so well with slightly warm camembert!

A fabulous evening of Jazz in the gardens of Fulham Palace

A fabulous evening of Jazz in the gardens of Fulham Palace

The beautiful gardens of Fulham Palace

The beautiful gardens of Fulham Palace

This little loaf slices perfectly, is a great picnic staple.

This recipe comes from the fabulous ladies at Spoon Fork Bacon, one of my favourite blogs!

Ingredients

485g Plain Flour

2 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

385ml beer ( get a good one full of flavour)

115g melted unsalted butter

zest of 1 lemon (optional0

85g grated parmesan cheese

2 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees, lightly grease the loaf pan and set aside.

2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt ina  mixing bowl and whisk together. Create a small well in the flour mixture and add the beer, half the melted butter, lemon zest, parmesan and black pepper. Stir together until the dough just comes together. Do not over mix it!

Add the beer, black pepper and cheese to the flour mix

Add the beer, black pepper and cheese to the flour mix

lots of cheese and pepper - two great ingredients

lots of cheese and pepper – two great ingredients

Mix to a dough!

Mix to a dough!

3. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Pour the remaining butter over the top and bake for about 1 hour to 1 hour 10mins, or until a scewer comes out clean.

Into the loaf pan and top with the remaining butter

Into the loaf pan and top with the remaining butter

4. Remove the load from the tin and allow it to cool until warm to the touch before slicing. Serve with butter or eat plain.

Slice and serve warm with lots of butter!

Slice and serve warm with lots of butter!

Enjoy! xx

Cheese, Beer and celebrating 100 years!

With so many small traditional companies facing closure or pressure to modernise it was brilliant to be told that a dairy still hand making Stilton was celebrating its 100th birthday. Colston Basset dairy is a cooperative and is still making Blue Stilton and Shropshire Blue by hand. They are meticulous with their making and are therefore producing some of the best Stilton out there.

Cheese anyone?

Cheese anyone?

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the 100th birthday celebration being held at Quo Vadis in partnership with Neals Yard Dairy ( who stock only Colston Basset’s stilton) and The Kernal Brewery ( another great company producing great products in small batches in traditional ways).

The evening started with the first beer, there were seven in total. We were in the private dining room at Quo Vadis, and it was a great space to have. The ground floor is the home of the restaurant ( which I still need to try) and then the first floor is the bar, which on leaving we spotted a couple of celebrities in there. Arriving into the private dining room you are instantly met with the smell of cheese, not over powering but it just faintly filled the air in a nice way. It’s such a lovely welcoming aroma, coats off, beer in hand and canapes flowing.

We were shepherded into the dining room and greeted by another two beers to try.  The menu for the evening was a cauliflower and Stilton soup, a selection of Stilton to taste ( along side the beers) followed by a Stilton and walnut salad and finishing off with St. Emilion au chocolate. Yum!!

the evenings menu

the evenings menu

The food created by chef Jeremy Lee was delicious. The soup was thick and creamy and definitely one I am going to try and recreate at home! Then came the cheese, these were not small slithers of cheese to taste but big honking chunks of cheese, a meal in itself. We were expertly taken through each of the cheeses by Billy Kevan the general manager of Colston Basset Dairy and Jason Hinds from Neals Yard Dairy, a white Stilton, a young blue Stilton, an animal rennet Stilton, a vegetable rennet Stilton and a Shropshire blue. For each cheese we were given a Kernal Brewery beer to try with it. The whole cheese making process was also explained and was to my surprise quite interesting. Colston Basset are one of the few dairies still making their cheese completely by hand, and you can tell through the flavour the care that goes into making this cheese.

tasting time!

tasting time!

a table full of cheese!

a table full of cheese!

The beer we were tasting courtesy of the Kernal Brewery was also great. My personal favourites were the Indian Pale Ale and the Berlinweisser.  They had a couple of stouts to taste but that’s not my cup of tea, but the pale ales were for me the fruity, full of flavours and easy to drink. What I found interesting was because the ales are made in relatively small batches and as no two bags of hops etc are the same each batch made taste slightly different, and I like that. The fact that you could buy a bottle of the Kernel Brewery beer and then buy another one and it be a little bit different, its great, none of this mass made stuff that is lacking in flavour!

and to go with that cheese....

and to go with that cheese….

Colston Bassett and The Kernel Brewery (2)

The evening as a whole was great, wonderful food and drink and educational. I went away full and warm having learnt something new about cheese.

If you are ever in Neals Yard buying cheese then I recommend you get some of the Colston Basset Stilton and give it a go!