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.

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Art in unusal places

I was recently invited to the opening of an art residency at a hotel. The hotel was the Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London. The Art Movement, an art consultancy, has taken up residence in the hotel and will in their programme showcase some of the world’s finest contemporary artists within the hotel lobby and Lowndes Bar & Kitchen Restaurant. The first artist being Chuck Elliott. The aim being that guests can view the art and purchase. It’s intended to be a new way of displaying art as an alternative to a gallery. The Art Movement want to demystify the process of acquiring original art.

blast/first/fracturerefract by chuck elliott

Chuck Elliot Blast/FIRST/fractureRefract . Taken from artnet.com

I quite like this idea of creating new ‘art galleries’ accessible to people who maybe wouldn’t wander into an art gallery. I like it when art is accessible to all people, I think that is why I am so drawn and interested by graffiti and street art. It’s a way for people to express themselves on an open canvas to a wide audience and get them thinking. Street art is something that I always look for when I am abroad as it gives you another layer to the culture and the people of the country you are in.

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Some of the many pieces of street art from San Jose

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

Amazing use of space for art in Soweto

One of my favourite cities for Street Art is Berlin. This is a city rich with art and it has a long history of expressing itself through art – just look at the East Side Gallery – the remnants of the Berlin Wall. It is showcase of politics, oppression, freedom and culture. Its one of my favourite galleries. But along with the wall, the streets and buildings of Berlin are littered with graffiti and art all showing different thoughts and feelings.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that show cases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, a wall full of sunflowers or words of expression.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that show cases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, a wall full of sunflowers or words of expression.

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

Of course here in London and the UK we are not short of street art. Just look at Banksy, he made a name from creating art, originally on the streets of Bristol, and then further a field. In the eyes of some he is just a graffiti artist or vandal while others are willing to pay millions for an original Banksy. Wandering around Bristol and spotting a Banksy is part of the fun of going to visit the lovely city.

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Bristol Street Art

Here in London of course we are spoilt… yes I am not going to deny it most of the graffiti out there is just tagging and pretty non descript but then you go to somewhere like Shoreditch which is starting to become like a living art gallery, around every corner is an artistic surprise, big and small. I follow quite a few people on Instagram but I particularly like following Anissa Helou as she is always putting up new pieces she finds wandering around Shoreditch – I can admire the art wherever I am thanks to her pictures! The art has become so popular that tours are popping up to show it all off.

Shoreditch art

Shoreditch Street Art

More recently I have been introduced to an art project in Cuba Fusterlandia,created by Jose Fuster, known as the Picasso of the Caribbean. As you enter the Havana suburb you are met by block after block of mosaic creations. It’s a suburb that has been turned into a living art project and encourages the inhabitants to express themselves through their houses, gates and gardens! This is definitely something that I am very excited to explore when I go to Cuba in January!

Stepping away from paint into the world of sculpture there are so many places that are now being used as galleries outside of the norm. I like the idea of sculpture parks, like the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. Putting a piece of sculpture in the context of nature, where the elements can get to it. Of course this is not art you can buy but it can be appreciated, and your perception and feelings towards it are always going to be different depending on the weather. You are more likely to rush around when its cold and wet than if it was a warm sunny day where you can linger and explore all the aspects of it. Sculpture parks and walks allow you to go back time after time and experience the same things in different ways, something that isn’t really possible in a climate controlled museum or gallery.

P1020881 P1020900There is so much creativity out there that its hard to contain it all within the four walls of an art gallery – of course do not tell that to all those boutique private galleries that fill the streets of London and other cities a like trying to sell the wares of artists. As long as it isn’t hurting anyone I do not see a problem with using new spaces to express yourself through art. I hope to keep seeing art popping up in unusual places. I encourage you to go out and find art in unusal places. Find something and keep going back and see how the elements effect your perceptions of it. Go and explore art – I dare you!

Berlin – Food for Thought

Berlin isn’t know as a food capital,  when you talk to someone about German food your mind goes to sausages and schnitzle, and yes the first time I visited the fine city I probably would have said the same but being someone who likes to sniff out a great foody stop I persevered and have found some gems! If you scratch the surface then there is more to Berlin than bratwurst.

As much as I love Bratwurst sometimes you need more.

As much as I love Bratwurst sometimes you need more.

So I have put together three of my favourite new finds in Berlin that give you something a little bit different…. in no particular order

1. Gugelhof

The guide books all sell Gugelhof as the place Bill Clinton once ate, but it is much more than that. This Alsatian restaurant is warm and welcoming from the moment you arrive.  Now I wasnt sure what to expect of the food, as to be honest I was not entirely sure what Alsatian food consisted of, but was pleasantly surprised by everything we ate. The food, highly French in nature but with a German twist was hearty and warming and made you feel like you were in the French countryside chatting with locals rather than the middle of a city.

Having been around since the 90’s this has become a firm favourite in Berlin and I can see why, the flavoursome and hearty menu is varied offering traditional Alsatian fare such as stews and tartes. Be prepared though this food is not for the calorie counter.

Outside Gugelhof

2. White Trash Fast Food

This place was recommended by a friend of my sisters. The place is decked out in what can only be described as the mind of Captain Jack Sparrow – part rock club, part tikki bar! From the front it doesn’t look like the biggest of restaurants but as you head further back it just keeps going, and downstairs, if you get bored with dinner ( or have one too many beer steins) then there is a tatoo parlor downstairs as well as a club! The staff themselves were incredibly friendly and we were not rushed at all which is always great especially as the restaurant was really busy. I would recommend booking ahead unless you want to eat early, especially over the weekend as it looks like this place is never quite. At the weekends there is live music and DJs.

A rock n roll tiki hut!

Dive right in!

Dive right in!

Food wise, the burgers are the draw here but there is a range of American inspired food here, plus Asian, Mexican, Swiss and French – so all sorts really! We all went with burgers and to accompany it, a good old German half litre of beer…. or two. The burgers themselves were great, good flavour and a range of toppings. Just be careful with the sides we ordered the large onion rings between three of us and it was enough to feed a small family.

Fill your face with juicy burgers!

Fill your face with juicy burgers! (Not the best picture but trust me it was a good burger!)

can you have too many onion rings?

can you have too many onion rings?

After totally over indulging in chilli topped burgers, crispy fries and far too many onion rings we all decided it was of course a good idea to order desert! One giant brownie later ( with its cream, ice cream and customary cherry on top) and I was beyond full but it was so very good – moist, nutty and chocolatey! Everything you want in a brownie.

Super chocolate and indulgent desert!

Super chocolate and indulgent desert! Could this be any more American!

 

3. Mogg and Melzer

This is one of the best finds I have ever made in Berlin. Big statement I know but I am making it. I first read about this place on Conde Nast Traveller and decided it need trying out. Mogg and Melzer is one of the new Jewish inspired eateries popping up in Berlin. Housed in an old girls school which is now home to 4 floors of galleries and restaurants, Mogg and Melzer is a tiny little space great for lunch.

IMG_2211

Inside super cool Mogg and Melzer

short but sweet menu

short but sweet menu

The pastrami sandwiches are the big draw, but we went for the pulled pork and avocado sandwich which was rich with flavour and the meat just melted in your mouth. Served in door stop wedge bread and creamy coleslaw this was a delicious lunch stop.

Yum!

Yum!

We timed it just right getting the last table in this tiny establishment and it stayed busy the entire time we were  there. The three chefs behind the counter never stopped, busy making fabulous sandwich after fabulous sandwich. The poor waitress dashed between tables and never stopped but the entire time it was a relaxed atmosphere and most definitely somewhere I will be returning too and will recommend! Located in trendy Mitte there is plenty to see in the area especially if you like art!

 

Berlin revisited

Berlin is one of my favourite cities, it is full of so much history, culture and art, plus the beer is pretty awesome! I was lucky enough to go out there for work last week and tagged on a couple of extra days to carry on my exploration. Berlin is a city that expresses itself. Its also a city that spent a great deal of time being defined by a wall, which has more recently become a show case for some rather spectacular art in the form of the East Side Gallery. Its using something that defined and divided a city for so long as a social platform that brings people together and teaches but also encourages expression.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that show cases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, a wall full of sunflowers or words of expression.

Its not only the East Side Gallery that showcases the artistic talents of the city but all surfaces, no matter their height. The sides of apartment buildings are painted to look like gardens, I saw a wall full of sunflowers or  naked walls are used for words of expression.

This is a city that just keeps on producing, even outside restaurants art is given centre stage. This piece was on the wall next to a restaurant we wandered by, the bright colours lit up just caught my eye.

This is a city that just keeps on producing, even outside restaurants art is given centre stage. This piece was on the wall next to a restaurant we wandered by, the bright colours lit up just caught my eye.

Even under foot the city expresses itself through art. This very fancy man hole cover depicts the cities main attractions, such a cleaver idea!

Even under foot the city expresses itself through art. This very fancy man hole cover depicts the cities main attractions, such a cleaver idea!

One of my favourite things about Berlin is the Amplemann - the little green chap with a very cool hat on. He is a remnant of Berlins divided past and has over the last few years got himself a cult status. This photo just reminds me of how popular he has gotton - he has his own shop - the power of an image!

One of my favourite things about Berlin is the Ampelmann – the little green chap with a very cool hat on. He is a remnant of Berlins divided past and has over the last few years got himself a cult status. This photo just reminds me of how popular he has gotten – he has his own shop – the power of an image!

It would be hard to reminise about the art in Berlin without thinking about all the incredible art it has displayed on Museum Island. This particular image is a snapshot of the Ishtar gate, the gate way to Ancient Babylon. Its one of the most stunning piece of architecture and art.

It would be hard to reminisce about the art in Berlin without thinking about all the incredible art it has displayed on Museum Island. This particular image is a snapshot of the Ishtar gate, the gate way to Ancient Babylon. Its one of the most stunning piece of architecture and art.

 

Not exactly art, but it made me smile - who doesnt love cleaver word play.

Not exactly art, but it made me smile – who doesn’t love clever word play.

This wall was awash with art, so much is going on, from the complicated to the simple. This is a perfect example of the chaotic imagry you find around the city.

This wall was awash with art, so much is going on, from the complicated to the simple. This is a perfect example of the chaotic imagery you find around the city.

Perced just above the last image was this chap, is it an elephant, is it a mouse?

Perched just above the last image was this chap, is it an elephant, is it a mouse?

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

The East Side Gallery, the worlds longest open air art gallery.

If you would like to see more examples of Berlins amazing street art, then Time Out has some great images, and this article on Smashing Magazine is a great piece. Alternatively, get yourself booked on a trip to Berlin!

Ich Bin Ein Berliner……

Ok, so I am not a german doughnut, but I do love Berlin. I have been fortunate enough to visit Berlin a couple of times and would go back much more frequently if I could as there is so much more to explore.

Berlins long and complicated history is evident throughout its streets and buildings, its past intertwined with its present.The city once divided is now whole but the divisions are still clear through its architecture. The imperial West full of grand palaces and buildings, the Brandenburg gate dividing the city and becoming the gateway to the soviet style East.

This is a city to wander through, you can easily walk to most of the main attractions without getting on the super efficient over and under ground train systems.

Starting your day at Kurfurstendamm Strasse ( I stayed at the Metropolitan Hansa hotel http://www.metropolitanhansa.com/ last time I was there) which is one of the main shopping streets in Berlin and home to department store KaDeWe. The store is huge, and at the top is the Wintergarden a restaurant/ cafe located on the 7th floor, the glass roof giving wonderful views of the city.  From Kurfurstendamm you can walk down to Berlin Zoo ( opposite is one of the main train stations – you can get a bus to the airport from here!), its small but delightful and a pleasant place to spend the afternoon if you like animals. The zoo itself backs onto Tiergarten, the city’s main park and a great place to spend the day in the summer or go for a picnic if the sun is out. If you don’t fancy strolling through Tiergarten, then you can jump on the S- Bahn from Tiergarten to the Brandenburg gate.  Coming out of the other end of Tiergarten you come to the Reichstag, the parliament building of Germany. You can go to the top of the Reichstag to its roof, and its domed viewing platform which gives amazing views of the city.

The Reichstag

Inside the Reichstag

A word of advice, there are always queues, so get there early in the morning, otherwise you could end up queuing for a couple of hours ( and if its raining it’s no fun!). From the Reichstag you can make your way into the old east through the magnificent Brandenburg gate!

From the Brandenburg gate you can stick to Unter den Linden Strasse which takes you all the way along to Museum Island and straight to the centre of what was East Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate

Along Unter den Linden you can see examples of magnificent imperial German architecture and the country’s history, the enormous Russian embassy looms on the street reminding you of its presence in the city for such a long time, there is a Gugenheim museum a sister to the one in New York with rotating exhibitions.  You can also experience the delights of German street food here, stopping off at one of the snack shacks for Bratwurst mit Brot ( sausage in a roll!) and perhaps even a cheeky afternoon beer!

Along Unter Den Linden

Along Unter den Linden you can take one of its side streets and delve further into the city’s history, some of the walking tours will go down Wilhelmstrasse to the place where Hitlers bunkers was alleged to be.  Friedrickstrasse is definitely worth a visit as about half way down is Check Point Charlie, the famous symbol of the Cold War. It has become a tacky tourist attraction, but it’s definitely worth wandering down there to see a little bit of history. If you are looking for somewhere to eat, and especially in the summer an outside dining option then I would head to Gendarmenmarkt, a square just off Friedrickstrasse, a beautiful example of 18th Century architecture. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants dotted around the square offering simple lunches or a cafe and kuchen stop!

Carrying on further up Unter den Linden if you take a left when you reach the river you can walk to Museum Island home of some of the country’s finest museum collections. Along this riverside path there isan  art and vintage market, definitely worth a look if you are looking for Cold War memorabilia. You will probably want to give a day to the Pergamon and Egyptian Museum if you like your history as there is so much to see.  One of my favourite spots are the shops and restaurants that are housed in the arches under the railway line ( Georgenstrasse). The Universities are located around here so the bars are a regular for students looking for a cheap beer. The arches have some amazing vintage shops in them. You can also get a taste of your first Berlinerweiser here ( a beer that comes in red or green! personally I prefer the red!).

Beer

Carrying on from Museum Island you get to the heart of East Berlin, crossing over the river past Berliner Dom, you are on Karl Liebknect Strasse.

Berliner DomTV tower in the backgroundTV Tower

From here the looming TV tower gets even more dominant, and at the end of the street is Alexanderplatz, one of the easts main squares and home to Gallerie Kaufhoft,  an enormous department store. The first time I went to Berlin it was before the stores makeover, and you felt like you were walking around a soviet era store, grey and bleak and very little stock, but now after a makeover it is a light and spacious cube of glass, that glows green at night. To experience more of GDR-era architecture, and relics of East German architecture head down Karl Marx Allee, now a protected historical monument.

AlexanderplatzWorld Clock Alexanderplatz

That is one of my favourite walks in Berlin, but to fully take it all in you can split it down into two or three days worth of stuff if you are planning on visiting all the galleries and museums on route!

Of course there are lots more things to see and do, you cannot go to Berlin and not see the Wall. The best place to see the remains of the Berlin wall is at the East Side Gallery (Ostbahnhof, Warschauer Strasse train station), the Gemaldegalerie – which houses one of the finest collections fo European art. The city is full of things to do and see!

The Berlin WallThe Berlin Wall

Of course all this walking around is going to make you hungry.  As I said before you have to try german sausage, and the best way is from a street seller or snack shack that  fill the city. Eat it in a crusty roll, with chips if you fancy it and a cold beer.  Of course there are the traditional dishes to try, like schnitzel or goulash type dishes. But it is also possible to find high standard cuisine, one place we found was Gugelhof, an Alsatian restaurant. The food was lovely, full of flavour and the service warm! http://www.gugelhof.de/.  If you are into your beer then of course this is the country to visit, and the local speciality is Berlinerweiser, a beer that comes in red or green ( thanks to the syrup they add) and is delicious!

Berlin is a great place to go for a long weekend or even a week as there is so much to keep you entertained.