71 : Bantou Village (Cameroon)

Firstly apologies for the delay in posting the updates. I have been busy lately with German classes and haven’t been able to dedicate as much time to the blog as before. This visit took place on a hot weekend back in May.

Another Saturday, another trip to an African restaurant in Wedding. It seems as though there are quite a few African restaurants here due to the concentration of streets in the Afrikanische Viertel (African quarter) and this time we were on Kamerounerstrasse visiting Bantou Village for some Cameroonian cuisine. After an afternoon cycle across town to Plotzensee where we discovered a beautiful boat bar playing house and techno, we cycled across to Wedding for dinner and to discover some of its hidden places.

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Bantou Village was the busiest African restaurant we have visited in Berlin and was packed out with many West Africans, Germans and other international diners. We took the last table on the street and hungrily ordered from what is a now familiar West African food selection including grilled fish, rice dishes, peanut stews, plantains and skewered meat.

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We chose a dish of slow baked lamb with spicy sauce, beef in peanut sauce, fried plantains, and like every other West African restaurant we have visited; the stick meat. Another staple was the African Guiness which we prefer to its Irish counterpart.

The service was super friendly and the place had a good general atmosphere. When the food came we were very impressed. Everything was well cooked and delicious especially the lamb which melted in the mouth. The stick meat was good but not as good as the Ghanaian version. The plantains on the side were sweet and sticky and salty and worked well with the main dishes.

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Afterwards we checked out a couple of bars including the craft beer staple Vagabund and Panke which is a bar cum club with a great garden next to the river of the same name. The quality of the restaurant and good bars make the 40 minute cycle across town to wedding much more appealing. Although we do love our neukölln bubble a bit too much!

69 : Das Gift (Scotland)

imageOf the five countries of the British Isles, Berlin had one English restaurant (closed recently), one Scottish pub and several Irish pubs that also ‘do’ food. Das Gift in Neukolln, the Scottish pub is by far the most interesting of these as they seem to take their food more seriously and of course it is famously owned by Mogwai and Arab Strap member Barry Burns. The pub itself which sits of the corner of Donaustrasse and Weichselstrasse is a mix of British pub and German Eckkneipe, and luckily for us it is about a ten minute walk from home. The interior is cool but very welcoming and not quite as basic and cold as some of the other hipster bars in Neukolln which can sometimes seem uniformly unfriendly.

A promotion caught my eye as I entered the bar; Jack Hammer IPA from Brewdog for 3 euros a bottle. Das Gift stocks a lot of beers from the Scottish punk brewers for normally no less than 5 euros (cheaper beer is available) so this was an absolute bargain for what turned out to be a delicious, crisp, classic IPA. We asked about the offer and it turns out that the beer was a month or so out of date although you really couldn’t tell at all. Richard also tried one of their large selection of whisky with a smokey single malt which he really enjoyed.

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Das Gift’s food menu is much smaller than its drink menu with a focus on decent Scottish ingredients. We chose to share the haggis with swede, potato and carrots, a smoked fish platter, and a small plate of black pudding. Never having tried haggis before we were excited and also a little concerned. When the food arrived our concerns disappeared, the haggis was really delicious, with peppery warmth and a nice texture which went well with the mashed swede, carrot and potato. The fish platter was also very good with quality fresh smoked fish served with edible petals, beetroot and horseradish accompanied by perfect soda bread. The black pudding was so good that even Richard ate it which is a rarity.

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I really liked our visit to Das Gift as it manages to be effortlessly cool with a focus on quality produce and without an ounce of pretension. Next time Richard wants to try the bizarre sounding ‘haggis nachos’ and I will quite happily eat their haggis again, especially later in the year when warm, comfort food in a cosy pub is a must.

 

 

68 : Ta Panta Ri – (South) Cyprus

I was pretty sure that South Cypriot food would be similar to Greek food but as Cyprus has it’s own flag, it’s own culture, and is usually an entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest then it counts for me as a new country and cuisine. We cycled over to Ta Panta Ri on a Saturday in April via Tempelhofer Feld and Golgatha biergarten. After a good 45 minutes cycling with intermittent drinking we were quite hungry and perhaps this was why we overordered.

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We chose the Cyprus plate to share to start which included lots of litttle things, mainly in a paste or deep-fried. For main courses Richard went for Exochiko which is lamb slow cooked with mushroom and feta, and I took the Gyros Kleftiko on account of being constantly denied this when we were in Greece. We also tried some of the well priced Cypriot red wine although I was disappointed not to find Keo the national beer on the menu. Like most Greek wine I have tried, it was either too sweet or too tart with no middle ground.

When the starter plate arrived we realised why the waitress had raised her eyebrow when we ordered as it seemed large enough for four people to share. There was grilled hallumi, roasted vegetables, keftedes (meat balls), taramasalata, tsatsiki and cheese pastry parcels. Most things were in batter which made it all a bit too rich to finish and as Richard doesn’t like roasted vegetables I ended up eating the majority of the plate which filled me up too much to enjoy my main.

I was disappointed when the kleftiko arrived as I had forgotten that gyros is pork meat rather than lamb, it was okay but a bit too salty with the seasoned pork meat and sheep’s cheese combined. Richard’s dish was a bit better with pieces of slow cooked lamb that melted in your mouth but again I found the cheese detracted from the dish rather than augmenting it. As I had eaten most of the starter plate I could not eat much and Richard gladly finished mine off as well as his. We both left the restaurant well fed although Rich was happier about it than I was. Not sure I would come back again as it is so far out of the way and there was nothing outstanding about Ta Panta Ri which offers just decent, simple and comforting cooking.

There are no photos of my own for this as my memory card decided to wipe itself.

70 : Sofra Shqiptare (Albania)

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We ended up having quite a long blog break at the end of April due to the impending deadline of my thesis and we both had seperate visits to the UK. On 14th May with a renewed sense of purpose we visited cuisine number 70: Albania. When I started researching which restaurants are here in Berlin this one was quite an obscure find and we really didn’t know what to expect as there are few reviews and hardly an information online other than a facebook page with pictures of blokes sitting round smoking and drinking coffee.

imageFrom the outside Sofra Shqiptare looks like a standard Wedding Bäckerei but there is a room through the back where you can sit and order more substantial meals. The room is decorated with Albanian folk art and is very garish but pleasant enough and reassuring for my blog that we are getting something uniquely Albanian. From a very small menu we chose to share a spinach and cheese burek, grilled cevapici beef sauages, and a bowl of goulash soup. Everyone seemed to be drinking fresh lemonade so we joined in and took a glass each of the lurid but refreshing yellow drink. 

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Soon enough the food came and we were intimidated by the eating task ahead of us. Thankfully we were fairly hungry as we had just cycled for well over an hour via Friedrichshain and Humboldthain Park where we climbed the hill. Everything was lovely, the cevapici were as good as I remembered from when we ate them before during a visit to the Turkish market in Sarajevo (they are staple food in the Muslim-Balkans), the goulash was thick and tasty with large pieces of soft meat and the burek (pastry) stuffed with cheese and spinach was filling but perhaps a little bland. We also got a basket of excellent, pillowy-soft, fresh, white bread which we couldn’t finish but very much enjoyed. This came in as one of the cheaper blog visits with everything plus a tip costing much less than 20 euros. Not sure we can revisit as it is obscurely out of the way for us, but we definitely recommend it if you are in the area.

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