77 : Senegambia

I originally set myself a goal of no ‘fusion’ or pan-continental restaurants as I belive they do not give a true taste of the essence of a nation’s cuisine. However I changed my mind on the strictness of this rule after reflections concerning the Senegalese Gambian restaurant helpfully called ‘Senegambia’, which is located close to my flat on Reichenbergerstrasse. I did some research and decided that it would be valid because Senegal and Gambia are very close culturally, and for ten years back in the 1980s they actually became joined as a confederation called Senegambia. And as we all know borders in Africa can be fairly fluid as they are the result of colonial map building rather than being demarcated by distinct ethic and cultural boundaries. So there we are, number 77 Senegambia can be a valid inclusion!

wp-image-2020713607jpg.jpgMy second problem was that as soon as we decided to visit Senegambia, it closed for an uncertain period of time for renovation. Throughout the summer we called by hoping to make a local blog visit but found it always closed. Finally, on a bus journey in early September, there it was: reopened with shining bright lights, all ready for business.

wp-image-1212442894jpg.jpgWe came on a Friday evening at 7ish and we were some of the only customers. I started to wonder if this simple, imbiss-style restaurant might perhaps be a tax right-off, as surely this should be a busy time? However my wondering was brought to a halt when I noticed lots and lots of containers flying out of the door being collected by young African guys on bikes. I then realised that Senegambia must have been opened so to serve familar home treats to the many Senegalese and Gambian workers who were busy plying their illicit wares in nearby Görlitzer Park and it was indeed a going concern.

wp-image-103243997jpg.jpgWe ordered three dishes to get a varied taste of the cuisine. The fish didn’t appeal so we went for Domoda: a peanut and lamb dish with rice, a lamb Benachin or Jallof which is a mixture of spiced rice, meat and vegetables plus some accara bohnen ballchen to share, which are deep fried crispy beanflour parcels with spicy sauce. The drinks selection was small and with no alcohol so we just took a bottle of water each.

wp-image-441493138jpg.jpgThe food that came was very tasty and so filling that I ended up leaving most of my rice so that I could enjoy all the light and flavourful bean balls which resembled savory donuts. The lamb in the dishes was very good and fell apart on the fork as good lamb should. We added some hot sauce to our food but had to be extremely careful as it was mega spicy and left a tingle on the lips. I find african chillies to have a different kind of satisfying heat than asian or south american chillies and this one was moorish but lethal.With a bill of less than 20 euros and very full stomachs we were pleased with our find and will continue to visit throughout the winter for this warm, tasty and comforting food.

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!

Week 57 : Le Relais de Savanne (Togo)

When I found this Togolese restaurant via the magic of Google it was quite a coup for the blog as you really wouldn’t imagine that one existed in Berlin, nor in most places outside of Togo! For those not in the know, Togo is a small country in West Africa sandwiched between Benin and Ghana with a beautiful coastline and a questionable human rights record. I was interested in my brief research to find out that there is a German connection as it was their protectorate from 1884 until 1914 when it was taken over by the French until independence in 1960.

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Relais de Savanne is a restaurant in Wedding attached to the Togolese cultural center and seems to be the hub for all sorts of activities, events and meetings for Berlin’s Togolese community. We visited on an early Saturday evening and were the only ones there at first in a large pleasant restaurant that looked fresh and newly refurbished.

As we sat down the solo waitress toned down the lighting, lit our candle and turned on some pleasing afro-pop music. We immediately chose Guinness to drink – this time from Ghana, while deciding what to eat. Had we ordered in advance we could have shared a whole Guinea fowl or roasted lamb but instead we went for stick meat starters (a popular starter in West Africa according to my own blog research as we also ate it during our Nigerian and Ghanaian blog visits) and chose grilled fish, and beef in peanut sauce for the main courses.

As we waited for our food we were pleased to see the restaurant starting to fill up. A German family with two children arrived and sat next to us receiving a warm and familiar welcome from the waitress/ assumed proprietor indicating that they must dine there often. Our starter soon arrived and it was as tasty as we have become accustomed to stick meat being, served with a tangy spicy sauce on the side. All in all, I must say that Ghana wins the battle of the stick meat as theirs had a real depth, but Togo certainly produced a satisfying stick.

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The mains were also very tasty, this time Togo beat Ghana in the battle of the Fufu as it was much more flavourful and better seasoned and came with a warm, comforting peanut sauce with pieces of beef and vegetables. The fish was perfectly barbecued accompanied by a nice salad, although I scolded Richard on not choosing to have the grilled plantain to go with the fish as this would have been even better. We left the restaurant full and pleased with what we had eaten at what seemed like a reasonable price. One day we will return and pre-order the guinea fowl as this sounded delicious, although it might not be for a while as our trips to Wedding are few and far between.

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