80 : Germany – Part One – Brandenburg – Gustav & Gold

Apologies that these are embarassingly late. I have no excuses…

As part of the final Germanastravaganza I wanted to find restaurants in Berlin that represented the many regional faces of German cuisine. More than most other cultures, Germany suffers from a culinary misnomer of blandness and uniformity and I wanted to show that this was not fully the case.

My first opportunity to try some more modern and fresh German food was courtesy of Travelzoo who offered an excellent value dining voucher for a Berlin restaurant which took local, regional food from Brandenburg and gave it high end presentation. Gustav & Gold is a fairly new restaurant situated between Mitte and Kreuzberg which offers a small menu of delicious local food, cooked well and beautifully presented, which should be pleasing to vegetarians and meat eaters. The decor was quite classy but didn’t seem very modern or ‘Berlin’ and had a bit of a 90s elegance feel which I believe was unintended and would perhaps appeal more to their other customers who all seemed to be middle aged, middle class suburban Berliners on a rare special night out.

Our offer meant that we got to try a starter, main and dessert each for an incredible price of 55 euros including wine, a welcome cocktail and a soup. For starters Richard chose the young Mecklenburg bull tatare and I had the fried duck liver both were very delicious. This was followed by a tasty beetroot soup which was very rich, especially as I ate two portions because Richard was not a fan.

Afterwards we chose lamb rack with swede and herb crust and the whole sea bass. The lamb was pink and well cooked however the pepper in the swede was a bit dominating. Richard’s bass was really well cooked and tasty, but having a whole fish served up seemed a bit out of place with the more precise and elegant plating of the other dishes.

For dessert Richard chose the chocolate dirt cake and I had the lime mousse. They were good but not memorable as I cannot remember much about either, writing this three months later! The same goes for the wines which were okay but could have been more interesting.

I would recommend seeking out a voucher for Gustav and Gold as they seem to feature regularly on travelzoo and Groupon. The food was very tasty and for what we paid it was awesome. If I were paying full price I think I could find better places to spend my money. The concept of local Brandenburg food in Berlin is good however I think that perhaps we are not the demographic they are aiming to attract and it would be a great night out for someone whose food tastes were developed 20 years ago when a decent rack of lamb and a seabass would impress.

Price for two course meal with drinks for two persons: 70-100 euros

Rating: 7/10

Address: Stresemannstraße 48-52, 10963 Berlin

Website: https://www.gustavundgold.de/

80 – Germany – Part 4 – Gugelhof – Alsace

The region of Alsace (“Elsass” auf Deutsch) borders France and Germany and much of the border here between the two countries has been regularly redrawn especially over the last few centuries following the Franco-Prussian and First and Second World Wars. The majority of the area of Alsace is now on the French side of the border, however it is culturally still very strongly German whilst also being uniquely French. This all makes for an interesting and rich culture, history and cuisine.

Gugelhof in Prenzlauerberg is a perfect representation of this French-German melange offering German cuisine from the Elsass region with a French flair. We visited on a Saturday evening in May and we pleased to have reserved a table as it was almost full at 7pm. Unfortunately we soon realised that its popularity at this early hour was due to its family friendly nature. This is not a negative for all but was less than ideal for a childless couple wanting an intimate meal without shrieking toddlers in stereo. We asked to move tables and were given a slightly better spot but could still hear one particularly loud young chap from the other side of the restaurant.

The menu is heavy on flammkuchen which are an alsacienne speciality but also features other Franco/German staples such as schnitzel and coq au vin. For starters we chose a duck liver creme brulee and a bacon wrapped goats cheese parcel, and for mains (which we were supposed to fully share) we had a classic alsacienne flammkuche with creme fraiche, bacon and onions plus a pork knuckle with black beer sauce.

Everything was super tasty but there was a ridiculously long wait between the starter and the main and Richard ended up hogging the pork knuckle. We also tried some of the fresh white wines from the open list and enjoyed a Grauburgunder and a Riesling.

As the evening went on the families left and they were replaced by locals who seemed to be a but older than the average Berlin demographic and the atmosphere became more intimate with candles flickering on wooden tables. It was on the whole a nice experience and I would recommend to those living on that side of town but not to go out of your way to visit.

Price for two course meal with drinks for two persons: 60-80 euros

Rating: 7/10

Address: Knaackstraße 37, 10435 Berlin, Deutschland

Website: http://gugelhof.de/

 

80 – Germany – Part 3 – Black Forest – Schwarzwaldstuben

Schwartzwaldstuben is an authentic restaurant representing the Black Forest region of Germany with its Schwabische-Badischer cuisine. The restaurant is situated near Rosenthaler Platz in Mitte and is extremely popular and busy as it offers slow food in a homely and cosy environment.

The beer on tap is the extremely tasty Rothaus Tannenzäpfle Pilsner from the Schwarzwald which is famous for its happy, smiling lady on the logo. They also offer a great selection of wines by the glass as this area borders on the Rheinland which is famous for its white wines.

For food we chose to share the regional platter which featured Black Forest ham, Tête-de-Moine caramelized goat’s cheese, chutney, herb butter, lentil salad with suckling pig and smoked trout.  For a main Richard ordered “Badisches Schäufele mit Sauerkraut und Bratkartoffeln” which was a huge-old, smoked pig knuckle with roast potatoes and I had the venison maultaschen (filled dumplings) from the specials board with salad. We washed everything down with several Rothaus vom Fass.

The food was fresh and tasty and we enjoyed it, however it was pretty standard German fare and offered no suprises. I was jealous of Richard’s food as my maultaschen were quite small and not very filling. Other people were eating Flammkuchen which looked good and maybe we would try these if we went back again. I would recommend this to people as a good standard of German regional food with nice surroundings however we won’t be making a special detour to return.

Price for two course meal with drinks for two persons: 50-70 euros

Rating: 7/10

Address: Tucholskystraße 48, 10117 Berlin

Website: www.schwarzwaldstuben-berlin.com/

80 : Germany – Part Two – Bayern – Gasthaus Valentin

(Again ridiculously late – we visited here in the snow, it is now nearly the end of July)

Gasthaus Valentin which is a Bayerisch (Bavarian) restaurant on Hasenheide in Kreuzberg has a special place in our hearts as it was our neighbour when we first moved to Berlin and sublet a great place at 90 Hasenheide. Valentin offers a small, changing selection of dishes from the Bayern (Bavarian) region in a small intimate candelit setting with fresh Ausgustiner Helles and a few guest beers on tap. It is a restaurant for all seaons; in winter it is warm and cosy and in summer it offers an attractive beer garden and refreshing Bavarian beers.

On a super cold and snowy February evening we headed over to Valentin for some warming food to represent Bavaria in the blog. As it was a Sunday the menu was a bit limited but we chose some Nuremberger Würste (sausages from Nuremberg) with potato salad, then roast pork and venison stew which were served with with both potato and bread knödel (dumplings). As usual the food here was hearty, tasty and filling like all good Bavarian food should be.

Berlin has lots of great options for Bavarian food from large beer halls to small neighbourhood Gasthäuser to chose from and Valentin may not be the very best of these, but it is a great option for the North Kreuzberg area and one of our favourites.

78 : Venezuela (Karrecho Pop-up kitchen) 

Sometimes it takes ages to find a country’s cuisine in Berlin. Othertimes one just lands in your facebook event invite inbox. Sometimes you have to travel to the far end of the city to find a restaurant. Othertimes a new place pops up virtually on your street. The Karrecho pop-up kitchen which is run by Venezuelans on Friday evenings at Lenaustrasse 5 was a happy and easy find which my husband Rich invited me to on facebook, and so we duly set out to try their Arepas back in September accompanied by my Colombian housemate and best friend Stephanie who had recently returned to Berlin (see also week 38).

Manioc chips

The menu is small and simple featuring tasty filled arepas (flat cornbread pancakes) and traditional street food snacks such as fried plantain and manioc bites. They also have rum cocktails and non-alcoholic cane sugar and lime drinks. We all took one of the latter a ‘papelon’ and tried one each of the plantain balls with cheese, manioc bites and plantain bites plus one beef & black bean arepa, and two shredded chicken and avocado arepas.

Plantain balls with cheese

The service was quick and super friendly especially as Steph spoke Spanish with them. Very soon we were given our food and drinks which we heartily tucked into with lashings of spicy salsa. Everything tasted great and was confirmed to be authentic by Stephanie. The papelons were especially good and made me want to try this at home if I can find sugar cane.


When I last checked they were still up and running in November 2016 and we hope to swing by again to get some delicious comforting South American flavours.

76 : Odessa Mama (Ukraine)

This entry is otherwise known as the weirdest acid flashback of a restaurant visit I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) to visit. Initally I was delighted to find a new country so late in the day as I wasn’t feeling particularly enthralled with the idea of visiting the Singaporean restaurant over in Prenzlauerberg I had found that does cheap cocktails (not a sling though!) and creamy identikit curries. Odessa Mama which had previously hidden itself from my Google searches appeared to me as if by a miracle after one more attempt at “Ukranian food berlin.” It wasn’t too far away in Schonberg, so we decided to cycle over one russet coloured autumn evening after Richard had finished work following the sinking sun west across the city.

After 40 minutes of vigourous cycling with some uphill sections and lots of traffic we were hungry and ready to eat and the menu of Odessa Mama promised to feed us well. We decided upon Solyanka soup, and a kind of chicken parcel in chicken skin as starters, and then some pelmeni dumplings and that world renowned classic: the chicken kiev, as main courses. We just chose German beer and fizzy water for drinks as there were no Ukrainian options. After deciding on our food we waited, and waited and waited…

img_3431

Pelmeni with homemade mustard and sour cream

At least 20 minutes later our order was finally taken by a camp sailor-suited waitress, and then it was another 10-15 minutes before any drinks arrived. Had this not been a blog mission we would have given up there and then and gone elsewhere but instead we stayed and we waited for what seemed like an eternity in the strange dining room which was decorated as if a cruise ship had collided with a Ukranian farmhouse. In one corner was a giant TV screen showing music videos with the sound turned off but at some point during our wait, two men came in, turned the sound on and put on a DVD of Das Zigeunerlager zieht in den Himmel” (the gypsy camp moves to the sky) but they failed to press ‘start’ so we had 20 minutes of the title page and it’s strange music on loop over and over and over again while we waited and waited and waited. By this point we thought perhaps we might be tripping or someone is playing a cruel trick on us.

img_3436

Solyanka soup with meat, and a chicken parcel (topsy turvey starters)

Our descent into madness was aided by the arrival of the food: the main courses! Hurrah! But what about the starters? We asked the waitress who checked the order, nodded nonchalently, shrugged her shoulders and went off to tell the kitchen. Puzzled, we took refuge in the food that had arrived as by this time we were starving. The food seemed tasty and came in good portions but we would have enjoyed anything at this point. After finishing the mains, the waitress told us the starters were ‘on their way’ – cue another 25 minute wait by which time the main event; Das Zigeuner… was playing. A wonderful Ostblock creation from the 1970s with exotic gypsies singing, dancing, fighting and making love against a green-screen background. By this point we agreed we were definitely tripping.

wp-image-284252713jpg.jpg

Run for your lives, don’t look back…

When the starters arrived (again tasty, but who knows?!) we dispatched them quickly and swiftly asked for the bill. No apologies or explanations or free drinks were offered and we paid as soon as it arrived, left a mildly insulting tip and got the hell outta there cycling back to Neukolln, later than expected, quite full and mildly bemused.

 

 

75 : Kirsons (Latvia) 

A friend told me that her work colleague had recently told her about a Latvian restaurant called Kirsons opening in Berlin and they recommended it as somewhere authentic. We visited on a week night at 7pm, cycling over to the other side of Kreuzberg near Mitte where all the office buildings are located. We arrived at a strange canteen style place with a large seating area with twee, country-style furniture and a hot food area where you took a tray and selected from salads, hot meals, and desserts. Everything was overseen by friendly, middle-aged, women wearing what I imagine is traditional latvian dress – so far, so weird.

img_3075

I chose the salmon with dill sauce and potatoes and Richard had pork ribs, we also shared a cucumber dill salad and a pastry parcel with cheese and ham. The food was better than expected considering that it looked like it had sat there for quite a while but you would hardly rave about it. We were suprised when paying the bill as everything was half price so we ended up paying 13 euros for all the food plus two beers, a water and we were also given a free dessert. It turns out that we had arrived during the last hour before closing which is happy hour.

img_3073

Despite the cheapness we won’t be revisiting this place as I don’t see the point in mediocre reheated food no matter how cheap. I felt as though we didn’t get much of a real picture of Latvian food from Kirsons despite the recommendation from a real Latvian. A strange one indeed…

img_3072