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 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.

79 : Oma Marnie’s Pies (New Zealand)

For some unknown reason the closer I get to achieving my goal of 80 cuisines, the slower I have become at visiting places and writing them up. My visit to Oma Marnie’s New Zealand pie stall was way back in November and therefore some details are a bit sketchy but the memories are warm.

 

Oma Marnie’s authentic New Zealand pie stall is based in Kreuzberg’s foodie heaven Markthalle Neun. This is a huge food hall which has permanent stalls that you can visit daily as well as a weekly streetfood market on Thursday evenings, as well as other food events such as cheese tastings and a monthly Sunday breakfast market. Oma Marnie is a permanent stall that you can visit most days and offers a delicious range of New Zealand pies. According to their facebook there is also a shop in Prenzlauerberg which is good news for North Berliners.

As a Brit the concept of a New Zealand or Aussie pie was foreign to me before moving to Berlin however I soon discovered that our Antiopedean cousins are as much fans of the filled savory pie as the British as all the pie shops in Berlin are Aussie or New Zealand owned such as Oma Marnie and Hello Good Pie. Thankfully they’ve not gone crazy with the format and have kept the essentials of a good British pie and the offerings I have seen are familiar and as yummy and comforting as a good pie should be.

This was the first visit for the blog in which I have got takeaway as it was a lunchtime and Richard was working at home so I bought the pies after German class and swiftly cycled home with them in my rucksack to keep them warm. I chose one each of salmon, braised beef, and egg & bacon for us to share, plus a New Zealand beer and a sausage roll to eat on the train for our journey to Prague the next morning. Each pie was delicious, with good pastry and generous well seasoned fillings. Three between two was more than enough and at 4 euros per pie (compared to my usual 3 euro falafel lunches), we won’t be making this a usual weekday lunch option instead visiting as a treat.

Writing this deep in the middle of winter is making me drool at the concept of returning for a lovely, warm, savoury pie but unfortunately I would have to leave the house in orderr to get them… hmmmn…

 

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.

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.

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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.

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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…

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67 : Creperie Breton – France (Brittany)

This was a rather late find about which I was delighted as it knocked Ireland off the list. With its own flag and a small seccessionist movement, Brittany can have its own cuisine as far as I am concerned, and that cuisine mainly consists of sweet and savory crepes and/or galettes. And cidre of course.

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On a Saturday evening at 6pm this place on Reichenburgstrasse in Kreuzberg was completely empty and so I was glad I hadn’t embarassed myself by calling ahead to reserve a table. We sat in the middle of a mostly wooden room with pictures of Brittany, flags of Brittany and even examples of the clothing of Brittany which you could buy for 25 euros. It wasn’t overdone though and seemed pleasant enough.

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The menu is fairly one dimensional and there are few decisions to be made, such crepe or galette? Sweet or savory? Meat or cheese? We chose a three cheese galette and a boudin noir (black pudding) and apple galette. Rich had a cup of cidre and I had a special Picon which is a Breton shandy. It was a bit weird being the only people in the restaurant but thankfully the waitress had enough Berlin Schnauz to not give a shit about us.

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The food was exactly as expected, no suprises. A well cooked galette with tasty cheese and a dressed salad and a tangy blood pudding version with the sweetness of apple cutting through. Rich enjoyed his cidre which I sniffed at but did not try (on account of being ‘allergic’ after having my stomach pumped after an evening on it aged 15.) And in case you are wondering a galette is a pancake made with buckwheat flour usually with a savoury filling (thank you wikipedia).

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We were not significantly inspired by our mains so as to choose dessert and therefore cannot comment on the crepes. This place is definitely one for the pancake fans I guess, but not a place I will remember for very long.

65 : Grünfisch – Sicily

When I discovered Grünfisch last year I was intrigued to find out what was different in Sicilian cuisine to mainstream Italian food. According to wikipedia there are many similarities although Sicilian food is also influenced by Greek, Spanish, French and Arabic influences. We had to wait a while to find out in person because the prices at Grünfisch, which is on Graefestrasse in Kreuzberg, are pretty high at between 15-25 for a main course. We finally found the money to visit on a weekday early in March ready to discover what Sicily had to offer.

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The restaurant decor was very classic with some upmarket touches alongside some of the traditional elements of an old fashioned trattatoria such as amphora and dangling vines. The menu was fairly small and appears to change regularly. You chose from a small selection of starters and mains, or one of three menus; one tailored to meat, one to fish and one vegetarian. We chose from the individual dishes and went for a beef carpaccio with tuna sauce, a swordfish carpaccio with fennel and orange for starters and for mains we chose the black ravioli with crab and langoustine and a pork loin with dumpling.

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The beef and tuna combination is one that I have tried before in a restaurant in Thessaloniki and it does work well with the salty tuna acting as seasoning to the soft beef. Richard really enjoyed his light and fresh tasting swordfish starter. The portions were generous and the presentation was considered and attractive. The free bread was also very good and was served with a delicious truffle butter.

IMG_2665The main courses were less impressive than the starters. My crab ravioli and langoustine dish was a bit mixed. The crab filling was a bit too acidic and the wild garlic sauce a bit cloying, but the langoustines were prefectly cooked if a little difficult to eat as they were served in their shells. Richard found his pork dish to be very tasty but as this was one of the most expensive items on the menu he found it a bit disappointing. The pork was billed as being a special type of pork but there was no discernable difference and the portion was less generous than expected.

IMG_2667The wines we chose to accompany the foods were very good. We had a half litre of a white Grillo de Rapitala and a half litre of Nero D’Avola at an average of 15 euros. Without dessert the overall bill came to 100 euros with a tip which is one of the highest prices we have paid for a blog meal so far. For this kind of money we maybe expected more wows and we will not be revisiting this place as we have the incredible French Le Saint Amour nearby for a more high end food treat. As for how Sicilian food differs, we can say perhaps that this place was more French in style than classic Italian with some mediterranean influence such as the citrus dressing for the swordfish,  but the pork dish left us confused as this felt more German than anything else so we are perhaps still a bit puzzled as to the authenticity of the food on offer at Grünfisch.

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