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!

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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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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Week 30 : Shalimar : Pakistan

Unfortunately I will always remember this place less for the tasty food but for it being the day that we thought we discovered that our lovely little cat Lyra had cancer. Looking back now, we were so sad when we were eating this meal which Richard forced me to go to despite wanting to stay in bed. Thankfully, the initial diagnosis that day from the vet of cancer has no been found to be wrong and Lyra is now fine but the day we got the S-Bahn to Gesundbrunnen Wedding to Shalimar for Pakistani food, stands out as one of my worst.

As for the restaurant and meal, they were great, with few complaints except for the usual problems with spicing for the German palette. Richard ordered a jalfrezi dish from the ‘Spicy’ section and although impressed with its delicate and intricate spicing he found it distinctly unfiery. I ordered a delicious lamb dal which delivered on flavour and comfort. We also had pakoras to start (cauliflower and chicken) which were nicely crisp and tasty. Price-wise it wasn’t super cheap but was well worth it as rice comes with each dish. The garden was nice to sit out in on a warm evening and inside looked rather plain but warm and welcoming.

Cauliflower pakora

Cauliflower pakora

I guess that the food is very authentic in terms of spicing and types of food available but they would need to introduce more chilli to make it more authentic and akin to the Pakistani food I have eaten in the UK. I would like to come back again on a less sober occasion as the food was pretty good but it wasn’t so amazing as to warrant a trip halfway across Berlin from Neukolln where we now live.

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Dal, rice and jalfrezi

And to end on a happy note, here is a picture of Lyra basking in the sun, happy and healthy as she is. And long may she be so.

Lyra sunbathing

Lyra sunbathing

Date of visit 19 May 2015

Week 8 : Pierogarnia (Poland)

As soon as I saw this place I knew I wanted to go as I love pierogi and what better than a restaurant entirely devoted to this yummy Polish filled dumpling. Pierogarnia is tucked away in Wedding, a few minutes walk from Seestrasse U Bahn, again handily close to Vagabund brew pub. Inside is really homely and cute (think Polish grandmother’s house), the menu is simple and cheap and they seemed popular early on a cold Friday evening.

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We were three people this week as my friend Tanager joined us which meant that we could try more things. We ordered four lots of pierogi (meat, pumpkin & wild mushroom with sauer kraut) bigos soup and sausage to be washed down with polish beer.

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Everything was delicious and soon devoured. The meat pierogis were the best as they were really earthy and well seasoned, the sausage was particularly impressive and the bigos (a cabbage and meat stew) was hearty and good. We were all full as we left and very pleased with the super cheap prices (38 euros for enough food to fill us up plus four beers). We will be back.

Week 5 : Asia Deli (South China)

After last week’s disappointment my expectations were lowered. China came up for this week and I set to work researching where to go. The options were of course vast but my reading informed me that the number of actually decent options was very low as Berlin doesn’t have a good reputation for Chinese food. After reading this blog entry which talks about the top three we decided upon Asia Deli in Wedding. Firstly it wasn’t in Wilmersdorf Charlottenburg (not a fan) and secondly it is very close to Vagabund – one of our favourite craft beer bars. Asia Deli is famous for its Hunan specialities so we decided that this will count as South China as it is such a huge country it would be unfair to try just one regional cuisine and declare it wholly ‘Chinese’.

We didn’t book which it turned out was a mistake as the restaurant was packed full with people waiting outside. This was a good sign but unfortunate. We spoke to the waiter in German and found out we could come back at 10.30 (two hours later). Not being particularly hungry we agreed and went off for some craft beer.

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Two hours later we came back to the restaurant and I realised my German is not all I thought it was. When the waiter had said “halb zehn” (half ten) I took this as the English ‘half past ten’, when we arrived to a nearly empty restaurant and an annoyed waiter we realised our mistake that in German halb means before not after. Thankfully he kept the kitchen open and some delicious food ensued.

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As for the detail…well the facts are a bit sketchy as during the two hour wait we had consumed a large quantity of tasty strong craft beer and we were ravenous and pissed. We ordered ribs, pork, king prawns and something else I can’t remember. It was all fresh, yummy and the spicy food was indeed spicy. The beer was cheap, the service was quick and friendly (after we were forgiven) and the bill for a mountain of food and three beers was 37 euros. We tipped big, vowed to return sober and waddled home content and very full.

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