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/

 

Week 47 : La Tia Rica (Chile)

We visited this Chilean restaurant on the day of German unity and were lucky to get the last table reservation as it was packed. The location is in a swanky part of Charlottenburg near Ernst Reuterplatz. On the way we walked past some upmarket looking restaurants and a posh burger place with the most ridiculous name I have seen so far; ‘Who’s That Burger’. Thankfully, La Tia Rica is much more down to earth and we liked the feel of the place as soon as we walked in. We were seated in the corner and immediately noticed some familiar lit up papier mache head decorations on the wall. In a strange coincidence these are made by the same Arts Centre that we ended up at after our visit to the Filipino restaurant back in March.

pisco sour

pisco sour

light up heads

light up heads

We started our meal with a Pisco Sour as this is a traditional aperitif in Chile. It was delicious enough to make me look up how much it cost to buy Pisco online when  I got home (20 euros). Being a Chilean restaurant they had a great wine list which was reasonably priced. We took a bottle of the Carménère Reserva which was really delicious, full-bodied and a steal at 19 euros a bottle. The menu was small which gave me hope that it would be good as I never trust big menus. They also had a list of specials which included my favourite meat; rabbit, but sadly it was sold out.  We chose to share a ceviche and empanadas to start and then for main course Richard had lava stone grilled lamb chops and I had the lamb shank with pumpkin which the menu assured me was very traditional. I am not usually one to care about service as I will tolerate a lot in search of good food, but I must note how good it was here, being very personal and warm which is rare for Berlin.

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The food was really delicious. The empanadas were super tasty and came with a delicious spicy salsa that we asked for more of and the white fish ceviche was classically tasty with a lime tang and fresh crisp salad (although I did eat a better one at Sauvage in Neukolln recently). The main courses were extremely filling, the lamb chop were grilled to perfection and the shank was comfort food at its finest.

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The one thing that wouldn’t have us racing back is the prices, at an average of 16 euros for a main course it is quite expensive for Berlin but with such a warm atmosphere and such reasonably priced wine it was a really enjoyable visit especially as a treat.

Date of visit October 3rd 2015

43 (part one): Hermanas (Argentina)

It could be said that this week is an incomplete review as we perhaps didn’t fully immerse ourselves into Argentinian cuisine (although wine definitely). But in my defense, our original choice El Camba de la Che in Kreuzberg let us down by being closed for summer holidays on the date we visited with only a sign on the door to notify people. We decided instead to eat at a nearby Argentinian wine bar and delay our visit until they re-opened in September. We could have visited one of the many Argentinian steak houses in Berlin but my reading suggests that these two places are arguably the only authentic places in Berlin ran by genuine Argentinians. A quick google search suggests that Asador is the best reviewed ‘Argentinian’ place to visit however when looking at the menu you can immediately tell that only the steak and name are Argentinian among the schnitzels and sausages on offer.

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Therefore, part one will focus on Hermanas (sisters) tapas bar and we will follow up with some hopefully authentic main courses in a few weeks time when the other place reopens.  Located on busy Warschauerstrasse near Boxhagenerstrasse, we must have cycled past Hermanas many times when we lived in Friedrichshain without noticing.  According to other blogs, this wine bar is fairly new, opened last year, and is run by two Argentinian sisters who wanted to highlight some of the best wines from small farms in their country (mainly their home Mendoza region) as a contrast to the steak house culture that is usually exported. The tapas offered is not necessarily Argentinian in origin but is Argentinian in style as they serve plates of delicious meat and cheese (Picadas) as well as that Argentinian classic the Empanada (a South American pasty).

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The decor is really well designed and feels warm and intimate with deep aubergine coloured walls, lots of natural materials and nice touches such as light fittings made from branches. Everything in fact felt well thought through from the well priced wine list with lots of deep and spicy red wines on offer to the delicious range of tapas meats and cheese available and the attentive, friendly service.We had two large glasses of delicious red wine each (less than 5 euros a glass and served in proper red wine glasses) and a mixed plate of meat and cheese with empanadas filled with meat(for 15 euros). The selection was really good with fresh bread and different cheeses ranging from mellow and creamy blues to picante and crumbly hard cheeses and also melt in the mouth charcuterie meat including parma style ham, breasola, chorizo and salami. The empanadas were very tasty and came with a spicy salsa.

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Nobody I have spoken to knows about this place despite often passing that way and I really hope that they survive as they were very quiet on a Saturday evening as it is a lovely bar and a great place to discover Argentinian wine and tasty tapas. I for one will be spreading the word starting now…

Week Two : Gastón (Spain)

Week two came and went very quickly and by the Saturday we still hadn’t completed our mission. We wanted to meet a friend for dinner with her visiting brother and his husband so we needed somewhere flexible and with lots of options for everyone to enjoy – so naturally we thought of tapas.

Gastón is on the corner of Weserstraße and Weichselstraße in Neukölln and I have cycled past it quite a lot on the way to the swimming baths. It has a really inviting exterior and from the reviews seemed to be a good authentic tapas bar unlike some of the more formal tapas restaurants which I find a bit pointless. Tapas is supposed to be enjoyed in a noisy, busy bar alongside drinks as and when you want to nibble something.

The start was not great, we had booked a table for five and tried to inform the busy staff but were repeatedly ignored. The place was heaving though with other people constantly trying to get tables so we decided we had made a good choice and forgave the flustered staff. Eventually we were seated but the table was super small and very cosy. We found that the busy waitresses were really hard to get hold of which meant we ordered lots of things at once to save the hassle of trying to get their attention which is not my idea of real tapas!
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