Unlike France and the relatively proximate nations of the Mediterranean, Germany is not traditionally known for its cutting edge cuisine. Meat in tube form, pork knuckle and vast quantities of bier remain some of the more enduring gastronomic icons that the Deutsch have spared upon the world (not necessarily a bad thing either). However, in 2015, all that is changing – particularly exciting things are happening in the German food scene, and Berlin is leading the way with these 10 innovative Berlin restaurants.
Paris, Madrid and the Amalfi Coast may know a thing or two about food and drink, but the German capital is rapidly giving Europe some new tastes to sup. After a decade or two, as Elite Traveller puts it, “Michelin inspectors have (finally) beaten a path to Berlin and dealt stars left, right and center”.
Yet the current league of high quality dining options in Berlin show that Michelin stars need not always apply – and when they do, they need not cost an arm and a leg. Here’s a quick glance at the new wave of culinary players in the Deutsch capital: a low-down on a few of the best, finest, most innovative and exciting.
Exceptional Restaurants in Berlin €€€€
Bandol Sur Mer
Bringing up the high end of the spectrum is Bandol Sur Mer, a Michelin-star quality, modern, French haute cuisine venue in Mitte’s Torstrasse. Widely regarded as one of the most exciting culinary experiences in Berlin right now, Bandol’s red illuminated sign frontage has been drawing in locals and out-of-towners for the past seven or so years with its uniquely intimate and atmospherically hip dining experience, offering patrons two exceptionally well priced five-dish set menus (59€, and 69€; fish, and meat respectively) and a dining experience that rivals many nouveau Parisian bistros. Reservations can be a mission, but from all accounts it’s well worth the wait.
Located just off the Berlin Zoologischer complex, fourteen stories up in the Hotel Intercontinental, Michelin star holder, Hugos is widely regarded as one of Berlin’s best, if not the best, restaurants (certainly the highest). Here, head chef Thomas Kammeier fuses classic haute cuisine with a distinctly avant-garde German touch. Using fresh seasonal produce, including meticulously prepared Baltic sea cod and Périgord truffles, Hugos remains a Berlin dining experience par excellence.
Budapester Str. 2/14. Etage
Fine Dining in Berlin €€€
Step inside to Lokal, a quaint modern German dining experience on the corner of Kleine-Hamburger Strasse in central Mitte. This cozy 15-table restaurant masters the tenet that simple is almost always best. Their modest sized menu offers patrons just the right amount of options, keeping it basic, while rotating dishes on a weekly basis. Here, to-die-for Cote de Boeuf meets boar heart and liver, while the wine list packs a punch, with great beers on offer as well. For a comfortable, intimate, thoughtful dining experience earmarked by excellent service and a lack of pretentiousness, Lokal certainly tops the grade for Berlin Restaurants.
Five years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find anything remotely close to a nouveau, fine dining experience in Berlin’s southern Neukölln district. Much as changed in the area since, Neukölln is now a hotbed of gentrification, and home to a steady influx of expats from Europe and around the world. The Turkish and Arabic Döner stands still reign supreme here, but a few fresh players are popping up in the back streets and rear ‘hofs’ – like Eins44: an immaculately decked out modern dining experience, replete with post-industrial Edison lamps, iron trimmings and fresh wood ambience, in an almost impossible to find tucked away location. Neatly priced set menus offer four, five and six courses, with a veritable selection of fine wines from Germany and beyond. Truly a lovely spot for a romantic meal or special occasion, Eins44 is well worth the trek off the beaten path.
So, Paris Bar maybe doesn’t exemplify the modern foodie trends currently going on in Berlin. Nonetheless, the old ways are often the best, and Paris Bar remains a tried and true Berlin institution. A meeting point for the city’s cultural elite, full of joie de vivre. Thespians, actors and artists have been gracing Paris Bar’s neon fronted doors for decades, and still do. Art and imagery coat the salon-inspired interior, offering a dining experience in the bona-fide deco Parisian ilk. What Paris Bar lacks in nouveau it makes up for in charming, timeless atmosphere.
Moderately priced Restaurants in Berlin €€
There are no shortage of Vietnamese options in Berlin, though very few are serving up traditional Saigon street fare the way District Mot does. With one of the most eclectic dining atmospheres in the city, patrons spill out onto the streets like a Ho Chi Minh den during Mot’s busiest hours (which seems to be pretty much always). Safe to say, they dish up perhaps the best Pho soup (both beef and chicken) in Berlin and keep punters guessing with award winning delights like the District Mot burger, a delectable beef patty served with Vietnamese herbs and sauces on a cloudy white, sweet Vietnamese bun. A great experience.
Rosenthaler Str. 62
Proximate to District Mot in the central Mitte district lays the yin to District Mot’s yang: Monsieur Vuong, a vibrant, orange-walled, banquette-style counterpart with a refined, breezy atmosphere. Offering daily chalkboard specials as well as their modern spins on the tried and true, and seemingly always full, Vuong is a welcoming, flavorsome and delightful Asian dining experience, complemented by an excellent range of beers, wines and fresh fruit cocktails. Sure, there’s a bit of hustle and bustle, and the emphasis might be on a quick, rather than leisurely, meal, but that’s just part of the Vuong charm. Highly recommended.
Alte Schönhauser Str. 46
Korean food seems to be the next big thing in Berlin, with numerous operators coming out of the woodwork in the last year or two, delivering a fabulous new facet of Korean specialty to the busy city. Kimchi Princess was one of the first by co-owners of the equally popular nearby fast food nook, Angry Chicken. While it might be on the pricier end of things in this range, the food is excellent, particularly the shared Korean BBQ and the tantalizingly sticky pork ribs. The purposefully worn looking red-tinged restaurant hall is frequently busy, with large front tables on the street teaming with locals during the summer months.
Skalitzer Strasse 36 / Manteuffelstrasse
The latest ‘hipsterification’ of the southern Neukölln district can be, in part, attributed to the arrival of Industry Standard, a widely hyped addition to Neukölln’s busy Sonnenallee strip. Sporting a mammoth frontage kitchen in which chefs can be ogled at from the street, space for diners appears contrastingly slim in this slick new Berlin restaurant. But with roots in rustic French and Mediterranean cuisine, plates cooked “to share and destroy,” complemented by “natural wines and spirited spirits,” Industry Standard continues to win over locals with its innovative approach. “Come to Neukölln,” it says. “We will feed you”. They’re not lying.
An authentic Japanese-style ramen house, Cocolo was once a contender for the smallest eatery in Berlin, and without a doubt one of the most popular. Management took heed of the outweighed demand and built a second, much larger venue on Kreuzberg’s pretty Paul Lincke Ufer, great news for all and sundry who have become addicted to their delicious umami offerings. Outdoor bench seating under intimate light out the front makes the perfect setting for light, Japanese style dining, replete with sake, a fine selection of wines and Japanese beers, and friendly service to boot. Some might baulk at a nine Euro bowl of soup, but really, there’s nothing else like it this side of Osaka.
Paul Lincke Ufer 39
Next time you are in Germany’s capital city, be sure to try one or more of these 10 innovative Berlin restaurants.
Written by our Aussie food lover, Cam Hassard for EuropeUpClose.com