Last week I returned to somewhere that I left 17 years ago and holds strong memories for me – Berlin. And quelle surprise most of the memories relate to the food there! As a child I lived there for 3 years and saw the wall fall down. I also own piece of the wall I chiselled off with my own fair hands. I admit I was nervous about returning and worried it wasn’t going to be anything like I remembered. Although, yes, Berlin had changed, it didn’t disappoint. Prewarning – not the best of photos as we didn’t take our DSLR out with us.
After a bumpy landing at Schönefeld Airport we headed to our Meliá hotel on Friedrichstraße by the Spree. I had read good reports of it on Trip Advisor, hence why I booked it and our rooms were fantastic with lovely views of the Spree. We soon headed to some of the side streets by the hotel and settled on eating at Machiavelli as the menu was extensive and had many interesting dishes, which in turn challenged my knowledge of the German language. Who knew there could be so many words for mushroom. I went for a feta & broccoli pizza, odd sounding (hence why I tried it!) but surprisingly nice. I’ve only ever seen broccoli on pizza in Germany. I also tasted my first Malzbier a non-alcoholic beer that me tastes like cola & Guinness. After dinner we went on a short sunset walk to Brandenburg Gate and the Jewish Memorial which was very peaceful in the last light of the day.
Now, I had heard about the buffet breakfasts at the Meliá hotel, but nothing could prepare me for the extensive choice on offer. Churros, pancakes, various bread, fruit, yogurt, cereals, cheese, cold meats, pastries, eggs to order, fried potatoes, sausages, grilled tomatoes with pesto, rollmops, big selection of teas & coffee, champagne… you name it and it was probably there. Obligingly we all ate as much as possible for breakfast to ward off lunchtime hunger pangs. We spent the day walking around the Zoo then walking on to Charlottenberg to look for the Egyptian Museum which it turns out is no longer there and is in the process of being moved to Museum Island. All in all we ended up walking 15 miles that day, and most of that was looking for a museum that no longer exists. Lunch was grabbed on the move and for me was in the form of a delicious pretzel. During our mammoth walking trip we also took in Siegessäule and Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskitche.
For dinner that night we chose a place called Kartoffel Keller (English translation being Potato Cellar) – random but hearty. Certainly helped to fill a gap. One thing I learnt in Berlin is that they love sausages, potato & bread. If you don’t like these you’re stuffed. Thankfully I like all three, however I did find the odd true veggie option on their menu and decided to sidestep the meat for a change. Most restaurants don’t serve veggie meals or the “veggie” alternative was a fish dish. I chose a large kartoffelpuffer (aka latkes or potato pancake). Although they are traditionally served with applesauce I decided to top mine with vegetables, cheese and a herb butter. Surprisingly nice. Hubby ate pan potatoes with shrimps and leek.
The main aim for Wednesday was to visit KaDeWe. A famous department store in Berlin, much like London’s Harrods. As a child we used to go on school trips just to look at what’s called the Gourmet Floor. I can still remember walking around the floor in awe of all the counters stacked with the most amazing food and tanks full of lobsters and other sea creatures. Even 17 years on I was still in awe of all the counters and shocked to say we couldn’t decide on anything to buy. Everything we fancied like some of the cheeses wouldn’t have travelled back to the UK well. This was a sneaky shot of one of the cake counters. Sneaky as little bro got told off for taking photos in there. After leaving KaDeWe we headed back to Gedächtniskitche where I promised Hubby he could taste the famous German street food that is Currywurst. I wouldn’t dream of eating anything like this in the UK, but for some reason here in Berlin it felt right and tasted good! We walked back to the hotel via Tiergarten in which Hubby got quite a shock considering I forgot to mention Germany’s liberal attitude toward naturism.
For Dinner we headed down Schiffbauerdamm and liked the look of an Austrian restaurant called Brechts . Now rule 1 of looking for a restaurant to eat, look at the menu & prices before sitting down. Poor Dad got a bit of a shock when we sat down and the charming waiter handed out the menus. With 6 of us sitting down for dinner this wasn’t going to be cheap, However I have to say it was one of the best and most memorable meals we had in Berlin. Between us we had Wiener Schnitzel with cranberries and sautéed potatoes; pink lamb with risotto, ratatouille and asparagus and the final dish being ox cheeks with dumplings. I was thinking of dipping out of pudding, but I’m so glad I didn’t as the Crème Bruleè taster platter I had was amazing. Well worth the 10 EUR.
Top row (L-R) – rich chocolate Crème Bruleè, summer fruits in chocolate sauce, Plum sorbet
Middle row – apple compote, vanilla Crème Bruleè, blackberry sherbet (texture of cooked beetroot, but sizzled in the mouth.
Bottom row – vanilla ice cream, morello cherries, strong coffee Crème Bruleè
The final full day in Berlin was probably the hottest day. While the men headed out of town us women headed towards Alexanderplatz. The initial intention was to go to Museum Island, but the queues were too long so continued towards Alexanderplatz tower, however not before stopping off at the Radisson Blu hotel for Kaffee & Kuchen and at 5.50 EUR it was a bargain considering I was getting used to seeing a basic cup of tea selling for as much as 4 EUR in some places. They serve coffee & cake in their Atrium Bar. It was an impressive space with a stunning aquarium leading up the middle. Never before have I been served such fancy tea with a little tea timer to ensure the tea leaves steeped for exactly the right amount of time. We must have spent over an hour there taking advantage of their air-con and posh loos you don’t have to pay for (a novelty). After making a brief visit to Alexanderplatz for old times sake started to head back to the hotel when I saw a place advertising iced bubble tea. I’d seen bubble tea many a times on Tastespotting and decided to give it a try. Well all I can say is that it is not my taste in the slightest and the tapioca pearls…euch.
While in Berlin I also managed to introduce Hubby to some food I used eat as a child there including Bifi Rolls, Erdnuss flips (think peanut butter flavoured Wotsits) & Kinder milk slice. Junk food maybe, but the German junk food of my childhood!
I was pleased as to how quickly all the German I learnt as a child came flooding back. As I learnt it in Germany I speak German with an authentic German accent, however this did cause problems when speaking to some people as they didn’t believe that I didn’t always understand them! I admit I’m far better at reading and listening to it than speaking it. Thanks to the lack of English channels on the hotel TV (there is only so many times you can watch BBC News 24) I soon got learning the lyrics to some woeful Europop and realised we are not the only country to have the I-know-it’s-dire-TV-but-I-like-it Snog, Marry, Avoid?
All in all it was a fantastic trip and I would recommend Berlin to everyone. I don’t understand why it isn’t more popular. I was warned before I went that German food isn’t exactly renowned, but if you know where to look there is some real gems…as long as you avoid the bubble tea.