At this juncture, I would say that I know Mitte inside out; Prenzlauerberg very well; I am surprisingly well-informed on where to eat in Kreuzberg; Charlottenburg is pretty shaky; Schöneberg, vaguer still; Friedrichshain had been blank (with the exception of Cupcake which I visited only once); don’t even get me started on places like Wilmersdorf it might as well be a different city, in fact from what I hear – it kind of is.
While the weather was ‘Fa la la la la, la, la, la, laaaaaa‘ glorious, I took out my new copy of Tip’s Speisekarte (in which I got a mention on a special they did on food bloggers – Yay!) and plotted out a few addresses to try out. Then I printed out the google map and off I went with a girlfriend to explore.
Yes, I’m a geek of epic proportions. Something it’s taken me a long time to embrace but now that I have, you know what? Geeks have much more fun.
Annoyingly, two of the places I had been looking forward to trying were closed on Tuesday (Factory Girl! and Melt) but Aunt Benny’s was open. It has a similar aesthetic to places like The Barn or Bäckerei from the Alpentstueck group, namely, black painted walls, designer bare bulbs, good staff / service. I was still full from tasting a lot of mediocre food along our tour (places I won’t name because they were unoriginal even in their shortcomings) but I couldn’t resist the chickpea and kidney bean salad with rocket in a large weck jar.
At that point the tour was over and it had been disappointing. The extraordinary number of young Europeans on the streets told me that there was more to Friedrichshain. Layla nodded off in her pram which gave me ample time to follow my nose.
(Note to self: always rely on the nose!)
I turned up some truffles, not all culinary but you don’t mind if I go off brief every now and again?
First up: La Récréation, a ceramic workshop with dishes so pretty they made me think of pastel coloured, Pierre Hermé macaroons. I wanted to buy a set then and there and thankfully was impeded from doing so by a man who actually was buying an entire dinner set.
Then, a sewing cafe called Kinkibox. An enormous, beautiful space with sewing machines lining two walls. You can have a coffee or cookie, which I didn’t. But, I do want to go back there, with some material and make some nice runners for my dining room table, Marimekko style minus the prices. (Although considering it’s been a month and I still haven’t cut the ready-made curtains I bought from Ikea and am just letting them clump up on the floor, getting soiled, speaks volumes as to how unmotivated I can be with these kind of projects.)
Hops & Barley came next, where a large dog was draped across the entrance. When I gingerly stepped over him, he looked at me with bloodshot eyes, bottom lids saggy and watering – like he’d had a long night drinking the homemade brew in the micro brewery he was sitting sentry at. You can get cider on tap there and bring your own bottles to take some home with you, although it will only last a couple of days.
What is it with the name Olivia, or variations on it? It seems I’ve never come across an ‘olive’-y named place that isn’t good: Olive & Gourmando in Montreal; Oliv in Mitte; and now Olivia tartes and chocolate. (My association with the world ‘olive’ by the way is Olive Oyl, as in the skinny slightly hysterical cartoon character that is Popeye’s main squeeze.) The shelves, purpose-built for displaying chocolate bars, are reason enough to visit Olivia. The shop is so feminine and pretty, like an antique powder puff (nice post and better pictures from Kekstester here).
A couple of doors down was Caramello, one of four ice cream shops in Berlin but frankly, cheap, organic ice cream is as common as curry wurst stands and I have yet to delve properly into this niche and figure out all the nuances – it looked promising though.
Lastly, totally unrelated but love it and want to share it, a jewellery workshop owned by Julia Ziehn and Amely Späth. It’s a large bright white store, presided over by a creaky 14-year-old dog (dogs are big in Friedrichshain which I love, I miss my dogs and their goofy presence.). Julia and Amely work off to one side and happily indulged me as I flitted about from cabinet to cabinet pointing at things I wanted to try on. In the end I settled on a pair of earrings: miniscule pearls set in a quartz crystal flower. From a distance all you can see are the pin prick pearls, draw closer and the flower they are enclosed in becomes apparent.
It dawned on me that the reason I instantly fell in love with these earrings is because the flower part makes me think of an antique chandelier my grandmother has, with the pearl as a lightbulb, I wish I had a picture, they really are very similar. (It’s fast becoming apparent to me that Berlin is an excellent place to pick up unique hand-made jewellery in a variety of styles.)
I really enjoyed my day out in Friedrichshain, there are a lot of clever original ventures going up around there (and a lot of horrible sprawling restaurants but at least they make themselves obviously undesirable, what with the palm trees made out of outdoor rope lights and such). I really do want to make something at Kinkibox and there is still The Factory Girl and Melt to try.
Oh! And they have a Kaiser’s that is open until midnight?! Corner of Warschauerstrasse and Revalerstrasse 2.
Oderstr. 7 / entrance on Jessnerstrasse
T. 030 66 405 300
Tuesday to Friday 9:00-19:00 Saturday, Sunday 10:00-19:00
Hops & Barley
T. 030 2936 7534
Open 17 – 3
Olivia – Tartes & Schokoladen
T. 030 6050 0368
T. 0163 1561753
Tues + Sat 11 – 15h / Do + Fr 11 – 18h
T. 030 7478 2802
Tues, Wed + Fri 13 – 20
Thurs 13 – 22
Sat 13 – 18
Caramello (Organic Ice Cream)
Mon to Sun 11 to 22 (and in the high season, open on the weekend until 1am!)