Two of us sit perched up high on leggy metal work. Surrounded by Futuring, an exhibition by Eva & Adele (who were described to me as Berlin’s answer to Gilbert and George when I asked Sylee what on earth was up with the bald couple in drag?) The sharp acoustics of cutlery and voices in the cavernous space are offset by the rain coming down in a persistent rhythmic patter.
At lunch time on Saturday, there are 4 tables occupied besides our own. The customers are all german, slim, elegant and wearing navy. The men have either allowed themselves to go silver, all the more to set off their naturally tan (not sunbed or spray on) skin. And the women have silky blond hair, the kind that can be washed in the morning and suffer no ill effects when exposed to 24 hour downpours.
I want to invite the female Maitre D’ to the bathroom so I can bop her on the head and steal her outfit: blue peep toe wedges on top of which she wears skinny trousers with a blue flowered pattern that looks like it would be equally at home on fine bone china.
I resist the urge and apply my attention to the business of ordering. There is the Prawn Cocktail KaDeWe (€14) which comes with prawns bigger than my thumbs, the dressing enlivened by punchy Piment d’Espelette (a spice I own and love often).
For the main course, two handsome Königsberger Klopse appear wearing crowns of fluffy crumbs, a third sphere made up of thinly sliced beetroot nestles at the top. Besides being the most attractive plate of meatballs I’ve ever seen,the perfectly seasoned mash that comes with them and the sauce they are bathed in are utterly delicious.
My dish is rabbit liver with tiny pearl onions, dyed red from the vinegar they have stewed in and manifesting more as an unknown berry than an alium.
German fare is hearty stuff, even in these delicate portions. Especially as we started the meal off with a plate of pork fat (Schmaltz) in place of the more traditional butter. And yet. It’s all been good enough to prompt me into dessert.
It has to be the bee sting cake (Bienenstich). Which comes with a fat bee fashioned out of almonds, a scoop of apricot sorbet at its center and a crispy (impressive given the humidity of the day) tuile on its top.
Espressos to finish accompanied by truffles whose insides are almost liquid and come in an antique box.
Is Tim Raue’s newest venture a success in concept? Absolutely. He is right to revive German fare to suit modern tastes, in the way people like Mark Hix, Simon Hopkinson and even Heston Blumenthal at Dinner have been doing for British Food.
I’m concerned about the prices. Not because I find them extortionate in relation the quality of the food, or the service – which is impeccable but because I know Berlin to be an extremely price sensitive city. And although The Ritz might charge €18 for a currywurst and the monied visitor will pay it – there is no way that customer will find his way to a defunct brewery, where you have to follow the voices to find the restaurant. And what you will be left with is punters going “€18 for two meatballs?” and waving their palms in front of their crossed eyes in that physical German expression that translates as moronic-imbeciles.
But then again maybe I’m wrong. I paid €65 for Pret A Diner in 2011 and the place was packed. And La Soupe Populaire has a very similar vibe but with infinitely better food and service.
La Soupe Populaire
Prenzlauer Allee 242
Prenzlauerberg (close to Soho House)
Opening: Thursday to Saturday, Noon to midnight