Everyone seems to be talking about this restaurant (it’s on the cover of Zitty’s Essen + Trinken and listed as No. 1 Italian restaurant in Prinz). Some are even being very London about it all and saying it was all the rage when it first opened but not so much now. All I know is: it’s bloody difficult to get a table. So I did something I often used to do in London, I called 3 weeks before, booked a table for four and then found some friends to go with me.
It’s rather far away, I drove past the grand old Tempelhof airport and the large green expanses of Volkspark, marvelling at how every time I think I’ve got Berlin figured, it shows me yet another of her faces.
From light and airy, to congested and dingy, Flughafenstrasse is a smutty narrow two lane street. When you look for the restaurant, it’s best just to look for the number, 46, rather than any obvious sign.
The 3 hanging towels and fluorescent tube lighting give a taste of what’s to come. The most theatrical set up I’ve seen since Pret a Diner: exposed brick walls painted white, fluorescent tube lighting everywhere – even, under the table to light up our feet, domestic scenes set up behind glass and lit by yet more fluorescent light.
The theatre continues when our waitress turns out to be an older woman, in a black house dress with small white polka dots, worn black loafers and silver hair. It’s wonderful, although entirely unusual to be served by a woman over forty. We find out later, that the woman is called Andrea and she is half of Lavanderia Vecchia (the other half being her husband) and the crazy interior is her brain child.
She has more surprises in store for us, including a smoking room with a fire burning in a small metal stove in the center, a turntable playing vinyl discs and window sills stacked high with discarded cigarette packets. It made me want to smoke, order a Corona with a wedge of lime, chase it up with a shot of tequila and spend 2 hours having a heated conversation about something infinitely forgettable with someone I’ve only just met (ah, the good old days).
The complete menu is €39 for about 8 starters like burrata or cold melon soup, followed by a risotto and then by a fish course, finishing with dessert. You have no choice in the matter. You are served what is on the menu that night. The food is served on pretty dishes, painted with flowers which are set in the center of the table for the guests to serve themselves, much like you would at home. And that is the prevailing feel of the food, home cooked. Which is charming but also peppered with some of the glitches of a home cooked meal. For example, almost everything would have really come to life with more salt.
Best Italian restaurant in Berlin? Not sure about that. But I would recommend it to anyone who wants to have a very different and enjoyable night out.
T. 030 6272 2152