The former food critic of the New York Times, Frank Bruni, visited Berlin a while back. He ate at Noto, Tim Raue, Horvàth and Hartmanns and then wrote an article: “Sorry to Disappoint, but I Ate Well in Berlin.” (I suppose that ‘You’re right, it’s not great’ wouldn’t have been interesting enough to write-up.) In the almost two years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen small improvements. Still when I recently came back from a 3 day trip to London a couple of weeks ago and my husband texted me:
“I’m going to treat you for an early Valentine’s. (13 of Feb) Where do you want to go to dinner? Anywhere you want! My treat.” 3 hours later I still hadn’t replied.
“Hello?! Did you get my message?!” Came another text.
He walked in early at 7 asking “Hey – don’t you want to go out?”
“No! There is no where I want to eat in Berlin!” I wailed dramatically after which we settled for Hartweizen where, except for the enormous drawing of an Egon Schiele style entwined couple but with much more meat on their bones, there wasn’t much to report.Bruni is right, Berlin restaurants are taking great strides but my (trying for humble) opinion is that the improvements that are occurring are within the relatively safe niche of hearty Austrian / German cooking. Which is precisely my problem with eating out here. I don’t have memories of jolly knödel rolling off plates and pork knuckle so large you can’t see over the top of it. I buy kohlrabi good-naturedly, only to find it weeks later, when I’ve used up all the other vegetables in the drawer, once erect fronds sagging sadly. Then I google recipes, usually find a salad where it’s cut into matchsticks, make it, eat it and then return to google to find out nutritional value because surely there must be a more compelling reason than taste to eat this funny looking Brassica. Stodge is not my friend, portions with no regard for where the plate ends and the rim begins have me reaching for a paper bag to hyperventilate in.
The kind of food I like to eat – small portioned, light, high quality seasonal fare, in a non fussy interior, preferably employing the no-reservation and better prices policy that has become popular the world over (see Nicholas Lander’s latest column in the FT for more on the subject) and therefore allowing me the freedom to indulge food urges at short notice – has yet to arrive in Berlin.I hadn’t come to that conclusion yet. I was still rather thrilled by the former NYT food critic eating in Berlin and liking it!
I picked Horváth (having already eaten at Noto and Tim Raue and having deemed Hartmann’s a bit pricey ). You can order a la carte at Horváth but seem to be discouraged from doing so as main courses carry a surcharge of €5. Alternatively, you can choose from a 3 course traditional menu for €40, a 4 course vegetarian menu for €46 lastly the ‘innovation’ menu 5 courses for €62 or 7 courses €76. I find the menu’s architecture convoluted, I don’t necessarily like the combinations on the cheaper menu, it’s already 9pm and I can’t fathom making my way through the 5 course menu and paying a surcharge of €5 on what seem to already be healthy main course prices brings out my inner Ebenezer (although two of my companions who are not similarly disabled order the Pike-Perch / Zander and are charged €28.50 instead of €23.50) that only leaves the vegetarian. Read more of this post