Glass, Contemporary Food, Charlottenburg

Glass BerlinPinch me.

I had a meal last night, a meal I would not have expected to find in Berlin for a while yet to come.  And I had it in Charlottenburg.

I was invited to the evening by Gal Ben Moshe‘s PR agent, Regine.  I know Regine personally, her portfolio of clients is enviable – her firm does PR for Tim Raue for example.  When I write this to Gal, he replies “She does PR for Tim Raue. But she also does PR for me.”  His confidence, his directness – part of it reminds me of my good friend Ilanit who comes from the same part of Israel as Gal.  The other part, well the other part makes me wonder “Is this night going to be as good as he believes it to be in his mind?”

And you know what?  It is.  It absolutely is.Gal Ben MosheGal came up with the name Glass 3 years ago, later, when he saw this location which had previously been a gym with blacked out windows.  He knew this was where Glass would be.  A kitchen had to be built.  It’s small, with a central island where the chefs come together for plating.

“Hmmm.”  I wonder aloud “This makes me think of Grant Achatz’s kitchen.”
Alinea? Yes, I worked there.”
“You worked at Alinea??” I retort, incredulous. How has this guy worked at Alinea and not even mentioned it? Again that confidence. One that can only mean he is not going to try to prove he is good by association, he is going to let the food speak for itself. “How do they do that crazy dessert that is plated on the table and moves? Is it magnets?”
“The tables tilt.” he explains “And yes, magnets are used.” In fact the tables at Glass are the same as those at Alinea. Same manufacturer.”Glass, BerlinWe are invited to sit down in the dining room. This time, I have been allowed to bring a guest and my date for the evening is Marguerite. Next to us is Ashley, a wonderful photographer based in Berlin and Saleema of Brocade PR.  We are a riotous group as we realize we have much in common (chief among them, a love for BBC Radio 4’s desert island discs).  The noise stops with the arrival of each new dish.A picture perfect dish of vegetables

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La Soupe Populaire, German Food, Prenzlauerberg

The Menu at La Soupe Populaire
Tim Raue’s newest venture is at the Bötzow Brewery.  Championing German food (yes – apparently it’s possible) in the original space of the former brewery.

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.

Futuring exhibitionAt 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.

La Soupe PopulaireI 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.The ladies toilet at Bötzow Brewery

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).

Konigsberger KlopseFor 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.

Amuse of white asparagus, pork fat and home baked breadGerman 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.

Bee Sting Cake at La Soupe Populaire Read more of this post

Opening of Sra Bua by Tim Raue, Pan Asian Food, Mitte

Opening of Sra Bua BerlinI have no idea how I got on the Sra Bua opening party mailing list. But somehow I did.

It’s conceivable that somewhere on the invitation it said ‘black tie’ but I was too busy marvelling at the mysteries of PR lists.  I put on my pink corduroy trousers, (my favorite pair of orange jeans from Comptoir des Cotonniers being in the wash).  I paired them with a blue t-shirt and a blue and white striped sweater.
The red carpet at Tim Raue opening The extensive red carpet was my first clue that I might have gotten it wrong. The wall of big men, in black overcoats, earpieces and walkie talkies that closed in on me with a look on their face that said “The Brandenburg Gate is that way honey.” was the second one.  Some Sra Bua tastersInside, I find that they have kept the interior of former Uma intact, minus the central point of the horse which has been replaced by another sculpture.The red carpet from the insideAs I have arrived at 7:30, I initially have good access to the miniature signature dishes being passed around. Half an hour in though, it’s become a free for all. Tim Raue, himself is being jostled around by elegant guests with feral eyes shoving past him to get at the food.  If he’s here, who is in the kitchen, I wonder?  The kitchen at Sra BuaDaniel Lengsfeld, I find out.  (A former Tim Raue sous chef that went on to cook at a place called “Katz Orange“.)  Because Sra Bua (a Kempinski brand restaurant of which there are already 3 in existence  around the world) is merely interpreted by Tim Raue.  On most days you will find him on the pass at his 2 Michelin star Restaurant Tim Raue.Salmon with grapefruit Sra Bua Read more of this post

Fischers Fritz, 2* Michelin Food, Mitte

In anticipation of dinner at Fischer Fritz: I gave myself a manicure, bought myself a new dress and dusted off my vintage Chanel shoes.

I need not have bothered.

And I will tell you why.

My perception of restaurant dining is an equation that goes roughly something like this price + food + interior design + cutlery + service.  Price point is the first and key determinator because it sets up expectations.  If you are being charged €4 for a sandwich or €65 for lobster two ways, it’s safe to say, your satisfaction threshold will be vastly lower for the first option.  (A few weeks ago, a friend and I donated some cakes to an event here in Berlin and everyone swore up and down that they were the best cakes they had ever eaten; nothing tastes quite as delicious as a freebie!)

Expensive lobster, a €110 4 course tasting menu (€150 for 6 courses) add to that 8+ waiters, heavy silver cutlery and a water menu and I was anticipating some superlative food.

But the food turned out to be much like the dining room itself which featured grand chandeliers, wood-paneled walls, plush carpeting and table flower arrangements of large red roses with their stems cut off in bronze coloured bowls, in a word: old-fashioned. Read more of this post

Restaurant Tim Raue, Kreuzberg

I understand now why I thought that Uma at the Adlon, Kempinski was a bit average (see what I thought of it here).  Because when Tim Raue left to open his own place, he took all the kitchen staff bar two. And most of the front of house. And the guest data base (making an educated guess here). And most importantly, himself.

The new place, behind checkpoint Charlie and across the street from trendy Sale e Tabacchi is technically Kreuzberg but feels like Mitte.  The interior looked cold and sober in the images I saw on the internet, like a Swedish airport business lounge from the 50’s.  In reality, the felt fabric on the swivel chairs and banquette, the warm hued American walnut tables and the soft lighting all make it comfortable, elegant and contemporary.

It’s a large restaurant, I would guess 200 sqm, but it doesn’t feel cavernous.  The furniture language changes ever so slightly as you move around, breaking up the linear monotony.  It was a far cry from the very “Asian” feel of Uma which feels almost Disneyfied.  As you go down the stairs to the bar and toilettes, there is a wall crammed full of chinese type porcelain and the women’s toilet has a bright red laquer table and Yue Minjun paintings (pricey paintings these, his piece Execution became the most expensive work ever by a Chinese contemporary artist, when sold in 2007 for £2.9 million).*

The  kitchen is huge, with glass fronted fridges, visible through a large glass window from the Krug table.  The restaurant recommends it for parties of 4 or more and there is no extra fee levied for sitting there.

I liked the choice of waiting staff (apparently the domain of Raue’s wife).  They are all real people, no waifish vacuous aspiring actresses, models or singers here, thank god!  Great attention to detail, young, attentive but not intrusive.  Our dinner companions were delayed flying in from Vienna, so we killed an hour chatting with our waiter and filling up on Berlin restaurant gossip and the pickled vegetables, spiced nuts, and sesame dressed field lettuce salad.  I was struck by how much they adore their head chef, I had the impression that they would walk into a burning building if Raue asked them to. Read more of this post

Uma, Berlin

On Friday, my hubby treated me for dinner at the Chinese restaurant UMA.  Everyone get’s so excited about this restaurant so I was really looking forward to it.  

Being…well, having been a Londoner that ate regularly at the likes of Hakkasan, Yauatcha, and the lesser known but equally excellent Dinnings – Uma had some big shoes to fill.  

First impression – get rid of the leggy blond in tight plastic leggings and knee high boots that sneers at you when you dare to enter into her lair.  No, I know, they need her there to scare away the riff raff.  Except that night I was  the riff raff having come straight from playing with my daughter in the park, with sand wedged between my toes, no make up – the list of fashion misdemeanours is too long to continue but you are getting the picture right?  

And this is definitely the kind of place that you need to get dressed up for and change from your day bag to your evening bag (Ha! as if I have one).  To prove this point, a gaggle of twenty something women strutted in looking like they had come straight off the set of Sex in the City.  There was 80’s girl with a short crop and off the shoulder blue dress.  There was a “romantic” one with her hair twisted jauntily on the side of her nape, a bilious white blouse and high waisted black skirt.  And a tan barbie – I mean girl – tan bare shoulders shimmering with sparkles.  Note to the wise, take a little time to dress up so you don’t stick out like a sore thumb.  

Although my husband made a good point – it’s cooler to be dressed down because it implies that you visit these kind of restaurants all the time so you don’t feel you need to make the effort.  A bit how celebrities are always papped shopping in flip flops and torn shorts.  

We were seated behind the horse under that glass atrium.  First criticism is that the atmosphere may be nice at night but as these days it’s getting dark at 10 pm it’s rather disconcerting to be eating in such bright light.  Second, there is no music so I could listen in on other people’s conversation and vice versa.  

Atmosphere is paramount but ultimately I am interested in the food.  What did I think? It’s OK.

We had:

steamed edamame with maldon sea salt (sadly-my favorite dish of the evening, really sour and salty)

raw marinated salad of fennel with algae and apple (beautiful to look at but tasted medicinal)

japanese pizza with tuna and wasabi (Yuk! Thin potato pancake slathered with 1 mm of mayonnaise, and decorated with slices of ginger? and a few cubes of tuna – and it’s expensive!)

lobster spring roll (OK, nothing really exceptional here, it could have just as well been a bit of langoustine a waste of lobster if  you ask me)

black cod with miso and leaves of shiso (120g / 220g) (no crispy top, the flesh was eerily mushy and the sauce zig zagged on top added nothing)

shabu shabu of bison filet   (three pieces of succulent tender meat, delicious, the accompanying sauce is on the sweet side)

steamed rice  (shameful, reminiscent of Uncle Ben’s boil in a bag)

a chocolate dessert (fine)

a hibiscus flower dessert (very pretty, very small, very average)

Apparently Tim Raue has left to open his own place so that may have contributed to the less than stellar performance.  A kitchen without a head chef is just like an army with no general – it doesn’t work.  And who knows, maybe Tim poached the best people for his own place.  Or maybe they were just having an off day.  All those guides can’t be wrong can they?  

So I will certainly try it again.  

And if you go – don’t get suckered into ordering that Japanese pancake!

Address: Behrenstraße 72
10117 Berlin
030 1117333


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