From Michelin-starred restaurants to cheap street food in Berlin
Long considered something of a culinary backwater, Berlin now has the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany. The city, whose famed contributions to cuisine were limited to Currywurst and the döner kebab, now boasts one of the world’s most interesting, diverse and quality food scenes. The choice of restaurants in Berlin is greater than ever before, and we’re here to give you a brief overview of the city’s culinary offerings.
Fine dining is perhaps the area which has seen the greatest growth, and the most innovation, of all food in Berlin. Restaurant Tim Raue, which is the proud possessor of two Michelin stars and is considered one of the 50 top restaurants in the world, serves Asian-inspired cuisine that its creator characterises as “a blend of Japanese product perfection, Thai aromas, and Chinese culinary philosophy”. Horváth, another two-Michelin-starred establishment, sees its chef Sebastian Frank taking full advantage of the weekly market directly opposite his restaurant in Kreuzberg, and serving creative twists on Austrian regional cuisine, such as his famous “Trout and chocolate”. Andres Rieger, chef at einsunternull and one of the shining stars of the modern Berlin food scene, favours a concept based on locality, cultivating and preserving many of his own ingredients. The variety, and ingenuity, of these restaurants is perhaps matched only by their prices…
However, if you’re dining on a tighter budget, don’t worry: you won’t miss out on anything. The city has a huge range of cheaper options, and you can find some of the best food in Berlin for just a few euros. Obviously, the city in which the döner kebab was (allegedly) invented has more than a few offerings, and competition is fierce. Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab is rightly famous as one of Berlin’s best, though the often hour-long queue can be enough to put you off visiting. If you’d rather not wait, Aldimashqi offers a shawarma which is as close to a transcendental experience as one is likely to get. In fact, Neukölln’s Sonnenallee is the destination of choice for anyone craving a culinary journey through the Middle East, with honourable mentions going to Al Andalos, Akroum Snack, and in particular Konditorei Damaskus for some of the best baklava in the city.
All things Asian
Though the German palate may tend towards milder and less ostentatious flavours, Berlin has fully embraced the diversity and spice of cuisine from all over Asia. East Berlin’s Communist heritage led a large number of Vietnamese to set up in Lichtenberg in the north-east of the city, and the Dong Xuan Center is the heart of their community. This is the place to come for true Vietnamese food. On the other side of the city, in a small, nondescript park in Wilmersdorf, Berlin’s Thai community gathers on weekends to cook, eat and hang out. What began as a small gathering has grown into one of Berlin’s most popular and exciting impromptu street food fairs. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little fancier, 893 Ryōtei offers a twist on ‘Nikkei’ cuisine – the Japanese-Peruvian fusion food pioneered by Nobu – giving you perhaps the best sushi in the city along the way.
Much though it may like to believe itself immune to trends, Berlin has found itself swept along by particular passions in recent years. The vogue for street food developed into two parallel, serious obsessions – burgers, and Neapolitan pizza. From true hole-in-the-wall places like the somewhat ironically named Berlin Burger International, through homegrown institutions like Burgermeister (housed in an old public toilet underneath a rail bridge), to Asian-inspired contenders such as Shiso, there is a burger to suit every taste (and price-range). The Neapolitan pizza craze developed from Berliners’ love of authenticity, and has seen giant brick pizza ovens being shipped from Naples and installed all over the city. Each restaurant emphasises a combination of authentic imported and locally-sourced ingredients, and the top rivals for Berlin’s pizza crown – places like Standard, W, and Gazzo – each have their own twist or signature dish.
Sundays are for brunch
No conversation about food in Berlin would be complete without discussing one of the most important culinary and cultural institutions – brunch. A combination of heavy Saturday-night partying and most shops and supermarkets being closed on Sunday has led to an almost religious reverence towards brunch. Though you can’t walk down a street without finding a buffet filled with limp ham, tasteless cheese and hard-boiled eggs, the top brunch places take the breakfast experience to new heights. Legendary spots like Anna Blume (come for the cakes, leave with a bouquet of flowers) or Geist im Glas (the fluffiest pancakes this side of the Atlantic) vie with more unusual offerings such as House of Small Wonder (whose wasabi-hollandaise sauce alone is worth a visit). And if you’re really in need of something to soak up the previous night’s alcohol, Das Gift’s full Scottish breakfast, with haggis, bacon, square sausage, tattie scones, etc., should soon have you feeling human again.
A tasting menu
Obviously, this is just the tip of Berlin’s food scene. The sheer quantity of restaurants in Berlin means that there is something for everyone. Our advice is simply to go out there and be open to trying anything and everything that you come across. You just might find your next favourite dish.