Friday, 26 October 2012

Hello Kreuzberg

North Eat Eats went to North and East Berlin over the weekend - except compass directions don't mean too much in Berlin these days. It's all in the name of the 'hood, and the sub 'hood or kiez - a particularly effective German word to describe a micro level neighbourhood centred around shops, bars, cafes and restaurants.

I used to live in Berlin, and I go back to visit my friends there whenever I can. It's such a dynamic city, always changing, always building. I studied at the Humboldt university, researching my dissertation on East German political identity after the fall of the wall. At the time Ostalgie was big - a nostalgia for East Germany, as it was. Goodbye Lenin had recently been on the screens, and many bars and restaurants were decked out in a kind of Soviet kitsch.

But always changing, Berlin's bar and restaurant scene is coming into its own. I'm going to do a short series of posts covering the exciting offerings in the different nabes.

Kreuzberg is one of my favourite districts - it's where my wonderful friend Elizabeth lives, which is where I stay in her apartment in an old jam factory with her excitable white alsatian, Pip. It's the Turkish heart of Berlin, and was an enclave of rebellion in the former West Berlin. It's still scruffy and rebellious, but it's increasingly home to some great restaurants and bars.

We visited Daniel Brühl (yes, he of Goodbye Lenin fame!)'s tapas bar, Bar Raval,  just opposite Kreuzber's Görlitzer Park. It's a big, open, informal affair, all high ceilings and open kitchens. We were there with another old friend, and a friend of Elizabeth's who runs Feast down the road in Neukölln - all proper foodies. 

The food was definitely a cut above. We had some very high quality classics - chorizo in cider, tortilla, jamon, manchego, padron peppers. 

 Some of the more interesting stuff including a spiced lamb tartare on bread with pear and caremalised onion - exquisitely combined, lightly battered aubergine stacks with honey, avocado and tomato tower, chicken and ham croquettes - the chicken was brown meat, oozing flavour, almost pungent.

We had so much food, cava, coffees and desserts, and the damage was 25Euro a head before tips. The service started off a little cool - at one point the waitress poked a bit of fun at me for taking photos of the dishes - I explained I keep a food blog. Suddenly the service defrosted, explanations were given (busy day yesterday) and free shots brought over. Ha! Don't let that put you off - Berlin isn't known for its service, but the tapas here is EXCELLENT. Reservations pretty much necessary on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mexican Food is getting big in Berlin - and there's a number of nice little taqueiras opening, crowding out the touristy tex mex. Last time I was in Berlin I went to Santa Maria (utterly excellent, also in Kreuzberg). This time we checked out Ta Cabron on Skalitzerstr.

The margaritas were excellent, as was the guacamole.

We both ordered the chocolatey chicken mole in a burrito. The chicken mole itself was delicious, but the burrito itself was not so well composed - it was more of a wrap, sour creme and salad served separately, and the other fillings lacked panache - not enough coriander, black beans, tasty salsa.

A top recommendation for drinking in Kreuzberg is the John Muir cocktail bar on Skalitzerstr. We went for a couple after dinner one night (cocktails are a big deal in Berlin), and wow - these were some of the most interesting cocktails I've ever had. John Muir has a monthly changing menu, changing with the seasons.

I had a Narcissist - gin, lime, creme de violet and ginger beer - it was fragrant, sweet and out of this world in a Willy Wonka kinda way. My other call was the Number of the Beast, priced 6.66, which had crushed blackberries and a bitter slice of liquorice, leaking into the cocktail like engine oil.

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