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Once a culinary wasteland best-known for its drab, utilitarian fare, Berlin now boasts a thriving foodie scene and chef-driven eateries.
While European capitals such as Paris and Rome have always been gastronomic powerhouses, Berlin has never enjoyed quite the same prominence among global gourmands. In the years following reunification, its bland cuisine was often maligned by neighbouring nations or even other German cities. In recent years, however, that has started to change as a result of rising affluence and a more global outlook. Chefs inspired by the city’s free-spirited ethos continue to push boundaries by opening new, more ambitious restaurants. Here’s where to tap into the culinary zeitgeist.
Nobelhart & Schmutzig
Arguably one of the most ambitious restaurants in the city, this Michelin one-star eschews any ingredients not grown within a 250-kilometre radius of Berlin. Chef Micha Schäfer’s dedication to the idea borders on fanatical, to the extent that the kitchen refuses to use black pepper, olive oil, lemons or other common imports. While that might strike some as excessive, such restrictions often result in strikingly inventive dishes. Diners who are lucky enough to score one of the coveted reservations are treated to a succession of 10 courses from a seasonal tasting menu over the course of roughly four hours.
Herz & Niere
Tucked away on a tiny street in Kreuzberg, this rustic eatery takes nose-to-tail dining to the next level. It’s clearly a labour of love for chef Christoph Hauser, formerly of the Michelin-starred Weinbar Rutz, and manager Michael Köhle. The pair grow most of their own produce, and make their own vinegar, juice, bread, charcuterie and pickles. As the name, which translates to “heart and kidney” implies, the kitchen has a penchant for transforming offal into shockingly refined dishes. What few people realise, however, is that the restaurant is an excellent place for vegetarians. The meatless tasting menus highlighting organic, local produce are some of the most inspired in town.
A swank lounge-style eatery with leather upholstered sofas and dim lighting in Mitte, Pantry manifests the old saying “think global, act local.” Chefs source much of the menu’s stellar meat and produce from small farms within a 100-kilometre radius. Rather than confining themselves to regional recipes, though, the team draws inspiration from much farther afield. As a result, Japanese-inflected offerings such as yakitori chicken skewers and wild salmon tataki might share table space with a burger made from Canadian bison or Iberian pork served with blistered pimientos de padrón.
Restaurateur Ludwig Cramer-Klett has long been known as the visionary behind some of Berlin’s boldest eateries and culinary projects. His first venture, the now legendary Katz Orange, practically introduced the concept of farm-to-table dining in the city, while his deli, Candy on Bone is jam-packed with organic goodness. Panama, located in an area increasingly peppered with art galleries, is perhaps his least conventional yet. Chef Sophia Rudolph serves up a constantly rotating menu of inventive small plates like black pudding with quince and tarragon, and butterfish ceviche with coconut milk and Brussels sprouts.