One of the things I come to Berlin for is to eat. And even a rousing bout of jetlag cannot stop me ... I’ve been three days in town, and we’ve eaten out three times. I’m not talking Michelin star eating (which I’ve rather gone off anyhow), I’m talking delicious little meals in fun places … and on this occasion little meals for a digestive system havocked by a 36-hour air journey.
I’m living in a different area for these first few weeks. The Hochstrasse, in Wedding, just down the road from that magnificent mall, the Gesundbrünnen Centre. That I do know. I buy my clothes (H&M), my espadrilles (Nanu Nana) and my keyrings (Minuteman) there, and I needed all three. Plus groceries. And … ‘Gesundy’ also harbours one of my favourite light lunch places: Coco’s Thai resturant. A perfect place to assuage a small appetite and a dicky tummy.
While Paul hoed into a full scale plate of sparklingly fresh and lightly cooked veggies, I took refuge in one of their little bowls of chicken soup with mini-mushrooms, veg and noodles. It was so good, that I was tempted to order a second. But discretion rules. Our lunch – with two glasses of the best cold, lightly bubbling water in town (I suspect they have a spring under the floor) – cost us 10 euros all in.
Sunday, I wrote two articles on C19th Leeds vocalists and, as evening approached, decided on another outing. We headed back to ‘Gesundy’ (closed for Easter) and a snack at the nearby Irish pub. No go. The Castle has dropped serving fish and chips. Funny place. Gloomy, shabby … well, I guess that fits with the surrounding streets which are an unkempt mess, full of rubbish. But The Castle had … Guinness on tap! To a New Zealander, doomed to Guinness in a can (ugh), that was heaven. So we paused and supped in the leprechaun’s cave … and we will return!
So? Dinner? As a resident, Paul knows the ropes. And he also knows what I like. He led me down a shabby street to one of those tinselled little Asian places that look as if they are for Asians only. Shalimar is, apparently, Pakistani. Tiny, cheerful, busy, lightning service … I can never remember the names of these Asian dishes, but anyway we shared a plate of those cheesy things in chickpea batter and then a spinach-based platter with rice … it was as light and spicy and delicious as could be, and I was not surprised to see the room filling with local Asiatics. Another winner. Price 20 euros for two.
Today was different. Today very good ‘penfriend’ Agnes was in town. Agnes is my favourite contralto (big, beefy bottom register), and she was in town for a performance at the Komische Oper that night before hightailing it back to Covent Garden at daybreak. Finally, we are in the same city at the same time? Lunch together was imperative. My pal Jens recommended a couple of Charlottenburg lunch spots, and we headed that way. Easter Monday. They were closed. But both Paul and I have a good nose for a restaurant, and we settled on ‘Paris’, a few metres away. A good fairy must have been watching over us.
As soon as we crossed the threshhold (welcome mat in French) and I saw the French bistro-style interior, my heart leaped up.
And it was right. ‘Paris’ is a gem. Wonderful service, a splendid menu … Paul and I jumped for the carrot and ginger soup. I know, we can all make carrot and ginger soup; but this was velvety and decidedly superior. Agnes had a first-class pepper steak and salad (well, she had a show to do! strength needed), Paul – who prefers veg – asked for spinach and broccoli and got the most lovely looking plate of perfectly cooked greens, and I? Ohhhh. I had a real boudin noir. Memories of my days on the Côte d’azur and the back streets of Nice. And it was cooked just as it should be, with its little nest of apple. Bliss! If they do a niçoise soupe de poisson and real, proper tripes … they’ll never get rid of me.
Well, it may be a touch of nostagie du temps passée, but ‘Paris’ today was the 10 out 10 place for me. Oh, price, with an excellent Bordeaux ... 108 euros for three.
I think I had better have tomorrow off. Roast cauli at Paul’s place, maybe. But all I can say is, culinary Berlin, in all its forms, has got off to a bonzer start this year. And we haven’t even been to the Katz Orange yet!
RIP, boudin noir. Sorry I forgot to photograph you before I devoured you but you were just too tasty.