DOS HERMANOS DO BERLIN: DAY THREE,THE EVENING EDITION
I think you will agree that we had been a picture of almost biblical absteem up to this point of our trip. Sure, a few growlingly dark beers here and a couple of glasses of addictive sekt there, but nothing to match the capacity we show on a trip to Madrid. Hell, we could probably be poster boys for Betty Ford.
Well, we had to change all that, didn’t we?
So, HP had done his obligatory research and decided that we would head the two short U-Bahn stops to Shoeneberg, another area which has left behind its roots as a district of squats for punk rockers and anarchists to become Berlin’s primary gay enclave.
Unsurprisingly, it now houses any number of restaurants and bars and proved the perfect place to spend an evening.
First, a couple of splendid cocktails in Mr Hu, a small but welcoming cocktail bar on Geltstrasse before heading to our choice for supper.
Storch (Stork, I believe) has been open over twenty years and its owner, Volker, hovers over the dining room like the most genial of dinner party hosts. Tables are communal and the food, primarily Alsatian.
As we tried our best to decipher the menu, Volker came and hunkered down and gave us a run through in English all the while watching the room in case anyone else needed his attention.
Although portions were huge, there was a real lightness of touch and we suffered none of the challenges of the night before. HP’s starter was a perfectly cooked chunk of cod on top of braised beets which easily outshone my own more workaday plate of charcuterie.
I got my own back on the main courses though. HP felt almost obliged to order the Choucroute which was as good an example as you are likely to find with excellent wurst and dense smokey pork to compliment the cabbage. This left me free to order my second stellar dish of the trip, beef cheeks braised until falling apart and served in a dark, rich reduction which showed none of the fierceness of a rush job as is so often the case. It came with some equally dark, braised shallots and some more cabbage, this time fresh mixed with a brunoise of vegetables. The whole was quite lovely and worked superbly with the bottle of Dort Pinot Noir which is Volker’s own little pet winery from whom he buys over 25% of the entire production.
Volker came to join us again before dessert and we discovered mutual past indiscretions as punk and Industrial fans in the late 70’s including an unlikely devotion for Sheffield bands of the period including Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA. Who were big in Berlin. Not surprising for a city which gave us D.A.F.
Puddings were fine if not up to the previous courses. A rice puddingy thing with pistachio ice cream and a crème bruleey thing without. Volker poured us a glass of a young gewurtztraminner to wash them down and then gave us a further run down of his chequered history which has included owning eight restaurants, bars and clubs in the city.
Quite a past and I am sure we only just scratched the surface even though we talked all the way through our tea, coffee and Quetch.
The bill came to less than EU100 for all of that which is excellent value for cooking that, if it were to appear in London, would have the critics tripping all over themselves to hurl compliments at it. Well worth a visit.
Back to the hotel and ready for an uneventful journey back home the next day.
So that was Berlin. My first visit to this city found me taking my time to warm up both literally and to its charms. There is no way that it can be described as a pretty city but then no city which has undergone so much in such a short amount of recent history is ever likely to win any “City in Bloom” awards. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, architecturally, it is a downright ugly city destroyed, divided and rebuilt with scant thought for the charms of its former incarnation.
Berliners too, despite their friendliness and politeness still seem to be struggling with their past. The plethora of memorials which serve as acts of atonement for their cruelty to others and to themselves seem to be ill received , in some cases, ill judged and in many cases, just ignored.
Despite that. I did find myself beginning to get the rhythm of the place, typically just as we had to leave. I am, however, certain I shall return. I mean, apart from anything else, I never did get back to have me some more of that schitzel.