The Joseph-Roth-Diele is always perfect for a weekday lunch or dinner. With its stone-tiled floor, dark wood panelling and old-fashioned furniture you would think this café bar was a pre-war Berlin haunt. But this is new nostalgia. It only opened in 2002 and is dedicated to the Jewish-Austrian journalist and author Joseph Roth, who lived in the building next door in the ‘Golden’ 1920s.There are shelves stacked with his books and the walls are decorated with photographs of Roth and quotes from his writings. Red and brown tones recreate the warmth and cosiness of a Viennese coffee-house, slowing life down to a literary pace. The word ‘Diele’ means parlour, a homely place to be among friends, have something good to eat and drink and pass the time agreeably. A perfect description.
The interior of the Joseph Roth Diele
I love this place. Locals do too, especially at midday when the set lunch is such good value. You definitely need to book a table or get there early. It’s popular in the evening too. Then the menu always features various meat dishes served with ‘Spätzle’, delicious egg noodles from South Germany. My favourite is the ‘Rinderroulade’, rolled beef in red wine sauce or the ‘Schweinebraten’, roast pork. The Schnitzels are fine too, or you can just settle for ‘Spätzle’ with cheese sauce. Plenty of other light meals are on offer as well; ‘Stullen’ are open sandwiches and ‘Flammkuchen’ are a thin type of pizza with various toppings. It’s all amazing value, just like the beer and wine. The service is friendly and in the evenings there is often live music, either at the grand piano or by strolling bands.
The strolling band just leaving
The Joseph Roth Diele is on Potsdamer Strasse – or ‘Potse’ as the Berliners call it. Before the Wall came down, it was a pretty dead end part of West Berlin. Now, this main road leads directly to Potsdamer Platz and on to the city centre and it’s making a come-back. The side streets have courtyards with galleries and workshops and new shops and restaurants are opening all the time. But its 1920s reputation as a more dubious quarter of the city is returning too. Later in the evening, prostitutes stand by the roadside outside the Wintergarten Theatre across the road from the Joseph Roth Diele trying to attract passing traffic.
A warm place for a winter lunch
Joseph Roth would probably feel at home again in this shabby chic, poor but sexy Berlin. To learn more about his love-hate relationship with the pre-war capital and the English translations of his works it is really worth reading Nadine Gordimer’s wonderful article in ‘The Threepenny Review’ (2003).
“That was how things were back then. Anything that grew took its time growing, and anything that perished took a long time to be forgotten. But everything that had once existed left its traces, and people lived on memories just as they now live on the ability to forget quickly and emphatically.”
― Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March
Joseph Roth Diele
Monday to Friday 10am to midnight
Closed Saturday and Sunday
Potsdamer Strasse 75 | 10785 Berlin
Tel.: 030 26369884