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Magic Meals

Magic meals happen when everything comes together perfectly – the food, the vibes and the company. In Berlin you can easily find cafés and restaurants where the first two ingredients are in the mix and a meal can turn into a magical experience. Here are a few suggestions for breakfast, lunch and dinner where the food is fabulous and the surroundings are memorable. All you have to do is to provide the good company.

The Prenzlauer Berg vibe at Anna Blume‘s

Berlin breakfasts are legendary, especially at weekends. And they can go on for hours. I love Café Anna Blume, named after a love poem and with floral flair, the signature breakfast arrives on a tiered stand and other combinations have names like Anemone and Cornflower. In summer the tables, spill out on to the cobbled pavement or in winter you can retreat to the alcove with the velvet sofa. Anna Blume is the beating heart of the Kollwitzstrasse neighbourhood in pretty Prenzlauer Berg.

Anna Blume’s magic breakfast

A more recent discovery for breakfast is Café Benjamine just off the Heerstrasse in Charlottenburg. This peaceful oasis is set in the grounds of the Georg Kolbe Museum and owes its name to Kolbe’s beloved wife. Here you can feast on the most perfect scrambled eggs and colourful plates of cheese, ham, fruit and dips. In good weather tables are set outside under the trees and the terrace affords a lovely view of Kolbe’s dancer fountain. The menu includes homemade cakes and fine wines. Perhaps best to leave these until after a tour of the museum.

Breakfast at Café Benjamine

A little closer to the centre of West Berlin, I can recommend Nicki’s Mommsen near Savignyplatz for breakfast, lunch or light supper. The service is friendly and the food is carefully curated and tasty. Try the truffle Flammkuchen at any time of day – it is exceedingly good. The last few times I have been to Nicki’s it has been warm enough to sit outside, but the interior is inviting too. The walls are lined with books and wine and a beautiful antique chandelier and candelabra cast light on to the tables creating a magical atmosphere. Very Berlin.

Nicki’s magical interior

Moving on to lunchtime, many Berlin restaurants offer a set lunch menu that changes each day of the week. They are terrific value but can’t always be given the accolade of a magic meal as service can be brisk. An exception to this is Oxymoron in the first Art Nouveau courtyard of the Hackesche Höfe. I have enjoyed several memoral midday meals at this elegant 1920s-style lounge bar and restaurant where there is an extensive lunch menu as well as a business lunch option from 12 noon until 4pm. Here you are in the heart of Germany’s largest courtyard complex, buzzing with culture and history.  In the evenings Oxymoron is equally magical and the elegant interior has excellent ventilation as it is housed in a former DJ club.

Oxymoron’s prime position in the Hackesche Höfe

For something quieter and more spiritual, try Ichi (‘one’) at 60, Straßburger Strasse, near Soho House. Located in a cellar, it is a gem of a space which transports you into Japan as soon as you take off your shoes at the entrance. The intimate lighting, arched brick ceilings and ikebana-like floral arrangements in every corner and recess make for a unique setting. You dine at a long, tatami-style table and the delectable 28 euro set lunch features miso-braised mackerel, chicken nanban (fried thigh meat drizzled with vinegar and tartar sauce), oba, tempura, soup, soy-sauce-marinated vegetables, rice, and a selection of sashimi including Croatian black tuna toro. For a few more euros you can add sake served from a crystal teapot. I was at Ichi last October with friends as a birthday treat and the combination of divine dishes, the unique setting and the impeccable hospitality of the owners made this a magical experience.  

Ichi’s gourmet lunch in a magical Berlin basement setting

My go-to summer lunch restaurant in Berlin will always be the Ganymed on Schiffbauerdamm. Situated next to the Berliner Ensemble Theatre, it enjoys a wonderful view of the River Spree opposite Friedrichstrasse Station. I have described the Ganymed’s fascinating history in previous blogs, ‘A Berlin Blast’ and ‘Summer by the Spree’ and in July I enjoyed yet another magic meal there with friends who were on their first visit to Berlin. We all agreed that our lunch on the terrace was quite special. The service was impeccable and included a history lesson from the waiter.  The meal was delicious too – the fresh Zanderfilet from the waters of the river Havel in Berlin and the grilled octopus were both prepared and presented to perfection. Everything came together in this French-style brasserie with a Berlin vibe.   

Relaxing by the Spree at the Ganymed

Now for magic dinners. So hard to choose – but here are two iconic city centre restaurants each with its own special Berlin story. Neither of them comes cheap, but the combination of great food and a unique venue is worth the price. You only need to add the good company. In March, I tried the culinary delights of the legendary Paris-Moskau restaurant for the first time. This half-timbered building dating back to 1897 is a true Berlin icon. Originally used as a beer tavern with rooms, it was virtually the only building in the area to have survived the Battle for the Reichstag undamaged. When the Berlin Wall went up in 1961, it stood isolated on the wasteland of West Berlin, close to the border but continued to operate as a modest pub until 1975. The current owner bought the building in 1987 and reopened it as the Paris-Moskau after the railway line of the same name, as well as the political divide between West and East. When the Wall came down in 1989, the building became gradually integrated into the centre of reunited Berlin, marking the entrance of the new government district behind the main railway station.

The Paris-Moskau in pre-war days – available as a postcard

Having been told about the wonderful Paris-Moskau and how it is a popular choice among celebrities from culture, politics and business, I was a little anxious that the evening might prove over-pretentious. But it was quite the opposite. The welcome was warm and helpful with good advice on what to order. We chose the four-course menu and opted for wine by the glass, then sat enjoying the experience of our unique surroundings. The interior still retains many original features but has been restyled with murals and ceiling painting based on Russian Constructivism. In summer, there is a pretty garden outside for al fresco dining.

The original bar area at the Paris-Moskau

In total contrast to the traditional Paris-Moskau, why not venture into Crackers, one of Berlin’s trendiest restaurants hidden behind Friedrichstrasse in the former legendary ‘Cookies Club’. You enter through an iron door into a dark alleyway and first walk past the open kitchen to be greeted by friendly chefs. The large restaurant area has black walls and no windows. Copper lamps hang down from the high ceiling above the wooden tables with yellow metal legs and cool, turquoise-coloured seating. The whole vibe is arty and edgy – a kind of 21st Century version of Babylon Berlin, especially with the DJ sets playing at weekends. I first went to Crackers soon after it opened in November 2014 and it’s the perfect venue for a party evening. Well-known for its imaginative cocktail menu, the food is excellent too, with the accent on high-quality organic meat and fish The restaurant’s owner, nicknamed ‘Cookie’, is also famous for his vegetarian restaurant ‘Cookies Cream’ just around the corner.  

Arty and trendy Crackers

A magic dinner doesn’t have to be a pricey affair though. Just next to the Deutsche Oper in Krumme Strasse, you will find the unassuming Ristorante Verbano, a small family business where I have enjoyed many a memorable meal after the opera. The pasta and pizza choices are all delicious and the combination of the friendly owners and the simple setting, thrown in with a few Italian arias, magically turns Berlin into an eternal city.

All set for a magic dinner at Ristorante Verbano

Further details for all the restaurants featured in this blog can be found on the internet. They are all in Mitte or Charlottenburg and easily accessible on public transport. Guten Appetit!


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