Top Eats in Berlin

  • The California Breakfast Slam (CabSlam, U-Bahn Rathaus Neukolln)

One of the things I’ve learnt about myself during my year of living dangerously is that I love brunch. I love pancakes, I love waffles, I love eggs, and I love eating breakfast food at lunch time. Berlin is big on lazy weekends spent eating a late breakfast and strolling idley around the city, and it’s a part of the lifestyle I’ve wasted no time getting used to. CabSlam is a bit of an American import, at the name may suggest. Originally a pop-up brunch spot they have now put down permanent roots and are working on expanding their weekend breakfast menu into a seven day breakfast, lunch and dinner extravaganza. The portions are huge and the food is amazing, but what’s more is that the staff are some of the loveliest I’ve ever met.


  • Shisho Burger (U-Bahn Rosenthaler Platz)

Up until January I was a herbivore of six years, and finding good vegetarian fair in Leeds and Sheffield was always pretty difficult. Luckily Berlin is way ahead of the game, and the best vegetarian burger I’ve had was in Shisho Burger, a Japanese joint in Mitte. There’s only one veggie option on the menu, but it’s a divine creation with perfectly prepared tofu and grilled eggplant. Teamed with fresh edemame and amazing homecooked fries, Shisho is so far more favourite burger spot in Berlin. But as I’m yet to eat my first beef burger, maybe I’ll report back on my new findings in a few months’ time…


  • Musashi (U-Bahn Schonleinstr)

I discovered in my second year of university that I really like sushi, but I’m a bit of a wimp and tend to limit myself to the vegetarian selections on offer. Mushashi has some of the best sushi going, and I have it on good authority the stuff with actual fish in is pretty delicious too. Most importantly for a penniless student, it’s super cheap. Ten euros will buy you a miniature feast. The Inside-Out Maki with Philadelphia and Avacado is heavenly and the vegetable tempura is a behemoth; I’ve had it twice and both times been defeated.

Sadly I don’t have any photos of their food…because I tend to just devour it as soon as it arrives. Oops.

  • Princess Cheesecake (S-Bahn Oranienburgerstr)

This is one of Berlin’s worst-kept secrets, but when the cheesecake’s this good, everyone should be shouting it from the rooftops. Tucked away between the art galleries that occupy so many of the buildings near Oranienburgerstrasse is this gorgeous little café, packed with some of the finest cheesecake in the city (and I’ve sampled a lot). The prices for takeaway and eat-in are the same, so if you have a little time you might like to get comfy and enjoy some people watching. If not, take a slice home to enjoy later in the comfort of your own home. Equally delicious. There are regularly new offerings to try based on the season, though my personal favourite is the New York Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche.


  • Lemon Leaf (U-Bahn Samariterstr)

Another thing I’ve discovered about Berlin is how much they love fusion cuisine. Lemon Leaf is an ‘Indochine’ restaurant that serves some of the most amazing dishes I’ve had yet in Berlin as well as amazing cocktails. It’s not too pricey either; 15 euros will get you a starter, a main and a drink or two. But my favourite thing on the menu are the pumpkin fried dumplings. They. Are. Fantastic.



Ladies Who Brunch

Winter in Berlin arrived not with a bang but a whimper. From the balmy January temperatures of five degrees to minus twelve in the space of a week, finally my snow boots got an outing and I got used to resembling Bambi in his first tentative steps on the ice. Having fallen down all the steps at one S-Bahn station already (Thanks a lot, Hackesher Markt) I was taking no chances. Dressed like an Arctic explorer prepared for the harshest of winters, I was greeted on my first icy voyage to university by a sea of Germans dressed in stylish ankle boots and beautiful Fjallraven jackets. I looked like an idiot, albeit a very cosy one. Germany: 1, Hannah: 0.


The view from my window…

However, my experiences of the Berlin winter thus far cannot detract from the utter revelation that is the German institution of brunch. Brunch isn’t just the meal you have to make a hangover seem less disgraceful; it’s a work of art. Admittedly, my favourite brunch spots in Berlin so far are respectively American and Australian, but I don’t think that takes away from the fact that brunch in Berlin is one of the greatest things a student can experience. Where else is it acceptable to order a beer with your meal at eleven in the morning? Cheery waitresses, prices that mean it’d be rude not to order seconds, and an overall ambience that invites the weak and weary, Berlin on a Sunday is made for eating.

2 (1) Brunch at the California Breakfast Slam

Aside from the chill of winter and warmth of brunch, my January has involved a haze of panic about impending final essay deadlines, a bewildered ponderence of what on earth I’m going to do with the eight weeks I have off university between first and second semester, and several moments of despair when I thought I’d lost one of my gloves. Luckily two of my Thursdays have been spent at the Gortlizer Bahnof ‘Street Food Thursday’, which is essentially a large market hall full of independent vendors selling artisan versions of global street cuisine. My only complaint is that the ‘Fish and Chips’ stall was actually a bread and fish stall. I did feel in some way England was been doing a disservice, but one ice cream sandwich and the best Philly cheesecake I’ve ever had later, and it seemed rude to argue about the way they do things in Berlin.

3 (1)5 Elephant’s sublime Philly Cheesecake

Club nights have turned into house parties, trading 10 Euro entrance fees for standing in the kitchen sipping German beer and trying to sound like a native rather than the foreigner everyone instinctively knows I am. It’s hard to not miss home in the midst of winter, and whilst absence makes the heart grow fonder, Skype lets you know what you’re missing. Even the English café I visited last week was a pale imitation of all that puts the ‘great’ in Great Britain, not least because they served generic brown sauce instead of the Holy Grail of HP.

With two weeks left of my first term abroad my paranoia about ‘not doing enough’ with my year abroad appears to have hit critical mass, and two internship applications, one awkward German phone interview and several existential crises later, I’ve settled for a ‘To-Do’ list that mainly involves an abundance of museum and gallery visits, checking out more German cinema, and learning to say something other than ‘Do you offer student discount?’ in the native language. Any plans for a modern day Grand Tour may be dashed by money woes, so the two months off between first and second semester will likely be spent in Berlin, watching Parks and Recreation obsessively, patiently waiting for the temperature outside to crawl back above zero.


The Fairest of the Seasons

Some things remain comfortingly consistent on the continent: the presence of pumpkin spice lattes in Starbucks the second leaves start falling off trees, the pointless academic bureaucracy whilst trying to complete the seemingly simple task of enrolling for modules at university, and the fact it is indeed possible to purchase the Cadbury’s chocolate bar that comes with generic smarties, jelly beans and popping candy, albeit rebranded as Milka and available in bars twice the size. Autumn is upon us, and the semester has at last begun.


Home for the next academic year!

Two weeks into classes I’m discovering that German academics seem far more laid back than their British counterparts. There’s no real requirement to buy texts, much less any specific edition, and almost all of my secondary reading is available on Blackboard saving students hunting through journals every night just to find one article. That being said, Blackboard is a minefield of frustration worthy of rivalling Leeds’ module enrolment.

Whilst the reading for an English and History student (or, American Studies and Englisch Philologie whilst I’m here) is comparable if not more to Leeds, assessment is based entirely on class participation, presentations, and the completion of a final essay ranging anywhere from 3000 to 7000 words. There doesn’t seem to be much method in the way this is decided; I take a BA class worth 5 ECTS credits (a must for ERASMUS students) for which I have to write a 7000 word paper, and an MA class worth 8 which I only have to write 4000 for. Still, I can’t complain, since I do have until March to actually write them. Seminar sizes are often far bigger than Leeds, with anywhere from fifteen to forty being regarded as absolutely normal. Having said that, last week sixty eager students turned up to my ‘Representations of Britishness’ class and I thought the tutor was about to have an anxiety attack when he walked into the room. After five months away from academia, it’s a struggle to turn my brain back into critical analysis mode, but so far, so gut.


And actual home…

Still the subject matter is proving interesting. My classes include ‘The Dark Side of the Screen: Portrayals of Dracula and Frankenstein in Film’ and ‘Cultural Narratives of the 1980s’ whilst friends of mine are studying ‘The Spy Novels of Joseph Conrad’ and ‘What Was the Beat Generation?’ The scope is far narrower, which is great if you find a class centred on a topic you’re particularly interested in, and provides a refreshing change to the catch-all studies of first and second year in Leeds.

Highlights of the past month include a sterling game of 3D UV Mini-Golf (which we had to book a week in advance due to demand), hanging around a technically illegal cellar bar, and discovering a fantastic sushi place ten minutes’ walk from my front door. I’m still experiencing a love/hate relationship with Berlin’s pounding techno and house music, but the fact clubs stay open pretty much all weekend is a novelty. Last Friday night out finished at 9am Saturday and culminated in much-needed Eggs Florentine and fresh orange juice at an Australian breakfast joint. Much more civilised than the standard post-club falafel; not to say that hasn’t happened more times than I’m proud to admit…


The very definition of crazy golf

I’m also -in efforts to improve my German- now working in the John F. Kennedy Institute’s ‘Cafeté’ for two hours a week, which consists of making coffee, checking no one’s stealing the float- it’s an honour based payment system- and providing the café’s playlist. So far every customer has spoken to me in perfect English, leading me to suspect my nationality is so visible I might as well be wearing a Pearly Queen’s getup whilst I’m wandering around campus. Nevertheless I’m holding out hope I can assimilate myself and by the end of the year convince everyone I’m a native with impeccable German skills, and not, to quote Sting, an illegal alien.

The weather is comparable to England in October, a mixture of mist, rain, cold and occasional sunshine peeking through the clouds, though I did take the plunge and buy my snow boots and winter coat this week. The looming threat of a German winter is something that’s always at the back of my mind, though the temptation every morning to stay in bed huddled with my kittens (Walter and Jesse, two more strangers in a foreign land) and watching Futurama on Netflix is already present. Yet living in a foreign country has made me entirely more productive than I was at home. Perhaps it’s the sense I get that I’m always missing out on something when I’m staying in; after all Berlin waits for no man. Or woman. I’ve discovered that enough times at the pedestrian crossings here to attest to its accuracy.


Best post-club meal ever