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.

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  • 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…

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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Where The Wild Things Aren’t

Some say April is the cruellest month. They’re wrong; it’s actually February. Aside from the fact I always forget it’s two to three days shorter than every other month and thus my rent/essays are due sooner than I realised, it comes with the added bonus of Valentine’s Day (for a chronically single woman all the PDA is just mockery) and all in all feels like a poxy waste of time between winter ending and spring beginning. Luckily for me, Berlin seems to have completely forgotten there are four seasons. Apparently this is the warmest winter in a long time, and the two weeks in January of -12 and inches of snow seem like a distant memory. Now there’s beautiful blue skies and Saturday morning strolls along the canal to occupy the time, which of course, for a serial procrastinator, means I’ve constantly got an excuse to be doing something other than the four essays I have due in March.

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The glorious Princess Cheesecake

After surviving what feels like the longest semester in the world, I’m in need of a holiday. Unfortunately- due to lack of funds and the fact no one is really clamouring to hire a British girl who speaks appalling German- I’m stuck in Berlin for two and a half months until the next term begins. Of course, complaining about being ‘stuck’ in one of the coolest cities in the world is incredibly self-indulgent. It could be worse. I could be stuck in Sheffield. But watching most of my friends journeying off around Europe or flying home for a few weeks has led me into a pretty melancholy existence. Last week all I managed to achieve was going to cinema on my own three nights in a row and eat a lot of cheesecake in an attempt to console myself. It sort of worked.

I took myself to Berlin’s Tierpark on one sunny (albeit chilly) Monday afternoon. It’s part of the Berlin zoo network, for which I have an annual pass because I really like going to the zoo. It’s my literal happy place. I can spend hours wandering around, and although Berlin’s Hauptzoo isn’t much to marvel at, Tierpark is a glorious place based in the outskirts of the city centre. The sprawling grounds encapsulate several beautiful stately homes, woodland, and my favourite thing of all- a walk-through lemur exhibit home to two very friendly lemurs. For a capital city Berlin isn’t exactly short on green spaces, but Tierpark is definitely one of my favourites.

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Tiergarten on a winter afternoon

On the subject of Berlin institutions, it’s been impossible to miss the 63rd Berlinale Film Festival which took place at the beginning of February. This is understandably a big deal in Berlin which sees Hollywood A-Listers and movie business insiders from across the globe descend on the city for two frantic weeks. I myself spent six days trying to secure tickets for various films, and in the end managed to see five films, though I decided against any celeb spotting due to my intense dislike for crowds. I got to see some really great films that I probably would have never heard of without Berlinale, and visit some absolutely stunning venues which were transformed into cinemas for the fortnight.

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A rubbish photo of the Berlinale’s main cinema.

There’s little else noteworthy to mention about this month. Once again I am overwhelmed by the prospect of essay deadlines, a bit weepy over the prospect of my friends who are leaving Berlin at the end of March, and beginning to worry about how on earth I’ll find a flat in Leeds for next year willing to allow pets. On the plus side, I finally got to try the much-hyped Cronut, so it’s not all bad. In fact, the Cronut is a huge plus.

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God bless the cronut.

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.

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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.

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