Max Strummer

Du riechst so gut: A Taste of Berlin

Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Germany’s bustling capital. With its fascinating history and rich arts scene, Berlin and its varied neighborhoods allow keen foodies to uncover all sorts of hidden gems.

Like our own London, Berlin has become a melting pot of different cultures – so a vast array of cuisines from across the globe have a strong presence in this sprawling metropolis. I got stuck right in but, of course, was keen to also sample some traditional German delicacies.

street food berlin

Max und moritz      Miss Saigon

Restaurant Bastard      Burgermeister

Badeschiff

Max und Moritz

This charming eatery is located on Oranienstraße – which is a long street featuring loads of cafes, restaurants and bars in the trendy district of Kreuzberg. Despite the sheer volume of places to eat here, Max Und Moritz stands out as a proudly and traditionally German dining venue – the restaurant’s name in fact is taken from a 19th century German story by Wilhelm Busch. The decor is simple but elegant and the menu lists a variety of traditional treats including Berliner Eisbein – pickled pork foot – and Bollenfleisch – a lamb stew. It gets very busy and we were lucky as walk-ins to get a table at all – even though it was past 10pm when we arrived.

German beer is cherished around the globe, so we ordered a couple of glasses of Berliner Weissbier, a refreshing and not too gassy lager, which really hit the spot on a warm summer’s night. We only had a main course, and I had a massive hankering for some schnitzel – which actually originates from Veinna, Austria – but is done incredibly well by the Germans.

My dining companion and I both ordered the size ‘small’ and I’m very glad I did because it was enormous – I dread to think what sort of a beast the larger size is! It came with roasted potatoes and a very pleasant side salad that comprised of leaves, red and white cabbage, beetroot, tomatoes and a lovely dressing.

Prices were extremely reasonable, with our Wiener Schnitzel’s coming in at €13 each. If you come to Berlin and want a range of traditional dishes to choose from, Max Und Moritz is the perfect place.

Miss Saigon

As I previously touched upon, Berlin’s population boosts a rich variety of ethnicities and cultures – which means extremely good-quality and authentic food from any corner of the world can be found here. We had read in The Guardian about Miss Saigon – a family-run Vietnamese restaurant, once again in Kreuzberg. You could easily walk past it and not know, as it’s tucked away on the corner of Skalitzer Str. and Manteuffelstraße, hidden by trees. Upon entry, however, the atmosphere was extremely welcoming and we were quickly seated at a vacant table.

To drink I opted for one of their cocktails – a rum-based Saigon Dream – which tasted not disimilar from a pina colada. My dining companion ordered a Vietnamese beer which – typical of many Asian lagers – was light, refreshing and served very cold.

Miss Saigon Starter

We spent ages browsing the quite extensive menu which included classics such as Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), as well as plenty of tempting dishes I had never heard of before. One thing this restaurant seems big on is surf n’ turf, and many of the starters were a combination of shrimp and chicken or pork. I finally selected the traditional paper rice rolls, filled with minced pork and shrimp and my fellow diner went for the deep fried crab and chicken rice balls. Both came thoughtfully presented on the same plate, which I thought was really nice. My rolls were delicious, especially when combined with the fiery chilli dip that came alongside it – I suppose they were probably the Vietnamese equivalent of Dim Sum. My dining companion’s rice balls were excellent – very crispy on the outside and lushciously moist and soft in the middle. The flavour of crab still came through very well despite being combined with chicken.

Before our starters arrived we were served a complimentary vegetable broth – which was really tasty and flavorsome. Plus, I love free stuff – so I thought it was a lovely touch!

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For our main course I settled on spicy pork belly, barbecued on wood and served with noodles. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, as the pork was in fact thinly sliced and served in a bowl on top of the noodles. The flavour was very unique – I can honestly say I’ve never tasted anything like it before – extremely smokey and deep with the heat from chilli sitting nicely in the background. It’s not one of those taste combinations you could eat forever – I just about managed to finish what was in my bowl – but I put that down to the fact is was so unusual and new to me. My fellow diner choose very well again and went for another surf n’ turf option – this time shrimp and chicken pancakes. These were medium-sized little packages, wrapped into a semi-circle and bursting with filling. I was surprised when I saw it wasn’t served with rice or noodles – but apparently after you ate all six on the plate there was no need for anything else as they were very filling. I managed to blag a taste and they were absolutely delicious.

We were too full for dessert, but apparently Miss Saigon is famous for its milkshakes and we saw a lot of people tucking into them as we left. All in all, this little eatery provides an authentic taste of Vietnam with good service and a warm, cozy ambience.

Restaurant Bastard

Our last morning in Berlin, and after walking up and down Oranienstraße for about half an hour looking for somewhere that served waffles, we changed our strategy and instead turned to the internet for nearby recommendations. Although the name was what first grabbed us, the reviews of Restaurant Bastard promised a lovely place for brunch that many locals visited – so off we went.

Located near Görlitze Park, the restaurant was absolutely bustling with people which is always a good sign – especially as it was away from any busy streets or attractions. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table to become free, so we were starving by the time we ordered.

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The venue itself is unapologetically shabby chic – the stars of the show here are the food, freshly made juices and excellent coffee. We had two lattes whilst we browsed the menu and they were the creamiest, loveliest things you could imagine.

Food-wise, I abandoned my want for a sweet breakfast (although pancakes were on the menu) and opted for what was called a Max Strummer – two fried eggs, bacon, cheese and salad on bread. The salad was well thought out and had all sorts in it – like baby radishes and pea shoots – rather than being an afterthought as is so often the case with other cafes. All of the different elements perfectly complemented each other when combined and the eggs were extremely runny and rich. I was very happy indeed and proceeded to finish the whole lot.

My dining partner went for a more minimalistic approach with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. I got a little taste and it was very good – the portion sizes were also decent value for money.

Burgermeister

Everyday, we crossed the bridge over from our hotel in Friedrichshain over to Kreuzberg (although I believe the whole area is being merged and rebranded Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg) and walked past a small, green hut underneath the train tracks called Burgermeister. We noticed that from around 11:30am until gone 11pm the limited seating outside would be packed and all afternoon/evening a long queue leading to the hut’s kitchen would be present.

Our final meal in Berlin had to be here, we decided, and we went at around 4:30pm to increase our chances of getting a seat.

burgermeister

Burgermeister have obviously cracked the formula to running an extremely successful eating venue. They have one thing – burgers in this case – that they do incredibly well, so they offer around 7 different varieties of burger, including a chicken and a vegetarian option. People come up to the till to order and are given a ticket with a number. When that number appears on the counter next to the kitchen they come and get their food. It’s a slick operation and the only waiting staff required is one elderly gentleman, who collects and recycles bottles from the tables. When the seating is at full-capacity, many take their food away and eat it on one of the parks and green spaces within a five minute walk of Burgermeister.

We both decided on the Hausmeista which contained burger, mushroom, bacon, cheese and the usual other burger garnishes. I had fries and my companion opted for cheesy fries, which I became quite envious of. This was not your normal cheddar but, in fact, the dirty packaged sort of cheese that is bright yellow and probably incredibly bad for you, but amazingly delicious. The burgers came packaged in very neat branded holders that kept them upright and made them easy to take to your table.

I must says the burger I had there stands out as one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The bun, which I think was brioche, wasn’t too thick and the filling was extremely generous. The meat component itself was so juicy and had a lovely charred flavour from the cooking as well. This is an absolutely perfect place to go at anytime of the day – a must-visit for any trip of Berlin.

Street Food

Berliners love their street food – the amount of stalls, huts and pop-ups you pass when exploring the city is testament to that. Here’s a few German snacks to get your teeth into:

Bratwurst

Large, curved, sausagey – what’s not to love? Probably the culinary symbol of Germany and the ultimate street food. Made usually from veal, pork or beef and often served with a bread roll and mustard. You can get one of these beauties on pretty much any corner in Berlin but I noticed there were a lot of Bratwurst stalls in the area around the Brandenburg Gate. I bought one from a stall just outside the S-Bahn entrance of the Berlin Warschauer Straße station in Friedrichshain. Unfortunately I was in desperate need and wolfed it down before I got a picture – find below a general stock image. Sorry not sorry.

bratwurst

Riesen Bockwurst

Another massive sausage – differing from the Bratwurst both in size (it’s larger) and in the way it’s cooked. Whereas Bratwurst is often flame grilled or pan fried, Riesen Bockwurst is simmered in water. I got to sample one at the airport en route back to the UK – several sausages were kept in a steamy container proudly on display. You had a choice of bread or potatoes to accompany it, along with the obligatory mustard. Lush.

Kebabs

They might not be traditionally German, but the kebab is without doubt one of Berlin’s favorite meaty treats and you’ll find several kebab outlets on most busy streets. This is mostly owing to Berlin’s large Turkish population and of course the fact that kebabs are absolutely banging. For the best of the best head to the southeastern side of Kreuzberg which has the biggest concentration of kebab eateries.

kebab queue kreuzberg

Currywurst

How could you possibly improve the traditional Bratwurst other than by covering it with ketchup and curry powder, served with chips? There’s a nice little outlet just before the bridge between Friedrichshain and Kruezberg (on the Friedrichshain side under the train tracks) that specialises in this German delicacy.

 

What Else?

When I wasn’t eating, I actually managed to do some other things. Here are my recommendations:

KAYAK BERLIN

We did the West Berlin tour and it was such a unique way to see the city. A 3 hour tour costs 33 euros, which is pretty reasonable.

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Wrangelkiez/Alt-Treptow

Such a cool area that I wish we had more time to explore, particularly at night. Walk through Wrangelkiez and cross the bridge of the first canal, just next to the petrol station you will find the entrance to some lovely riverside restaurants and cafes!

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In Alt-Treptower you will also find Badeschiff, a beach-style venue with bars, food, deck chairs and a pool on top of the River Spree! I would love to do the area around Berlin Arena and Treptow Art Center again at night – although it looks fairly inactive during the day I have a strong suspicion that’s when the area really comes alive.

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SPY MUSEUM

If you’re a fan of all things espionage this is your place! Went in here on a bit of a whim but the history of spies through the ages, collection of nifty (and often fatal) gadgets and James Bond exhibition makes for a wicked experience. And there’s a laser game. A LASER GAME.

 

I was sad when my Berlin adventure ended but fortunately I don’t have to wait long for my next foodie adventure. Watch this space because in the next month I’m doing a tour of Andalucia including Seville and Grenada, as well as Ibiza!

 

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Glouglou and Les Halles Castellane, Montpellier

For my last night in Montpellier I headed once again to the Old Town, this time to Rue du Pila St Gély – the home of wine-loving eatery Glouglou. The following morning I went hunting for a special type of goat cheese at a market near Comedy Place.

After my experiences at Petit Bistro and Le Grillardin the bar had been set very high, so I was determined to round off my trip to Montpelier with another heavenly eating experience.

Glouglou

Glouglou sits on a fairly bustling street, just away from a tram track and main road. The inside of the restaurant is very fitting for a bar à vin, it’s curved stone ceiling giving the venue an intimate, cellar-esque feel. It was too nice an evening to sit inside, so out I went to enjoy the ambiance and do a spot of people watching on one of the several tables outside.

As a result of disproportionately stuffing my face all week I wasn’t really that hungry and decided a main course and a glass of wine would be enough for me. Glouglou has a really innovative and fun system for their wine – instead of receiving a menu, you are given a card (about the size of a bank card). Then the waiter explains you go inside the restaurant to what can only be described as a wine vending machine and insert your card, then make your selection. Helpfully there are 3 sizes to choose from, starting with a ‘taster’ option (about 5 sips of wine). So in the space of one night you could potentially try several different types plus no need to attract a member of staff’s attention if you want a refill, just help yourself!

When it came to the food I felt like trying something new and noticed that sweetbreads where on the menu. I, unlike many, really like offal so I thought there was no better time to give them a go. The term ‘sweetbreads’ usually refers to the thymus or the pancreas of an animal, mostly calves or (as in my case) lamb. A lot of people are icked out by this, but really in 2016 Britain we’ve forgotten what a luxury prime cuts of meat were not so long ago – these days we can pick and choose whatever part of whatever species at our convenience. This, however, has made us really wasteful, unadventurous and fussy, and my feeling is that we owe it to the animal whose life has been sacrificed for our dinner to eat (or at least try) everything that comes from it . Anyway, rant over. But, seriously, we should all be eating more offal. Because it’s banging. And cheap.

Back to my Glouglou sweetbreads. They came in a cassoulet containing mushrooms, carrots etc with the obligatory basket of bread. The gravy of the casserole was deep, rich and flavoursome – you can see just by looking at the picture below what a nice shine it had too. The sweetbreads themselves were not as strong in taste as I was expecting – more similar to kidneys rather than liver and would probably be a great introduction to offal for someone who is not used to it.  All in all I was pleased with my dinner and used the lovely spongy-textured bread to wipe the dish clean.

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Glouglou is a great little bistro and is an excellent place to go with a few friends, whether it’s to eat or exploit their very clever self-service wine system!

 

Les Halles Castellane

My final morning in Montpellier consisted of me waking up extremely early to go on the hunt for a particular type of goat cheese at one of Montpellier’s main markets. I got my first taste for cheese produced in this way in the beautiful rural region of Dordogne, which is located between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees. Ash was originally used to protect the surface of young cheeses, but since it’s been discovered that it also improves surface moulds and how they grow. Spread thickly on a water cracker with a little spoonful of chutney or cherry jam, it’s quite literally the dream so I was keen to find it whilst I was in France.

Les Halles Castellane is Montpellier’s main covered market and is fairly large in size. Unfortunately as I went so early a lot of the stalls were still closed but I did get to have a nose around – producers there included greengrocers, winemakers, butchers, bakeries and, of course, cheese mongers.

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On approaching the cheese counter, I saw what I wanted straight away and the kind lady at the stall was able to confirm it was goats cheese. It came in a small but perfectly formed portion – which was great as it meant it would keep for that little bit longer. A portion like this cost me just under 6 euros – in the picture on the right-hand side below is the oval-shaped cheese in the bottom centre.

In typical, dozy Greedy B fashion, I left the cheese in the fridge at a friend’s London-based flat before I even got a chance to taste it! Quelle tragique! So I’ll have to come back and edit this post once I’ve reclaimed it, if it hasn’t been snuffled already.

Montpellier was an absolutely wonderful experience and I was so lucky to enjoy this historic and culturally rich part of France as part of a work trip. I tried to make the most of the gorgeous food whilst I was there, and even got to do some sight-seeing! Here’s to more French adventures – hopefully very, very soon!

 

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BBQ Idea: Mushroom and halloumi burger with tomato and coriander relish

It’s pretty unusual for me to make vegetarian food, but seeing as I had some halloumi in the fridge I thought I would get inventive and make something I could take to a beach BBQ.

To make life easier prepare the relish and slice up the cheese at home before venturing out. I was quite pleased with the end result of this, considering it was a bit of an improvisation – although it’s perhaps not the prettiest thing to look at!

Cost

The most expensive item was the halloumi at £2.50ish for a block followed by the houmous at £1.20 a pot – this is only to spread on the burger rolls, so you can void it if you wish. Approximate cost: £5.50

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

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For the relish:

  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • Big handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt and pepper to season

For the Burger:

  • 1 block of halloumi (sliced into eight)
  • 4 large flat/portobello mushrooms
  • 8 dollops of houmous
  • Handful of spinach
  • 4 burger buns

 

Method

  • Prepare your relish at home. De-seed and chop the tomatoes into very small squares – keep the tomato seeds as you can use them in dishes like curried goat in addition to chopped tomatoes.
  • Mix the tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, cumin and olive oil in a bowl. Then add the coriander and lime juice.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • To give yourself less work during cooking, you can prepare the other ingredients by slicing the halloumi and spreading the houmous on the burger buns at home.
  • On a BBQ, cook the mushrooms for about 4 minutes each side. You may want to bring some oil along to baste them in during cooking to keep them moist and stop them sticking (I improvised and used cava).

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  • When you turn over the mushrooms, put the halloumi on the BBQ and cook for two minutes on each side.
  • Construct your burger by placing the mushroom and two bits of halloumi within the houmous-slathered burger bun – then top with the relish and a few leaves of spinach.

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