Berlin was always one of those places that I wanted to visit, but never managed to go to. It wasn’t for want of trying though. My 20s are littered with diary entries detailed with elaborate plans, Easyjet timetables and thwarted ambition. Turns out that shit boyfriends + epic skintness tend to equal being forced to stay at home crying and drinking cheap whisky in your pants. But the urge was still there, gnawing away at me, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to arise.
That opportunity came in the form of my honeymoon. If there’s one thing that getting married has taught me, it’s that the best part is the holiday you get to go on once the whole shebang is over and done with. I didn’t want to go anywhere transatlantic as I intended to go to New York for my (upcoming) 30th birthday, and I couldn’t really think of anything more boring than sitting on a beach in the middle of the Mediterranean for a week. And so it was that on the Sunday preceeding our wedding, me, Mr. McMc, and our two-day-hangovers boarded a cheap flight to the land of Currywurst, Kebabs and Techno. It had taken me longer than I would have liked, but I was finally going to Berlin.
The flat we had rented was situated in Mitte, on the edge of Prenzlauer Berg – an area filled with bars, restaurants and ridiculously attractive people on bikes. On our first night, we went for a wander around our local area and stumbled upon Babel, a Lebanese restaurant. We were hot, tired and hungry, and decided to order a shared vegetarian platter and two donor kebabs. “Trust me, you won’t need the kebabs”, said the guy behind the counter. Being possessed of a mighty stomach, I was sceptical. Right up until the food arrived.
This thing was immense, overflowing with delicious goodies including huge blobs of delicately spiced dips, crunchy bourekas and freshly made stuffed vine leaves. It also came with two giant slabs of warm bread that we used as cutlery, scooping up hunks of deep fried halloumi with gusto. Deep fried halloumi has now become one of my all-time favourite deep fried food products, especially when it’s washed down with gulps of ice cold Becks.
Dessert comprised of a flaky pastry treat which was stuffed with something similar to Chinese red bean paste and covered with sesame seeds. It was delicious, the perfect morsel of sweetness to round off the meal. Our entire meal (with booze) came to roughly fifteen euros – not bad considering we’d both eaten a week’s worth of saturated fat in one sitting.
Prior to going to Berlin, I asked my friends on Twitter which restaurants we should check out during out stay and one name kept cropping up repeatedly- White Trash Fast Food, a rockabilly palace full of ne’er do wells, pop-up pirates and the best junk food in the city. It even had its own tattoo parlour in the basement.
I’ll admit, when I first arrived, I was slightly disappointed. The waiting staff were surly and the food looked like your average Burger-Palace fare. It felt like we’d just wandered into a hipster bierkeller rather than a den of iniquity. Thankfully, things improved once we were led into the bowels of the place. Each of the walls were decorated with trinkets and bizarre ephemera; from fish tanks full of scorpions to animal skulls. They also served some of the largest Aperol Spritz’s I’d ever feasted upon, made all the better for being served with an embellishment of three fat, briney olives on a cocktail stick.
While it wasn’t the best meal I had during my stay in Berlin, it was certainly very very good, and delightfully trashy. Our Thai Chicken Wings were addictive – sweet, sticky and smoky, they were devoured in record time. However, the main star of the show was my Pulled Beef Brisket with Onion Rings. This was a monster of a sandwich, overflowing with piles of meltingly soft beef topped with barbeque sauce, a melted Kraft cheese slice and jalapenos. The only word that I can use here to truly describe this mighty sandwich was that it was filth. Sheer, overwhelming, finger-licking filth on a brioche bun, accompanied by paper thin onion rings which shattered at the first bite. Mr. McMc’s Bacon Cheeseburger was equally as good – a great wodge of high quality meat, topped with a slab of bacon and which had big fat fries on the side. The whole meal was so dirty, we almost felt compelled to have a post-coital cigarette after eating it.
Being two of those quasi-intellectual types, we also managed to fit in a bit of sightseeing around the Mitte/Prenzlauer Berg district. I loved walking up towards Alexanderplatz on a warm August night – wandering through Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz with its bars and boutiques, weaving around cyclists (whatever you do, do not walk in the cycle lanes), and gazing up at the giant TV tower which looms over the skyline like a giant beaming beacon of Communism. Alexanderplatz was also where I discovered Club Mate. Club Mate is a fizzy drink made from yerba mate tea. When you first hear about it, it sounds a bit disgusting, but it’s actually quite tasty and incredibly refreshing (especially when it’s had a cheeky shot of vodka added to it). It reminded me of a carbonated version of the sweet tea you find in the Southern states of the USA. I spent a fair bit of my time in Berlin chugging this stuff – mainly when waiting for the U-Bahn in the giant overheated food court which is Alexanderplatz station.
Due to the fact that I’ve already written a thousand words, I’m going to split my Berlin experiences into three separate parts. Next time, I’ll talk about my adventures in West Berlin – which include currywurst, drinking beer in Europe’s largest food hall and dining on East Silesian food in a restaurant that looked like a German gran’s living room…