Five places in Berlin for good food with a green mission
The Berlin gastronomy scene is diverse and exciting - current food trends such as "Gourmet Gardening", "Regenerative Food" or "Zero Waste" have already arrived in Berlin. Some pioneers of this development towards more transparency about origin, Sustainability and appreciation of the products I would like to present here. The five selected places have in common that they are not "only" top-class culinary, but have a common mission without proselytizing. The gastro concepts presented want to make their product-focused cuisine as sustainable as possible - seasonal, regional and fair. Many go one step further and literally get to the root of the problem and look for completely new possibilities. First and foremost, however, all restaurateurs are concerned with good taste and the love for the product that is in every (coffee) bean or crooked tuber, no matter how small.
1. FREA – the Zero Waste Restaurant
The Brakes in Berlin-Mitte is the world's first plant-based zero-waste restaurant. David Suchy, a trained nutritionist, opened the restaurant in 2019 with the help of a crowdfunding campaign and together with his future wife Jasmin. The radical concept quickly made a name for itself and received the “Berlin Scene Restaurant 2019” award shortly after it opened. Since April 2022, the restaurant has had a zero-waste bakery with small hearty dishes, baked goods or porridge. The motto "Full taste, zero waste" is more than convincingly lived and developed at Frea. (Almost) everything from fruit and vegetables is used. It is pickled, fried, boiled, smoked, fermented, blanched or foamed. Even the hazelnut milk is homemade to save on packaging.
Of course, there is not only a lot of idealism behind this, but also a lot of planning and clever goods management. And if there are leftovers, they are processed into humus in the company's own composting machine called "Gersi", which is returned to the producers for the cultivation of new delicious vegetables. In order to illustrate the concept to the guests, the machine is not hidden in the backyard, but is clearly visible to everyone in the guest room and works almost silently. This gives the guests an immediate impression of the Zero Waste principle, and the waiters are happy to provide more information about this special DNA of the restaurant.
The interior of the restaurant was designed in such a way that as little waste as possible is generated. Vintage wooden furniture, shatterproof glass, eco-friendly wall paint, dried flowers and large plants create a cozy yet clean Scandinavian atmosphere. You can order a three-, four- or five-course menu with or without drinks. The dishes are artistically prepared, light and wholesome. Tomatoes, courgettes and berries dominate the menu in summer. The tomato salad comes with roasted tomato, sun-dried miso and tomato cream, tomato jelly, tomato stock, fermented mustard seeds, black sesame and chives on a delicious and flavorful tomato-infused bread. The stuffed zucchini with pearl barley risotto is accompanied by tempura zucchini, pickled zucchini, saffron mayonnaise and prunes. And even if there are actually no leftovers on the plates, it's a good feeling that "Gersi" would take care of it.
2. MICHELBERGER - the cult hotel with its own farm
The Michelberger has been a Berlin institution as an independent and individual hotel for over ten years. The restaurant of the same name has been cooking creatively for just as long. The kitchen is based on regional and seasonal products that come daily from the in-house network. Depending on the weather, you can choose to sit in the cosy, bright guest room with large windows and a view of the lively Warschauer Straße, or in the tranquil, romantic inner courtyard between plants, large sunshades and fairy lights.
The menu consists of three courses and is served on six to eight plates. For the main course you can choose between a meaty or a vegan version. Instead of a menu, the vegetable ingredients of the day are lovingly presented on a tray and the respective courses are explained. That's how you start a conversation. For example, there are mushrooms stuffed with sunflower paste, beans and nasturtiums tossed in coconut sauce or broccoli in teriyaki sauce with oil seeds. Chef Alan Micks wants to bring at least one ingredient from his own farm to the plates.
Since 2019, the hotel has had its own organic farm in the Spreewald. The regenerative farm should not only supply the restaurant with the products, but also actively protect the environment. Cultivation is based on Ernst Götsch's so-called syntropy method, in which - very simply - the planting of trees is combined with arable farming and animal husbandry. The resulting biodiversity makes plants more resilient to extreme weather conditions and disease. Anyone who would like to find out more about it still has the opportunity on October 2, 2022 to take a look at the farm and then enjoy a seasonal lunch in the middle of the fields (information online at "Farm Feast").
3. CAFÉ BOTANICO – nomen est omen
More "farm-to-table" is not possible, because the tables are literally in the farm. To be more precise, in a green oasis between Berlin's backyards, where crunchy vegetables and delicious herbs grow. That Cafe Botanico is a somewhat hidden permaculture garden with over two hundred plant species in the middle of Neukölln. The term "permaculture" comes from the English and is made up of the terms "permanent" and "agriculture" and stands for the permanent cultivation of agriculture and horticulture. The natural ecosystems and cycles of nature are used and imitated in order to conserve resources. It's not about as much yield as possible, but about a healthy symbiosis of man and nature. That is why only as much is harvested daily as is permanently good for the plants.
The gardener and the chef at Café Botanico keep an eye on the yield together. Some plants, says restaurant founder Martin Höfft, grow best when left alone (e.g. wild rocket), while others require a lot of care and attention (e.g. tomatoes). A book has just been published (“Botanico, a year in the food forest”) by the English photographer Liz Eve, who spent a year capturing the garden, the kitchen and the changing seasons in this gem observed and documented hat.
From the street you wouldn't suspect that behind the small, cozy guest room in the basement is the huge garden labyrinth. On the first visit, many guests are therefore amazed. When the nasturtium that you just spotted in the garden suddenly appears as an edible decoration next to the delicious pasta dish, everyone is blown away. Depending on the season, the Italian-inspired menu includes wild herb salad (the “signature dish” so to speak), vegetable soups, homemade pasta with garden pesto “alle Erbe” or, in autumn, red cabbage mousse, pumpkin risotto and mushroom dishes, accompanied by homemade herbal soda or kombucha.
Anything that doesn't grow in your own garden is just as carefully selected: the lamb comes from a Berlin itinerant shepherd, the beer comes from a Neukölln brewery and the honey comes from the bees in the neighborhood. The garden is buzzing and buzzing everywhere, children run through the vegetable patches and are allowed to ask anything. Speaking of questions – one-hour wild herb tours in the garden are always offered on the first Sunday of the month. You only have to register in advance via e-mail and pay ten euros for a drink and numerous herbal samples - off to the Botani(co)k.
4. BONVIVANT – the special brunch
The bon vivant (German: "well living") is a cocktail bistro and is located in the middle of Schöneberg on Winterfeldtplatz. The corner house from 1895 has an unusual façade with artistically arranged tiles and decorative ceramic elements. Even from the outside, the house is a real eye-catcher. Nikodemus Berger and his team cook purely vegetarian here. Special attention is paid to extravagant cocktail compositions with herbs, which are sometimes collected by the team in nearby parks. The focus here is on the "food pairing" of dishes and cocktails. The non-alcoholic versions are particularly delicious, such as the refreshing wheatgrass cocktail with non-alcoholic gin, wild herbs and lemon verbena dust. New flavors are boldly combined here or classics are reinterpreted. A bit of curiosity is definitely part of the meal here and will be rewarded with new eating impressions.
On Saturdays and Sundays there is a brunch menu with international breakfast classics such as granola, pancakes, tacos, eggs benedict or shakshuka - always with a special twist. Lemon verbena refines the granola, the pancake comes with rum pot ice cream and cardamom, and gluten-free bread can be ordered from Will, a bakery from Charlottenburg. The products used are the focus here and the naming of the producers is an essential part of the menu. The service staff is committed to the concept, is happy to explain all the ingredients and is very happy to convey their enthusiasm for the product. As the name of the restaurant promises, life is good here.
5. JULES GEISBERG – finally a fair cup of coffee
The small café has been open since September 2020 Jules Geisberg in a historic post office building in Schöneberg that has been converted into a residential building. A minimalist corner café with an almost monochromatic interior: wooden benches with light-colored seat cushions, marble tables and gold-colored design wall lamps. The focus here is clearly on the coffee. Of the Coffee mostly comes from small Berlin roasting plants - such as von Vote from Kreuzberg, and is of course fair trade. You should definitely try the cake. The cheesecake and banana bread in particular are delicious, and most of the cakes are vegan. Depending on the weather, you can sit, read and work inside or outside at a relatively quiet crossing under old trees on the sidewalk. However, it closes promptly at XNUMX p.m. If you still haven't had enough coffee, you can continue drinking coffee in the nearby Jules branch in the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens). You sit relaxed on a small terrace of the department store with a wonderful view over Berlin.
Both cafes belong to the Jules B part in Kreuzberg's Gleisdreieckpark, a sustainable and relocatable wooden building that functions as a co-working space and exhibition space. This includes an urban beer garden between the elevated subway lines and newly built residential buildings through which the trains appear to pass. You sit at self-made wooden tables and drink either coffee or local beers, eat ice cream from the Charlottenburg manufactory Gimme Gelato or get a “pizza fritta”. Food events such as the legendary "Bite Club" with food stands and food trucks from all cultures take place here regularly. The beer garden has a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. There is a sandbox for the little ones and horizontal bars and trampolines for the big ones if you want to work off the delicacies you just eaten.
True to the motto "Coffee never sleeps", Berlin and its lively gastronomy scene never sleeps either. It was a culinary pleasure for me to present these innovative and committed restaurateurs with their sustainable concepts. Enjoy your meal!
© Photos: Frea, Michelberger, www.facebook.com/my.happyfood.Ukraine, Lizefoto, Martin Höft, Claudia Simchen