For months I have been looking for an opportunity to go on a food tour, especially somewhere on my travels. It seemed like a fantastic way to sample regional delicacies, become immersed in the local culture and gain insight into the specialties of the area.
In preparation for my trip to Berlin for The Hive blog conference, I started researching activities to do in the city. I learned about the Berlin Food Tour and decided it was a must-do during our 5 days in Germany’s capital. Lucky for us, there were tours running during our time in the city so I knew it was meant to be!
The Berlin Food Tour offers a variety of food tours in the city ranging from breweries to Currywurst to chocolate and more. I seriously contemplated signing up for the Kaffee & Kuchen tour (I mean, it’s my blog name, after all!) but I was especially interested in trying the Berlin Mitte Food Tour since it promised to offer a mix of sweet and savoury bites in Mitte, Berlin’s central neighbourhood.
S and I skipped breakfast the morning of the tour which began at 11am; we wanted our stomachs to be as empty as possible to enjoy all the goodies on offer. The meeting spot was on Rosenthaler Straße at Katjes Café Grün-Ohr. Inside the café we met Bastian, the man behind Berlin Food Tour. We were warmly welcomed and seated with the other participants on the tour. With Bastian’s friendly and approachable demeanor, I could tell we would be in for a great afternoon. Our tour consisted of only 8 people, including me, S and visitors from the UK and the Netherlands. We were all asked to briefly introduce ourselves and profess our favourite food. It was a fun way to break the ice and start the discussion about our mutual love – food!
Bastian started the tour by introducing himself and giving tips right off the bat when exploring Berlin, such as watching out for cyclists and obeying the Ampelmann (the jaunty pedestrian traffic light symbol, one of the symbols of Berlin). He also handed out business cards with his mobile number so we could call in case we got separated from the group. I appreciated having that in my pocket because Berlin Mitte can get pretty crowded!
The sampling started off with warm, freshly baked brownies (no better breakfast out there, if you ask me!) We also got to try fruit-flavoured Katjes bunny gummies which are vegetarian – no gelatin is used. As a fun surprise, we each got a gift bag of gummies as we left Katjes for the next stop on the tour.
The second stop was next door at Lindner, a fine foods shop with multiple locations in Berlin, Hamburg and Potsdam. When you think of gourmet, this is probably the store you’re picturing – all kinds of gorgeous pastries, the finest cheeses and cold cuts and their specialty, house-made butter that’s revived and re-mixed to order with a few whacks of a wooden paddle. We were lucky enough to witness a customer order some butter while we were there and got a little hypnotized in the process!
We sampled Berliner Frikadeller, flat, pan-fried dumplings made of ground pork and beef that are seasoned with crispy bread, eggs and onions. According to Bastian, every family has their own recipe and as such, Frikadeller are considered to be one of Germany’s national dishes. Next up was Leberkäse (which literally translates to ‘liver cheese’ – it sounds scarier than it actually is). Leberkäse is a type of meatloaf consisting of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions that is especially popular in southern Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland. Bastian suggested trying the Leberkäse with Süßer Senf (sweet mustard), though we also had regular mustard and ketchup as optional condiments. I can’t remember having tried Leberkäse before despite living in southern Germany and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It was soft, moist and flavourful, unlike North American meatloaf’s usual reputation (dry, hard and bland). Our last sample at Lindner was a piece of butter cake made with the famous Lindner butter and topped with almonds and sugar. Holy moly was that ever good!
As an interlude to the tour and a brief digestion break, Bastian showed us a hidden alleyway off of Rosenthaler Straße featuring some fantastic Berlin street art. S and I had passed by this alleyway earlier but hadn’t gone inside. I’m glad Bastian introduced us to this hidden gem because we would have really missed out on an important part of Berlin culture otherwise.
Across the alleyway from Hackesche Höfe was our next destination – All in One for Döner kebab. Döner kebab is found all over Germany but it turns out that it hails from Berlin and was invented by Turkish immigrants. I’ve never really had a Döner kebab before and was surprised by how many iterations of meat in bread with veggies you can make with Döner meat! Every day at All in One a 60 kg hunk of beef rotates on a spit and disappears completely by midnight. The meat is cut in thin strips and only the freshly roasted meat is sliced off. During our approximately 10 -15 minute stop at All in One, countless customers came in and out for their daily dose of Döner. Apparently this is the place for Döner kebab in Berlin Mitte!
The following stop was a real treat – a German bakery! My love of German bread and Brotzeit is well documented on this blog. We visited Hofpfisterei, a bakery dating back to 1331 which is famous for having once served the Bavarian royal family – amazing! If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me!
We sampled pieces of traditional German rye bread with and without butter and with regular and pepper salami, as well as Leberkäse. I am a little embarassed to say that I definitely ate the most samples at this stop on the tour! We also got to taste organic pressed Jonagold apple juice which they sell in bottles at the bakery. If my suitcase hadn’t been so heavy, I definitely would have bought a bottle of that to take home with me.
We strolled back down along Rosenthaler Straße to reach Eat Berlin, home of the finest food products in the capital. Eat Berlin is located inside the Hackesche Höfe, a series of 8 interconnected courtyards in Art Nouveau style. The courtyards are gorgeous to walk through and I’m sure it’s a popular shopping spot for locals. Inside Eat Berlin we sampled some locally made pesto, cheese, mustard and flavoured vinaigrettes. There are all kinds of unique products inside – it would be a great location to pick up a foodie gift or souvenir from Berlin.
The next stop on the tour was pretty thrilling for a sweet tooth like me – a little café called Eisenbergs on Sophienstraße. If the sparkling chandelier isn’t enough of a draw to come inside, the pastries, coffee and ice cream certainly are! My eyes bulged at the sight of the macarons on a tiered platter and the carrot cake with marzipan icing also stole my attention. We each got to sample a macaron and a little piece of carrot cake – heaven! I chose a lemon macaron and S had salted caramel. As a special treat, we each got a scoop of ice cream in the flavour of our choice in a cone. Bastian delighted us by saying that it was the first day that ice cream was being sold at Eisenbergs for the summer season so we really lucked out with our timing! I got mango flavour and S got lemon – to die for!
As we munched on our ice cream cones, Bastian led us to Barcomi’s, the restaurant of the famed entrepreneur and baker Cynthia Barcomi. The restaurant is located inside a little courtyard covered in vines, the perfect quiet spot for brunch or some Kaffee und Kuchen on a Sunday afternoon. I was surprised and sobered when Bastian pointed out that you can still spot the bullet and grenade holes in the brick walls of the building from World War II.
Here we sampled some New York-style blueberry cheesecake since Barcomi’s is known for its American baked goods. Though I only had a bite, it was packed with flavour and I can see why the New York Times hailed Barcomi’s cheesecake as one of the best in Europe.
To wash down our Kuchen, we searched for some Kaffee at Röststätte on Ackerstraße. Here we got some insight into the coffee roasting process and the difference between Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. We smelled two types of coffee beans and could appreciate their contrasting aromas. I’ve always thought of coffee as having that standard ‘coffee smell’ but when you compare beans one after the other, you can really notice a difference in their aromas. We also learned that there are actually 1000 different aromas in coffee compared to only 600 in wine – who knew?
After our informative coffee lesson, we sat down to sample some espresso made from the Röststätte Novum blend composed of all Arabica beans from Guatemala, Kenya, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Mexico. I usually douse my coffee in milk and sugar but we were encouraged to try the espresso black. The flavour was so strong and unlike anything I usually drink, but I found that the more I drank it, the more I enjoyed the coffee flavours. My tiny espresso left me with a satisfied coffee buzz for the rest of the tour.
No gastronomic tour of Berlin would be complete without sampling its most famous dish – Currywurst! The average Berliner eats 20 Currywurst per year and there are dedicated Currywurst stands set up all over the city. We sampled the original Currywurst, which is steamed then fried pork sausage that is sliced then smothered in a curry tomato sauce. The lineup was long at Curry 61 – it’s obviously popular with the locals! We got a generous portion of Currywurst each and S eagerly finished what I couldn’t.
Our last stop on the tour was at a small microbrewery, Brauhaus Lemke, located between Hackescher Markt and Alexanderplatz. The gold medal-winning brewpub was established in 1999 and is known especially for its dark lagers.
Since the sun was shining when we arrived, we opted to sit outside in the beer garden to enjoy our beverages. Bastian and Brauhaus Lemke were able to accommodate all the guests’ requests, from non-alcoholic beer to wine suggestions for non-beer drinkers in the group. Though I don’t normally drink beer, I couldn’t resist the chance to sample some of the best beer that Germany has to offer.
The tour ended with Bastian sharing his insider tips of the best places to eat, see and experience in Berlin. He happily wrote down addresses and websites for us to look into and gave suggestions on times to go and what not to miss. It’s clear that Bastian loves sharing his knowledge of the city with visitors and locals alike. The tour was conducted in English but Bastian also chatted easily with S in German and shared the pronunciation and translation of German words with the non-native German speakers in the group. I came away from the tour with not only a much greater appreciation of German food, but also of Berlin’s food scene, culture and history.
While the tour was scheduled to be 3.5 hours, we actually wrapped up our last visit at the brewpub after about 4 hours. We never felt rushed at any of our stops and Bastian enthusiastically answered all of our questions and pointed out numerous sites of interest along the way. The time just seemed to fly by on the tour and yet we experienced so many tastes and flavours in the 4 hours.
Thank you so much to Berlin Food Tour for hosting us! If you find yourself in Berlin and love trying new foods (who doesn’t?), I can highly recommend Bastian’s Berlin Food Tour. Two tips: book online in advance as tours can fill up quickly and arrive hungry!
What are your favourite foods in Berlin?