Since Berlin’s reunification in 1990, a wave of creativity has seen the city become a forward-thinking gastronomic capital, meaning you’re never far from a memorable dining experience.
Berlin is one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities. The German capital’s diversity is echoed in its vibrant culinary scene, with Berlin’s best restaurants spanning the globe in their offering – from vegan Vietnamese to Japanese-Peruvian fusion.
Kanaan serves vegetarian German and Israeli-Palestinian fusion | Courtesy of Kanaan
A bright red banner above the main entrance to Kanaan spells out a bold claim: “The Best Hummus in Berlin”. Truer words have rarely been spoken. Made in-house and to order, the smooth and rich hummus, along with the falafel and pita bread, is the restaurant’s trademark dish. Nestled at the higher end of Prenzlauer Berg, Kanaan’s concept is as blended as its ingredients. Indeed, co-owners Israeli Oz Ben David and Palestinian Jalil Debit do much more than own a restaurant; they organise cooking and cultural workshops from the converted GDR train carriage in their biergarten and employ refugees and asylum seekers.
For your hipster hit of avocado on toast or grilled cheese sandwich (the latter by far the most ordered dish on the brunch menu), Aprilkind in Friedrichshain is the place to go. The mismatched chairs, wooden crates upcycled as bookshelves and dangling light bulbs all give the space a cosy and distinctively Berlin vibe – arty, warm and relaxed. It’s worth mentioning that the eclectic playlist accompanying your drinks and food is always magically tuned to the perfect level – not too loud, not too soft – offering a distracting but never disruptive soundtrack and an ideal atmosphere to work, study or get lost in a good book. Make sure to arrive early on weekends, as tables fill up quickly.
Tapas is the name of the game at Bar Raval. Upon walking through the deep-red velvet curtains (not as over the top as they might sound), customers enter an authentic Spanish eatery, where the rustic food mirrors the decor and atmosphere. This unassuming spot next to Görlitzer Park excels at the simple. The patatas bravas’ sauce has you imagining you are dining in a traditional tapas bar in Spain. As if that wasn’t enough, Bar Raval’s wine list pairs beautifully with the dishes, and the selection of vermouths makes for a perfect aperitif.
For a taste of Italy in Berlin, head down to Neukölln’s La Bolognina. The postcard-size menu gives you a choice between four or five pasta dishes and pizzettes. On this minimalist menu – de rigueur these days – the flavours and textures do all the talking. The restaurant’s small size and cosy vibe make La Bolognina the perfect spot for solo diners or a couple’s night out. Just make sure to get here early to grab your table close to the action, so you don’t miss out on watching the head chef make the pasta in front of you.
At the higher end of the scale is Nauta, named after a small town in the Amazon. Offering Nikkei cuisine, which combines culinary dishes from Japan and Peru, and modern fusion decor, this restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg could easily be missed from the outside. Once inside, however, the contrast between the light wooden tables and moody ceiling, wall and floor design – dark with brief flashes of colour – is striking. The wooden shutters on the windows offer little indication as to what time it is, but it doesn’t matter – all the more time to sample the impressive pisco selection.
This cosy café and prime breakfast spot, situated a stone’s throw away from Mehringdamm, offers exactly what its title states: bagels, coffee and culture. Grab a seat on one of the old university wooden benches, and opt for one of its speciality bagels, including the Londoner (two eggs, cream cheese, lox). Also sample its home-made ginger shot; tangy, slightly sweet and with a spicy kick, you’ll feel energised and ready to tackle the day. All pastries and spreads are made in-house, replacing sugar with the alternative sweetness of apples. Artwork by local artists adorns the walls and adds to the vibe. Come for the home-made treats, and stay for the friendly atmosphere.
Tucked neatly in the courtyard of a renovated old coin factory-turned-cultural and artistic space, The Greens is a welcoming oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Mitte. Plants of all shapes and sizes adorn the walls, mezzanine and floor space of what could be easily mistaken for a cosy greenhouse. The best part is that they are for sale. Drinks-wise, it’s well worth trying one of its speciality chai lattes (turmeric-, beetroot- or matcha-based) to go alongside its unmissable vegan banana bread, which is freshly made every day and comes in flavours such as coconut and pomegranate. Most ingredients are locally sourced from Berlin and its surrounding areas, so you’ll always be eating in season.
Located in the Charlottenburg neighbourhood, Cell is the first Berlin establishment for Russian-born chef Evgeny Vikentev, who is also behind the beloved St Petersburg restaurants Hamlet + Jacks and Wine Rack. The space’s decor, with pieces curated by artist Tania Mann, and seasonally sourced dishes reflect Berlin’s wild artistic spirit. Choose an offering of nine courses from one of the restaurant’s three set menus – one of which offers exclusively vegetarian dishes. Wine enthusiasts will enjoy its selection of bottles from organic and bio-dynamic vineyards, while those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks can choose from a variety of offerings, including kombucha and organic juices.
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Bordering the Tiergarten, Moabit has slowly but surely built up something of a reputation; this up-and-coming neighbourhood is now catching up with other districts and becoming known for its foodie hidden treasures, one of which is the vegan restaurant Valladares. Sitting on the street corner opposite a leafy park, the café’s two bright high-ceilinged rooms, comfy sofas and vintage style offers an inviting space to relax. The prices are slightly above average, but the portions make up for it generously. Try the falafel bowl for lunch (falafel balls, sweet potato fritters, roasted vegetables, hummus and fresh herb spread) and the “smüsli” for breakfast (soy-milk smoothie with muesli, blueberries, chocolate flakes, wheat pops, yoghurt, grated coconut, agave syrup and different fruits).
Berlin has one of the largest Vietnamese populations outside of Vietnam and is home to many Vietnamese restaurants. Make sure, however, that Cát Tuòng tops your list. The name translates as peace and happiness. It’s a clean and clear motto reflected in the calming Vietnamese decor found at its Prenzlauer Berg site. Cosy wooden stools with comfortable rounded cushions blend seamlessly with the timber floor; verdant herbariums adorn the grey slate walls, where bright golden Buddha statues proudly sit atop shelves overlooking the room from behind glowing candles and fruit offerings. Serving vegan-only Vietnamese fusion dishes, this family-run affair gives hearty, traditional recipes a modern zest, using healthy, delicious ingredients.