A recent trip to Berlin (above) confirmed to me its status as one of the world’s capital cities for vegans. I’d been once before, as a vegetarian, and was decently catered for, but a few years later and eating out is an absolute delight.
During our five days there, we barely scraped the surface of the options available, but suffice it to say, it made such an impression that I’m headed back again in just a few months to revisit the wonderful food sampled last time, and to dig ever deeper into what’s on offer for vegans.
On the way to our hotel, in the fashionable area of Friedrichshain (on which this piece is going to focus), we stopped in the Teutonic equivalent of a kebab and falafel shop (Haroun al Rachid, Neue Bahnhofstr. 28), it being around lunchtime after a long morning, and us having spotted a board advertising ‘vegan halloumi’.
Not realising quite how vegan-friendly this whole area was, I went in and interrogated the guy behind the counter about the exact nature of the ‘cheese’, which was basically tofu slices in a fine batter. It was cheap and it was fresh and it was tasty (see below).
This was just one of a myriad such places, all advertising vegan choices, around the station Ostkreuz.
I always prefer to eat in totally plant-based restaurants, but I love the idea of a city in which vegans are catered for wherever they go and with whomsoever they are travelling. I’m lucky enough to do most of my travelling with someone of the same dietary persuasion as me, but for those with omnivore companions, I know eating out can be an issue. After that first meal, though, I stuck entirely to vegan-only food establishments.
From there we headed to our hotel, the Almodóvar, chosen for its purely vegetarian breakfast menu and ethical stance.
Having googled the breakfast, I knew I was going to be good… but €17.50 worth of good? My travelling buddy likes a bargain, and who could possibly be providing that much food first thing in the morning that we would want to eat? We agreed to try the buffet at the hotel’s Bistro Bardot (see below) on the first day and henceforth play it by ear.
And, yeah, upshot was that we breakfasted there on all four mornings: long lazy breakfasts that went on for well over an hour. Vegan croissants, freshly baked pretzels, several varieties of bread were served alongside currywurst, scrambled tofu, several types of cold ‘meats’ and dairy-fresh cheeses, and several varieties of cake and muffin. This is on top of the cereals, fruits, juices, coffees and rustic-looking teas.
Friedrichshain is just a wonderfully cool area. Formerly part of East Germany, after the wall came down in November 1989, Friedrichshain became known as a young, dynamic district, thanks in part to low rents and the many empty apartments.
Walking through it today, there’s a really mellow vibe, and a few of our meals were taken as picnics in the little parks that litter the area. One of the most amazing sights that we saw there is the Märchenbrunnen in Volkspark Friedrichshain. This was designed over 100 years ago as a series of water-features within one much-larger fountain, set up to depict fairy-tale scenes (see below).
A convenient place to buy those wraps, cakes, and other picnic snacks is Veganz. I had an amazing spicy mushroom wrap and my buddy raved about his avocado version, both with veganaise. Founded in 2011, this is Europe’s first chain of totally cruelty-free supermarkets, and a great place to pop into to shop, to browse or to grab a bite to eat and a coffee.
Desserts are normally the area in which herbivores get overlooked, as so many eating places rely on cream and eggs to concoct a good pudding, leaving us staring sadly at a menu on which sorbet is the sole option. For those of you with a sweet tooth, let me direct you to the following two tried and tasted venues
If you are an ice-cream fan, try Eis Gourmet, Sonntagstr. 2. They don’t have a website as yet, but the place is totally dairy-free and caters beautifully for those whose sweet tooth can strike at any time of the day, as it stays open until 11pm.
My personal recommendation is Velicious (see above, treats on one visit). A delicious selection of cakes, cheesecakes and tortes is laid out before you: all you need to do is point and smile. Not that English is ever an issue in Berlin, where everyone seems to speak the language better than we natives do.
Vegan places can fill up quickly as the evening goes on, though we didn’t have to book, I’d recommend doing so if you’re staying over a weekend. I tend to prefer restaurants with a more relaxed vibe over more popular places, though this could simply be a stage of life thing, but I hate the feeling of being crammed in and rushed out.
Two eating establishments with a more relaxed air about them, which both served excellent food are Lück’s and Sora.
Lück’s is a small family-run restaurant with a great menu. I had the quiche of the day, and gnocchi in a wonderfully creamy sauce, and the tempeh burger looked equally appetising. It was summer, so as with most places, there is both inside and outside seating, with a homely comfortable feel to it.
Sora (see above) is a vegetarian Vietnamese place, but I struggled to find anything on the menu that wasn’t vegan. The service was very friendly, again, it was clearly a family-run operation, and I liked the fact that even people popping in for a takeaway got a glass of water and were invited to sit down, while the owner took the time to chat to them, as well as the eat-in customers.
It was impressive to see, as seemed to be the case in a few place, regulars bringing along their own containers to bring food home in… imagine the plastic and foil that’s preventing from ending up in the sea or a landfill.
This truly is the very tip of a larger vegan iceberg in Berlin and my mouth is watering thinking back – especially to that glorious expansive breakfast, which in our case often lingered into three, four, and even five courses. Any discoveries of your own would be gratefully received for the upcoming revisit.