Travelling for work is a double edged sword. On one hand it is rushed and exhausting and on the other it is a great chance to get a sneak peek at a city essentially for free. Who doesn’t love free travel?!
So this business trip left me with 2 evenings to explore Berlin, where I have never been before, in fact this was my first trip to Germany. My first night anywhere I tend not to make plans and instead use the time to explore and get my bearings. This trip was no different. My hotel, The Ramada, was in the Alexanderplatz area of Mitte, a short walk from a central transport hub which I love. I don’t feel any need to be right in a city centre as long as I have a decent transport link near me. Berlin FYI has an incredible transport system; cheap, clean, punctual and very joined up. You can get a transferable ticket for €3.30 which takes you from the airport across Berlin by Bus, Train or tram, you can switch between them to get where you need to go.
On my first evening I spent the time wandering around the station area, getting to know what’s nearby and trying to get to grips with the many exits of the station (a lesson I learned in Tokyo!) I hit the jackpot as right next to my exit was a health food shop with the biggest selection of gluten free foods I’ve seen in a long time. The next time I go to Berlin I want to do an air b’n’b type accommodation so I can really sample the gluten free goods.
After getting my bearings I headed to a nearby brauhaus that was recommended by a colleague for their crispy pork knuckle. This is a great example of the value for money you get in this are of Berlin. My whole meal came to €20 and as tasty as it was there was just too much of it. I did get to enjoy a little alfresco dining, just me, my pork knuckle and half a dozen persistent wasps which weren’t encouraging me to savour my dinner.
After dinner I did a little more wandering, picked up some gluten free fig bars (bleh) and some pistachio ice cream which I ended up with in a cone, a pigeon German and pointing fail. But it was absolutely delicious.
The next night I headed to Markthalle Neun for Street Food Thursday. The venue was a leisurely 30 minute walk from my hotel and I love getting the oppertunity to explore a new city on foot. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this event and when I rounded into the hall I was delighted at how bustling it all was.
No not being made of money, nor being able to tuck away the same quantity of food I used to, I started with a lap of the hall to check out what gluten free goodies they had on offer. The last thing I want is to be full and poor and left pining for the dish that got away. The variety of food is incredible, trully international, from bao buns to charcuterie, bbq to sushi, there is something for everyone and so reasonable priced. I am in danger of sounding repetitive by having visited many european cities I was blown away by the value for money in the Mitte region of Berlin.
My first flutter of excitement came from the Tapiocaria stand. This was a first for me, I’d seen these crepes while doing my pre trip research (Oh how I love travel planning) and I was dying to try them. So when I rounded a narrow lane of the hall to see them I may have executed an involuntary air punch! So the first purchase of the evening was this barbacoa beef, mozerella and corriander tapioca crepe. Half of the pleasure of this crepe came from watching it be made, a totally alien process starting with a box of moistened tapioca flour which was sprinkled into a lightly oiled non-stick frying pan before being topped with grated mozerella cheese. The crepe is only cooked on one side so was covered with a cloche to allow the heat from the grill to melt the cheese on top. Once melted, as thats what i’d say the tapoica does rather than fry, the beef and sticky onion mixture was added, folded and given a sprinking of corriander. There was an array of sauces on the side to add to taste, but I wanted to try the crepe as is, plus walking around a hall with something saucy is a recipe for disaster, I am quite clumsy by nature.
The texture of the crepe was unique, it was somewhere between a pancake and deep dish pizza dough. It had a stretchy chewy texture like a lighter mochi, but savoury from the cheese and melted in the mouth. The beef was well seasoned and lightly spiced, I almost turned straight back around and got another but there were more goodies on my radar.
Now that I’d been good and had a savoury start to my meal I lapped back ruond to Zwei Dicke Baren, two young english gents right at the door selling icecream cookie sandwiches including a gluten free chocolate nut version. The easiest way to describe this for the brits was a thick gluten free hob noc with nutella icecream sandwiched in the middle. I loved the packaging on these cookies, so sweet and 100% recyclable and the fact it was made with Mos Eisley ice cream was a bonus for me because i hadnt managedto squeeze in a visit. The cookie was lovely if a little difficult to eat due its thickness and the fact it was frozen solid, but rest assured that didnt stop me from scoffing the whole thing, even if i did walk around with some of my fuscia pink lipstick on my chin for the rest of the evening following my snake like attempt to get my jaws around it. It was €4.50 which was fair for what i got, a handmade, handpackaged and lovingly sold sweet treet.
Now as sweet toothed as I am and I generally let it run rampant on holiday. I cannot survive on sugar alone, and if there is one thing that will tempt me from the sweet side it is japanese food. Tucked away in the far right corner of the hall was a tiny stall from Kame Bakery serving onigirazu a sort on onigiri samdwich hybrid where a filling is wrapped in season japanese rice and wrapped in nori. They were selling a few flavours icluding salmon, vegan tempei and sukiyaki beef. I’m not fan of cooked salmon and tempei is out for dietary reasons so more beef for me! I was not in any way put out, this was one of the best things I had all night, saltly sweet beef with crispy lettuce wrapped in light fluffy rice and what was now soft steamed nori. It was all washed down with a large cup of iced tea from a neaby stall. As delicious as it was I was running out of room and had to rewrap the second half of it to eat as a midnight snack back in my hotel room while googling how to make them at home. Great value for €5, they even had shots of sake at €1 but as i was working the following day I left them well alone.
While milling around I couldnt help but notice that out of the three places selling ice cream that this place had, by far, the longest queue, and it stayed around this length all night. Any icecreamery with a queue twenty people deep is something I need to try out. Jones icecream is 100% natural ingredients and small batch made in Berlin and sold out of a sweet little sage green truck. Gabrielle the head chef at Jones’ has a passion ofr icecream and cookies and this is clearly on display in the truck. The cookied looked incredibly, soft and chewy but alas I couldnt see any gluten free optins which is a shame because the matcha white chocolate chip one was screaming at me.
Thankfully for me there was a matcha green tea ice cream option which was generously scooped into a cup for me. They has perhaps 12 flavours to choose from but perhaps suffering from decision fatigue I asked the friendly bloke on the truck to recommend a flavour pairing for me and he chose the passion fruit and yoghurt which I was delighted with. Matcha is a beautiful rich, earthy and somewhat savoury flavour and having a light fruity flavour is perfect to cut through it and cleanse the palatte. The ice cream was super smooth and creamy, the flavours well balanced and as it was my last purchase of the night it was a delicious companion on the s-bahn journey home.