Farewell to Berlin

Saturday, November 22nd , 2014

berlin-2014 Brandenburg Gate-crop-v3.JPG

Magazine is located in a striking building in Hyde Park designed by world-famous architect Zaha Hadid. It serves modern Japanese food prepared by a German chef, and the dishes I tried were generally pretty good. Donburi of pork belly and an exotic fruit cocktail were particularly enjoyable, sushi using cold rice less so. However the overall experience was a pleasant one, and the dining room is a really lovely space to eat in, enhanced by the view over the park. 

Talking of sushi, someone who knows how to make it properly is Matsuhiro Araki, formerly 3 star Michelin chef of Araki in Tokyo. He has moved to the UK (this is no “branch’ or franchise) and opened up a restaurant in Mayfair with nine seats along a cypress wood counter, very much like the original restaurant in Tokyo. He has taken some bold steps: choosing to source the fish locally, and pricing his no-choice menu at £300 before service or drinks. This is by a wide margin the most expensive menu in London, yet so far seems not to have been a deterrent, with the place pretty much full at both dinner sittings up to Christmas. The best sushi that I tried was genuinely superb: silky tuna from Spain, excellent snapper from France. The latter was given a luxury twist by the use of Beluga caviar, as was tuna tartare garnished with white truffles. However there were some relative missteps too: a distinctly ordinary grilled prawn, and a merely decent piece of squid. Given the astronomical bill, such inconsistency is troubling.

There are currently 5 two Michelin star restaurants in Berlin. I had previously been to Fischers Fritz and Reinstoff, and on this trip tried the other three. Facil offers modern but not wacky cooking in a pretty all-glass cube dining room. Service was particularly impressive and the food generally very good, though there were some inconsistencies. The best dish was saddle of venison with sesame biscuit, but some dishes felt a bit overworked to me.

Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer is in the historic Adlon Hotel, overlooking the Brandenburg Gate (pictured). The cooking is more modern than the wood-panelled room would suggest. Fennel with bacon and vinegar was unusual and interesting, but for me nothing that I tried was really in two star territory except for the bill. Service was surprisingly poor for a restaurant of this level, at times brusque and with a rapacious desire to upsell wine and water.  

By some margin the best meal of the trip was at Tim Raue. The Asian influences of his fusion cooking are done with considerable skill, so although there are plenty of dishes with spices, flavour balance is always carefully considered. A smoked pork chin had extraordinary flavour, and bream with spices and Alba truffles was also superb. The cooking here is inventive and thoroughly enjoyable. 

The 2015 Michelin guides to Spain & Portugal and The Netherlands came out. There was no change in either at the 3 star level. In the Netherlands, there were 2 stars for Librije's De Zusje in Amsterdam, 't Nonnetje in Harderwijk and De Lindehof in Nuenen, but demotions for De Zwethheul and Librije's Zusje. The Netherlands now has a pair of three star restaurants, 19 two star restaurants and 79 one star restaurants. 

In Spain there were two stars for Aponiente in Cadiz.  I was also pleased to see that Elkano and Punto MX gained stars. Spain how has 8 three star restaurants, 18 two stars and 143 one stars. In Portugal there was a new two star in the form of Belcanto in Lisbon, bring the total for the country to 3 two stars in all, along wth 11 one star places.