Facil opened in July 2001 in the centre of Berlin, located on the fifth floor of the Mandala hotel, opposite the Sony centre. Its head chef Michael Kempf has been in place here since 2003, immediately gaining a Michelin star, and in 2013 a second star. Mr Kempf had trained previously at Schlosshotel Lerbach in Bergisch Gladbach. The room has a tiled floor and floor to ceiling glass windows all around, including a large skylight. The 16 tables were well spaced out, covered with impeccably ironed white linen tablecloths. There was a wide range of menus on offer, you could choose from four (€96) to eight (€164) courses of a tasting menu, or alternatively from an a la carte choice that would result in a similarly sized bill.
The wine list featured over 400 labels, ranging from €31 to €2,850, with a median price of €85. Mark-ups were erratic, with some wines five times their retail price, some others around than the shop price, so some care and attention is advised when choosing. Example wines included the simple but very drinkable Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2010 at €40 for a wine that you can pick up in the high street for €14, Domaine Michel Ogier Côte Rôtie 2004 at €95 compared to a retail price of €49., and Domaine du Tunnel Cornas Vin Noir 2007 at €140 for a bottle that will set you back €70 in a shop. At the flashy end of the list, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Echézeaux Grand Cru 2002 was €880 yet actually costs €1,014 at its current market price. By contrast, Chateau Margaux 1996 was €1880 but retails at €583. Such a wine list creates pitfalls for the unwary but also some bargains if you do your research.
The meal began with a trio of nibbles: a ginger chip with cantaloupe melon and ricotta cheese, Danish sheep cheese with lime, and a spicy red pepper chip with bacon crumble. This sounded better than it was, as the flavours were quite muted other than for the sheep cheese (14/20). Next was a further nibble of Jerusalem artichokes in three textures: chips, cream and marinated, flavoured with sunflower seeds and sunflower blossom. This was a little better, the marinated artichoke the best of the selection (15/20).
Bread was made from scratch in the kitchen, an assortment of rolls and slices. A roll flavoured with wheat, cabbage and bacon had good texture, as did plain white sliced bread, perhaps the best of the lot. Five seed bread had a nice crust, a brown seeded loaf had pleasing texture, as did a plate of pretzels, but a linseed and black cumin loaf tasted weirdly medicinal (16/20 if I ignore the linseed bread). I drank a very enjoyable Donnhoff Grosse Gewachs 2011, which had a complex structure and long finish. Water was an inexcusable €9 for a 75cl bottle.
Marinated rutabaga (a cross between a cabbage and turnip) came with pineapple, roasted cashew nuts and was notionally flavoured with Sichuan pepper, but this was subtle to the point of invisibility. The root vegetable itself was fine, but there is a limit to how exciting you can make rutabaga (15/20).
Blue shrimp was served barely warm with kohlrabi and kohlrabi "milk" as a sauce, with tomato foam. The shellfish was properly cooked though rather lacked the inherent sweetness of a really high quality fresh prawn, but the featured vegetable was accurately cooked. However the sauce was distinctly bland, and the dish needed something extra to lift it out of the ordinary (14/20).
This was followed by tartare of carp wrapped in spinach leaf with black truffle, golden beetroot, the crisp skin of the carp and a fish soup as a sauce. This was a better dish, the fish having quite good flavour, the beet adding an earthy contrast along with the truffle, the sauce having being quite intense (16/20). I couldn't carp about the flavour balance here (sorry but the opportunity to use that particular pun doesn't come up very often).
Next was calamari shaped into "pasta", hardly an original idea but a pleasant enough way to present it. This came with marinated celery, green onion and a mix of bell pepper and tomato, with croutons of nori and a sauce of smoked calamari, tomato and vegetables. The squid was tender and the celery added an enjoyable earthy balance to the seafood (17/20). This was followed by ceps with mushroom cream, fried artichokes, pesto, tomato and a fried egg quail topped with cheese. This was a rich and enjoyable combination, if a touch salty even to my taste (16/20).
The final savoury course was saddle of venison with aubergine, sesame seed, cucumber, pomegranate and mousse of pistachio along with "Schwam", a dried biscuit made of sesame seeds and orange flower. The deer was excellent, precisely seasoned, and the texture of the biscuit offset its natural richness nicely, the pomegranate bringing welcome freshness (17/20).
Granny Smith apple dessert came with lychee mousse, shredded fennel salad, apple and lychee sorbet, Dulcey chocolate, tapioca and apple. This dish felt to me overworked, with not enough apple flavour, and the fennel seemingly teleported in from an entirely different dish. For me the chocolate needed more apple and lychee flavour to balance its richness, though it was otherwise pleasant enough (14/20).
Coffee was good, as well it might be at €6 a cup, and came with a few petit fours. Sorbet of mango, mandarin and passion fruit was actually the dish of the night, with superb texture and lovely flavour balance (18/20). Praline of coconut and praline of salted caramel were the other petit fours, along with cup cake of hazelnut and pear, which were all nicely made, as was a macaron of coffee and yuzu (16/20).
Service was top notch, with water, wine and bread effortlessly topped up, the staff friendly and knowledgeable. The bill came to €258 (£202) before tip. If you ordered a la carte and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical might be €180 (£141) a head. Overall, this was a quite enjoyable meal, with the best elements very capable indeed, but the dishes were at times overworked and in a few cases were rather lacking in flavour. At this price point such niggles are an issue, at least for this diner.