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Photo by Jane Silver
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I’m at Friedrichshain’s R.A.W. complex early on a Sunday, standing amid queues of fashionable, glassy-eyed young Berliners in an artfully ruined warehouse. We’ve all heard about Neue Heimat, the latest project from Danny Faber and Andreas Söcknick (Chalet, Bar25), and we’ve dutifully answered the call of an email from the organisers inviting us to “discover what ‘having a good time’ means”. Of course, we're in Berlin, where “having a good time” can only really mean one thing. You know what I'm talking about.
That's right: tiny sandwiches.
Sigh. Blame Bite Club or Markthalle IX or a surfeit of overly excited expat bloggers, but over the past year, street food in Berlin has gone from a perfunctory pitstop before or after a night out to the night out itself. Vendors have become the new DJs, appearing all over town in various permutations of the same essential lineup. And just as only a small percentage of the club crowd really cares about the music, the attendees at these ‘markets’ aren’t there to fill their bellies or even please their taste buds, but to be seen in the right place at the right time, consuming the right consumables. “Oh yeah, I'm going to Beer & Beef too, I heard Fraulein Kimchi’s gonna be there!”
Neue Heimat’s Village Market, to be held every Sunday from this point forth, stands out for making the food-clubbing connection the most obvious it’s ever been. It’s listed on Resident Advisor, for god’s sake, and there’s a bouncer at the entrance who confiscates outside beverages. (Why? I have no idea. To maintain a Gastronomical Purity Zone wherein only Charitea, green smoothies and €7.50 Moscow Mules may pass one's lips?)
Get past him and you'll find around 15 stalls, both indoors and outdoors, mostly representatives of the street food hegemony that's established itself lately. At this past Sunday’s opening event, the longest queue was for Mogg & Melzer, the two-year-old New York-style deli in Mitte, there to sell a miniaturised take on their famed pastrami sandwich. Since I'd already had the grown-up version (recommended, if pricey), I went for another stall I’ve had my eye on for a while: Comptoir du Cidre, run by a pair of Canadian siblings just about to open a French cider import shop on Kollwitzplatz. Their “65-hour Cidre Steak” (€5) is an enticing-sounding tartine featuring beef marinated in cider for 24 hours, cooked sous-vide for another 11 and topped with 30-hour caramelised onions and homemade mustard. That's practically three straight days of meaty labour, very nearly undone by a carelessly applied schmear of mayo or aioli or whatever, an ingredient not listed on their blackboard. Scrape some of that off and it's fine; the meat's tender as it should be and the overall flavour profile's what I always wished the roast beef sandwich my mum used to pack in my school lunch would taste like.
If that doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement, then... well. I've been going to these things for a year now and while there’ve been plenty of tasty dishes, I've still yet to find something knock-your-socks-off delicious. But they're always so packed that I keep coming back, wondering what I'm missing, kinda like how I keep going back to Panorama Bar in the hopes that this time, I'll totally get it, man...
That's it! I need to be on drugs. Luckily, I suspect it's only a matter of time before a particularly enterprising German-American couple opens up an artisanal MDMA stall. It’ll be all-organic, served straight out of the Chemex, perhaps lightly flavoured with lavender.