Mexican was the trending food of 2009; bibimbap was so last year. What’s been on the Berliner’s 2011 food radar? Veggie, my friend. With eight new meat-free restaurants (four of which are fully vegan), and a new all-vegan supermarket, Berlin is catering to its growing herbivore scene. Françoise Poilâne asked eminent colleague and vegetarian expert Heather Leaves to test six new additions to the Berlin veg map.
Faux comfort food (vegan)
Atmosphere ♥♥♥- Food ♥♥♥- Ethics ♥♥♥-
After working as head chef at La Mano Verde, vegan chef and cookbook author Björn Moschinski opened Kopps in September. The trendy, clean space looks like a designer hotel bar, complete with middle-aged, welldressed customers.
Although plated with care, the food is the opposite of sleek: tuna salad, schnitzel, goulash, mashed potatoes and Knödel – it’s drizzled with gravy and strewn with imitation meat. The service is prompt and comes with a smile from tall, healthy-looking German men, all in black uniform. Emphasis here is on cooking fair: the soy products are carefully sourced from European countries, they never use genetically modified foods, and the fair-trade coffee is above and beyond, as thefarmers get to keep 100 percent of the profit. Here, “quality regional” produce is valued more than the organic symbol.
The three-course evening menu (€19.50) is sure to replenish even the hungriest omnivore: processed soy cordon bleu in crispy breading is real comfort food served with a satisfying (and ironically gravy-tasting) mash. Too bad the soy pieces in the goulash (€11.50) had the unpleasant texture and distinct stale taste that soy sometimes has. The soy-and-agar crème brûlée is a real crispy, creamy treat – fingers crossed it ends up on the regular menu! Our tip: don’t miss the deliciously greasy battered field mushrooms with dill remoulade and lemon (€5.90).
Kopps, Linienstr. 94, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosenthaler Platz, Mon-Sun from 8:30,Sunday brunch €8.90 from 10:00
Herbivore heaven (vegan)
Atmosphere ♥♥– Food ♥♥♥- Ethics ♥♥♥-
Gesund & sündig is connected to a sports centre, which means that their opening hours are not ideal for wining and dining. Everything on the menu is raw and vegan. And it’s all about healthy eating: owner Helge Grotelüschen would rather eat a non-fair-trade mango from Brazil than a boiled potato from Brandenburg.
That said, organic and fresh produce is a priority, and Helge sources as much as he can from local farmers. The raw dishes have familiar, reassuring names. “Sweet and sour sushi” (€7.90) uses a mixture of sunflower seeds and sauerkraut (instead of rice), and the crunchy centre of the roll is carrot, courgette and pineapple sticks – all wrapped in nori. Surprisingly, it almost tastes like sushi. “Pizza Crudo della Casa” (€7.90) gets its bitter tang from the dried seed base, but the mild tomato sauce and vegetables bring balance.The ‘ricotta’ is made of cashews.
In the ‘lasagna’ (€8.50), pasta is replaced with thinly sliced courgette, and the flavours are hard to identify through the acidity and intense garlic. The side salad is an instant favourite: arugula and pear with a savoury garlic dressing. The dishes are as bright and colourful on the palate as on the plate. Wash your meal down with a sin-free, freshly made juice (€3) or a green smoothie (€2.80-4), or go strong and opt for organic beer or wine.
Gesund & sündig, Forckenbeckstr. 21, Wilmersdorf, U+S-Bhf Heidelberg Platz, Mon-Fri 10-20:30
Pizza for PETA (vegan)
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Ten customers are waiting, but the owner says, “Sorry, we’re too busy. Please wait five minutes to order.” At the self-service counter, time passes as you flip through the pile of flyers and read Antifa’s winter program.
The Italian-owned vegan pizzeria, Sfizy Veg, opened at the end of summer and follows in the footsteps of vegan hangover food joints like Yellow Sunshine, Yoyo and Vego Foodworld.
The menu offers over 50 pizzas (€3-7.50), as well as focaccia, pasta, panini, polenta, bruschetta and burgers. The currywurst pizza is deliciously greasy and salty, but when biting into the plain marinara, the thickness of the base proves a distraction.
The tomato sauce is tasty and the toppings generous. As for the processed cheese and meats, like ‘prosciutto’, ‘salami’ and ‘salmon’, they’re mostly soy-based and imported from Italy. Here you won’t see the bio logo on anything but the Bionade bottles in the fridge.
Sfizy Veg, Treptower Str. 95, S-Bhf Sonnenallee, Tue-Sun 15-22
Carrots and candlelight (vegan)
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Lucky Leek offers vegan food in a cosy, candle-lit basement. The owners, Sebastian Happe und Josita Hartanto, let the seasonal vegetables take the lead on their beautiful plates. Tofu, seitan and soy are only given the spotlight in one or two dishes. As Sebastian puts it: “It’s not fun to cook with those soy things”.
The concise menu changes every four to six weeks, and ingredients, though seasonal, are not strictly organic or local but also sourced from Asian specialty stores or regular grocery chains.
Dishes like pumpkin Maultaschen with fried mushrooms and a creamy hollandaise, or roasted aubergine and bell pepper picatta with chestnut-flavoured thick noodles (mains €11.50-12.50) are imaginative, delicious and give you the feeling that someone in the kitchen really cares.
To ask if the amazing nougat-chocolate tiramisu really is made in-house is an insult: “Of course! Everything we serve is made here!” says the young, bearded waiter, and smiles again.
Lucky Leek, Kollwitzstr. 46, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Senefelderplatz, Tue-Sun 17-23
Atmosphere ♥♥– Food ♥♥– Ethics ♥—
LebensfRoh café opened in August of 2011 in search of Kreuzberg’s raw food lovers. Yet on a Wednesday morning the café is filled with nothing but sunlight and the lonely voice of Kurt Cobain.
The cake display is empty, and the “Süßer Teller isn’t ready yet”, apologises the waitress, whose neutral-coloured and loose-fitting attire make her look as if she were on her way to yoga class.
So the choice is between raw muesli (€4), chestnut porridge (€3) or a plate of raw crackers with assorted spreads, olives and veggies (small plate, €5).
The vegan porridge is mild and sweet, sticky and a little grainy. For another euro it comes with fresh fruit or warm fruit purée. Disappointingly, the cracker plate is not as filling as a Berliner would expect for €5, but the seedy crackers are a tasty, light snack.
For lunch and dinner there’s a daily soup (€4), raw courgette pasta (€5) and other daily specials like raw sushi or pizza (€8). Healthy and conscious eating here stops with their wide use of exotic ingredients: coconut palm sugar, amaranth and olives don’t have the fair-trade seal of approval.
LebensfRoh, Görlitzer Str. 38, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schlesisches Tor, Mon, Wed-Fri 7:30-18:30, Sat 10-20, Sun 10-17
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Across the Ostkreuz train station, big letters spell out “Schöner als döner”. The “Schöner” (€3.90), served at Vegikreuz, is a bread or a wrap, filled with fresh salads and vegetables – surprising ones too, like carrots – and slivers of tender seitan. “Kartoffel-Kumara Wedges” are half potato and half sweet potato, served with yoghurt or chilli sauce (€3).
The lighter option is a wrap with salad, sprouts, cheese and Kräutersoße (€3.50). Everything at Vegikreuz is organic, even the seitan, pre-made by German manufacturer Wheaty. Here, you order at the counter for takeaway or to eat on the spot. Then gulp down a cup of fair-trade coffee (with cow’s milk if you like) to wash it down and polish your halo.
Vegikreuz am Ostkreuz, Sonntagstr. 1, Friedrichshain, S-Bhf Ostkreuz, Mon-Sun 11-1