When was the last time you actually hung out in a museum restaurant? Even when the food’s good – like at Beba, the Martin-Gropius-Bau’s Israeli deli, or the Hamburger Bahnhof’s in-house café when Sarah Wiener was in charge of it – it’s usually little more than a way to rest your legs post-exhibition and refuel for the trip home.
Not so with Baret, the new lunch and dinner spot perched atop the Humboldt Forum. Run by a young team that includes the ex-manager of Kreuzberg’s scene-y Long March Canteen and the ex-chef from Bar Tausend’s Cantina, accessible via an elevator that can be reached without having to traverse the Forum’s blindingly beige innards, Baret would prefer to avoid the “museum restaurant” label entirely. Rather, it’s a chic, modern rooftop bar and eatery that just so happens to be attached to a €700 million eyesore filled with ill-gotten colonial artefacts.
Okay, a restaurant review may not be the right forum (get it?) to discuss the financial folly of the reconstructed Berliner Stadtschloss, let alone its controversial ethnographic collection. Baret certainly doesn’t engage with either, aside from a vague “worldly” theme. Its namesake, French botanist Jeanne Baret, was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe; judging by the on-trend planty decor, she encountered many a monstera on her travels. Beneath the foliage, colourful patterned tapestries invoke exoticity without alluding to any one country.
So does Octavio Osés Bravo’s compact dinner menu, which presses ingredients and influences from across the globe into the service of familiar dishes. A little too familiar, if you’ve eaten at a so-called contemporary restaurant in the last five years or so. The vegan main is, drumroll please, a whole roasted cauliflower for €18. Pescetarians can precede it with a hamachi crudo whose played-out status isn’t remedied by a sadly sub-par piece of fish (we live in a post-Fish Klub world, and any bit of raw seafood that isn’t from their supplier network had better be just as wrigglingly fresh).
Other plates, at least, display the talents of a chef firmly in his wheelhouse. Bravo, from Argentina via Spain, is no stranger to the octopus, and it’s easily Baret’s best offering: two tender tentacles curled around a pool of black tahini with a side of perfect saffron risotto. A mound of carpaccio-thin smoked celery root draped over walnuts, dried cranberries, cubed apple and a creamy lovage emulsion manages to taste sunny and wintery at the same time. As for that roast cauliflower, you’ll be too busy using the house sourdough to sop up every drop of its I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-buttery lemon sauce to hate on the cliché.
It isn’t mind-blowing, but it doesn’t have to be. Look where you are: on a rooftop terrace smack in the middle of Museum Island, with a view of Berlin’s most famous landmarks at eye level. It’s enough to be able to grab a drink and a bite without feeling ripped off. We can’t vouch for lunch, which abandons the globetrotting for more standard fare like soup, salad, pasta and cakes, but dinner, and the very credible house cocktails, hit that mark.
A hotspot in its own right? Maybe not, but the next time you’re museum-hopping with a visiting friend or relative and your feet start getting sore, you know which elevator button to push.