Pots: A safe bet for Ritzy German dining
At last, a restaurant smack in the middle of Potsdamer Platz worth recommending to Berlinale visitors… just in time for a big part of the fest to move elsewhere. Well, you’re still going to need to eat around Berlin’s most soulless intersection at one point or another, and if you’re looking for a middle ground between the Michelin-starred Facil and Golvet and the marinara-soaked hell that is Vapiano, you’ll find it at the Ritz-Carlton’s year-old temple of neue deutsche Küche. If you’ve dined at any five-star hotel restaurants, you’ll recognise the markers. There’s the menu designed by a decorated fine dining veteran (the triple-Michelin-starred Dieter Müller) and prepared by a young male proxy (29-year-old Frederik Grieb); the by-committee name and interior (gleaming copper fixtures everywhere, to match the cookware and Platz-inspired moniker); the “luxury” touches that assure nouveau riche diners they’re getting some bang for their euros (in this case, so much copper-coloured edible glitter I’m surprised my toilet didn’t look like the Denver Mint the next day).
People pay €250 a night to stay at the Ritz-Carlton for the feeling of being in good hands, sheltered from any unwelcome surprises. For much less money, Pots provides that feeling on a plate. The daily four-course dinner is €59, €35 to €65 more with pairings from Austrian sommelier Mathias Brandweiner, an excellent curator of regional German varietals. The a la carte menu takes the form of, sigh, an “innovative sharing concept” wherein starters (€12), mains (€19-24), and sides (€5) are served in the centre of your table, some easily splittable, some less so.
Müller’s seasonal, German-inspired cuisine may not be cutting-edge but it’s technically flawless, the culinary equivalent of a Neil Peart drum solo. (RIP!) I’m still dreaming about the thick slab of lightly smoked fjord trout resting in a sanguine pool of liquified beetroot, its texture consistently velvety throughout. Or the snappy caviar trio – orange and white freshwater roe, black spherified squid ink – livening up a quinoa-topped piece of Arctic char like fishy Funfetti. And the cabbage! Charred till caramelised, glazed with Neukölln-fermented miso and sprinkled with parsley oil and hazlenuts, it hasn’t budged from Pots’ menu since opening night, and rightfully so. The ordinary-looking potato gratin, served in a mini Dutch oven, is so creamy it would make a satisfying lunch on its own (it’s sadly not on that menu, but you can get a three-course “business” meal for €26). Dessert-wise, the “mandarin orange”, actually a cheesecake-filled white chocolate sphere served with cinnamon ice cream, is the clear standout, though I couldn’t help but favourably compare the Bienenstich – here with almond sponge cake, tonka bean ice cream and honey “caviar” – to the dryish one I’d had at Tim Raue’s Villa Kellermann. There’s less personality at Pots than out there in Potsdam, but sometimes, like after a day spent watching arthouse films, all you want is good food, the closer to the theatre the better. Your screening schedule willing, Pots will be there for you.
POTS | Potsdamer Platz 3, Mitte, Tue- Fri 12-14:30 and 18-22, Sat 18-22, Mon 12-14:30
Best on-the-go festival grub
No time to sit down at Pots or queue at the gourmet street food stalls parked outside the Berlinale-Palast? Besides the tried-and-true options – takeout rolls at Potsdamer Arkaden’s Sushi Circle, or better, at sushi express; hearty salads at Caras or belegte Brötchen at Lindner – you can now grab a vegan bagel sandwich (and a donut for dessert) at Brammibal’s or a croissant and fussy Americano at The Barn, both of which opened outposts on the Platz last year. Don’t neglect the Mall of Berlin food court, which boasts a credible fresh pasta stand by celeb chef Giovanni Rana (ask your Italian friends) and a branch of cult Frankfurt currywurstery BestWorscht, rumoured to do Berlin’s signature dish way better than the locals.
More of the Berlinale moving here means more chances to stalk A-listers down Kantstraße, from storied celeb hangout ParisBar to its hipper modern-day equivalent 893 Ryotei. Not in the mood for steak frites, sashimi or sycophancy? There’s (literally) always SchwarzesCafé, your go-to for 4am schnitzel or squid ink tortellini among salt-of-the-earth regulars. If you’re in a hurry, head for the second-floor food court at Bikini Berlin, where you can down a poke bowl from Sonsof Mana, a vegan bao burger from Royals & Rice or a burrito from Chaparro. Really in a hurry? Risa Chicken’s Crispyfilet Burger is Berlin’s answer to that Popeye’s sandwich Americans won’t stop talking about. If you skip the garlic sauce, you could even get away with smuggling it into the Zoo-Palast.
Stick around the Cubix and your best prospect is Momotaro, a Vietnamese fushion gastropub that serves Berlin’s best (and only) US-style smash burgers. A quick walk northwest lands you in lunch heaven: Mission burritos at Dolores, dirt-cheap summer rolls at Com Viet, healthy foodie treats at The KlubKitchen or south German grub at Lebensmittel (make a reservation at the latter). If you’ve only got five minutes, zoom over to Scoom in the U-Bahn tunnel for passable sandwiches and wraps.