Unless you’re looking for a Michelin-starred chef and willing to pay a hefty sum, Berlin’s not the sort of town where you just wander into a hotel restaurant. You eat in your Kiez and stay away from ‘tourist areas’. It’s also a city where the geographical centre of the city can feel entirely off the beaten track. Like the bizarre area around Checkpoint Charlie, where the architectural hodgepodge in the gaps left over by the war and the Wall creates the strange impression of being nowhere – even if you’re a stone’s throw from Friedrichstraße, the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz. Gat Point Charlie, a designer hotel belonging to a hip Spanish chain, landed like a UFO in this neighbourhood last spring.
Hardly noticeable from the street, the hotel’s restaurant is a bit of a food oasis in an area known for touristy sandwich shops and coffee chains. Gat Kitchen, a retro-futurist tunnel Barbarella would feel comfortable in, is lined with clean, curvy white tables and decorated with the odd vintage object – some relating to the hotel’s trademark cat theme (‘gat’ means cat in Catalan) – and trendy curly window deco made out of cardboard.
The food, conceived by the young and hip Spanish chefs Paula and Flip, is ‘contemporary’ European with a few Asian touches and considerable Catalan influence, like that staple of Barcelona, Pa amb tomàquet, or bread rubbed with ripe tomatoes (€2 for a portion).
The prix-fixe menu is the way to go here: for €26 you’ll get a starter, main and dessert. Amongst starters like beef carpaccio with parmesan or chestnut cream soup with truffle “cappuccino”, we opted for the mussels in maracuja sauce, a great surprise: the sweetness of the tropical fruit gently complemented the salty seafood edge without killing it, giving our mussels a most enjoyable twist. And at €6 (a la carte), the portion was generous.
That’s more than you can say about the salmon filet. Although perfectly cooked (with the meat left soft and tender inside) and generously sized, there could have been more of the tasty beer risotto. Just because it’s Spanish doesn’t mean the servings have to be tapas-sized.
To see if they could handle a classic, we ordered the entrecote (€20) served with romesco, a spicy Catalan sauce, and with sides of ratatouille, roast potatoes and salad. Here the highlight was clearly the perfectly large piece of beef… German-grown and no less tender and tasty as its famous Angus and Charolais counterparts.
Desserts at Gat Kitchen are light and pleasing, if not quite as interesting as the main courses. Although the attempt to mix pineapple with pine nuts and mint is nice on paper, the actual result (served on a wooden skewer and drenched in honey) was underwhelming, so was the Rote Grütze with meringue.
Service is friendly and active, with mostly Spanish speaking-waiters doing a great job with what seemed to be refreshingly genuine smiles. All in all, if you’re in the Checkpoint Charlie area and at a loss about what to eat, this oddly funky restaurant could be that secret tip for foodies in the know. Too bad they ditched their €16 three-course opening-deal: that was really amazing!