It’s not that nobody knew about the Pfefferberg before, exactly. Built in 1841, the elevated building complex by Senefelderplatz has variously been used as a brewery, a chocolate factory, a GDR publishing house, and a cultural centre. Olafur Eliasson has a studio there, as did Ai Weiwei until recently. There’s a hostel, a theater that puts on modest German-language productions, and a brewhouse run by Berlin craft beer pioneer Thorsten Schoppe.
But for most of the past decade, the most attractive slice of Pfefferberg real estate – a vertiginous two-level building with a leafy outer courtyard – has belonged to the hideous Spanish-themed steakhouse Tauro. Its very presence marked the complex as a destination for clueless tourists only… until it abruptly shuttered in 2019, leaving 1700 square metres up for grabs.
Cut to 2021, and that vacuum has been filled by a pair of related projects, each of which would be considered ambitious even in non-Covid times. The first, Kink, is the product of a couple of German buddies, Oliver Manzaray (ex-Katz Orange) and Daniel Scheppan, who gave the upper building an urban-industrial revamp for the ages. Walls have been stripped, steel staircases constructed and the mezzanine, now full of stylishly mismatched sofas, overlooks a gigantic undulating neon tube installation by artist Kerim Seiler. A shame you’ll probably only see it on your way to the restroom. If the weather isn’t freezing, all the action here happens outside, at bare wooden tables beneath oversized hanging bulbs.
And “action” is the right word. Whether in its decor or its menu, Kink has a lot going on. It’s not just a restaurant but a “culinary laboratory” with a “spice library” and a beverage program as experimental as its food. Ask for an aperitif, and you’ll be offered a choice between champagne infused with chamomile, gin and foraged Waldmeister, or Campari and soda prepared with a rare high-pressure aerator.
You can pair your meal with wine – an international mix of rosés, reds, whites and oranges – or throw in some “restaurant drinks”, low-ABV cocktails designed with the season’s dishes in mind. That’s how we came to be nibbling on aged beef tartare with bonito flakes, samphire and iodine-y chips of dehydrated kombu while sipping a blend of tequila, roasted green tea, jalapeño and fermented pineapple. You know the Kondoish ingredient-centric minimalism that’s so en vogue at places like Ernst and Otto? This ain’t it.
Kink is a lot. But, assuming you don’t mind splashing out €50-60 a head on dinner and drinks, it’s also a lot of fun.
Chef Ivano Pirolo used to work at Facil, and it’s kind of delightful to see that Michelin expertise put into the service of something this, well, kinky. His signature octopus arrives splattered with tamarillo sauce, habanero mayonnaise and dehydrated olive, topped with endive and fried chips made from the cephalopod’s guts. Squab breasts, as juicy as a TMZ blind item, similarly encounter their own entrails, this time as a velvety puree stuffed inside a roast shallot; chard leaves, cacao nibs and baharat round off the dark, earthy dish.
During Spargelzeit, the combination of Beelitz asparagus, miso, black garlic and dill appears twice: first as a fairly tame vegetable dish, then as an absolutely bonkers dessert where the miso is in caramel and the Spargel is a sorbet. We’re encouraged to try it alongside a tropical-tasting cocktail featuring rum, banana, basil and house-made cashew orgeat. Like I said, Kink is a lot. But, assuming you don’t mind splashing out €50-60 a head on dinner and drinks, it’s also a lot of fun.
Those with less cash or patience can still sample the experience at adjoining café Frank, opened in April. Also run and designed by Manzaray and Scheppan, it trades Kink’s clubby ambience for airy, houseplant-filled Insta-vibes, with a distressed wood-and-steel bar and rather uncomfortable metal furniture providing the requisite industrial touches.
There’s coffee from Mitte roasters Röststätte, some high-end juice blends (including three takes on the Bloody Mary, served with or without booze) and a comparatively restrained daily lunch menu with dishes like wild garlic risotto, veggie lasagna and Korean fried chicken. But the real gem here is the patisserie: proper tarts, babas and out-of-this world filled hazelnut choux, courtesy of French pastry chef Fabienne Dauplay. You can indulge till 6pm, after which Frank is subsumed into Kink’s bar.
Kink, Schönhauser Allee 176, Prenzlauer Berg, Tue-Sat 18-24, reservations recommended
Frank, Schönhauser Allee 176, Prenzlauer Berg, daily 8:30-18