Have you heard of Roderick “Roddie” Sloan? He’s an enigmatic Scotsman who moved to a remote Norwegian village deep within the Arctic circle some 20 years ago and started diving for seafood. For a while, his hand-fished urchins, clams and scallops were some of the most exclusive gastronomical treasures in Europe, served only at Copenhagen’s Noma and a single-digit number of similarly revered institutions. When Ernst’s Dylan Watson-Brawn, a Noma alum himself, landed Sloan as a supplier in 2018, it was a Big Get.
Something must have changed, because for the past few months it’s been a veritable Sloan-a-palooza in Berlin. The fruits of the diver’s considerable labours can be tasted at Ernst and its “little brother” Julius, but also at the Noma-aspirant AV, the Dutch-Nordic Lode & Stijn, the Chinese-German UUU, the haute-Thai Kin Dee, and the sashimi-centric 893 Ryotei – all fine restaurants to be sure, but not huge names. A bit puzzling, considering Sloan initially refused to take René Redzepi’s call because Noma “only” had two Michelin stars at the time.
No ingredient that enters the kitchen is anything less than exemplary.
We’ve partly got Sam Kindillon to thank for our newfound abundance of Arctic bounty. The Irish-born chef worked with Sloan in Copenhagen before taking the culinary reins at Ora, the former 19th-century apothecary in Kreuzberg. Previously a café selling Berlin’s most-Instagrammed cinnamon rolls, then a cocktail bar and European brasserie, the retro venue was taken over by the Michelberger crew in mid-2020. That’s one more feather in a cap that already includes a Bon Iver-beloved hotel, a regenerative farm in Spreewald, a brand of coconut water, a line of herbal spirits and a locavore restaurant that I once spent €50 at and left hangry.
Fearing that experience at the new Ora, which has been transformed into a similar sort of natural wine bar and product-focused casual fine dinery, I put off going until a few weeks ago, only to be pleasantly surprised. Between the Michelberger farm, the hoteliers’ relationships with other small producers and Kindillon’s own connections (he and Fish Klub’s Margaux Friocourt are an item, which must be convenient), no ingredient that enters the kitchen is anything less than exemplary, while the dishes that come out are both delicious and as gorgeous as the setting.
After Watson-Brawn, Kindillon was one of the first chefs to successfully entice Sloan to the German capital. He spent a few months making regular trips to BER to pick up air shipments from Norway, until the supplier began flying the just-fished seafood to a central hub in Copenhagen each Monday and driving it to Berlin the following day. It’s that logistical switch that’s enabled other restaurants to get on board.
At Ora, items from the week’s delivery make it onto the three- or four-course dinner menu (€55-62), which you piece together from an ever-changing list of starters, desserts and unfussy mains like a filet of stone bass atop a delectable green salsa laced with clams and broad beans. But they’re also available as “bar snacks”, an a la carte category that overlaps significantly with the starter menu. Meaning that if you can’t afford a full meal here – or would prefer to spend your money on booze – you can still sample the shellfish that’s the talk of the continent.
Norwegian scallops half the size of your fist, cut into thick, velvety slices and served with ajo blanco and their own buttery roe.
Supplies are limited, so make an early reservation for a guaranteed shot at slivered raw razor clams, with a firm bite and delicate flavour complemented by Michelberger-grown wood sorrel. Or Norwegian scallops half the size of your fist, cut into thick, velvety slices and served with ajo blanco and their own buttery roe. €18 may be pushing it as a “snack” price, but for a product that Sloan (or a member of his small-but-growing team) braved a 50m plunge in icy water to bring to your plate, and that’s otherwise only available in tasting menus, it’s a fair deal.
Add in a few Fish Klub oysters, some hearty homemade sourdough and another dish or two – when I was there, the kitchen was offering a to-die-for spread made from the aforementioned bass’s excess roe, alongside beets from the cult farm Wilmar’s Gärten – and you’ll be fortified enough to explore the wine list, which includes the usual adventurous varietals as well as some unexpectedly great non-alcoholic options. If that’s still not enough, well, the cheap eats of Kotti await.
- Ora, Oranienplatz 14, Kreuzberg, Tue-Sat 5-12, reservations here