And just like that, restaurants are back.
It’s almost too much to hope that this will be the last grand reopening, that the outdoor dining will lead to indoor dining, that the distance between tables will shrink and the masks will disappear until one day, the past agonising half-year of lockdown is reduced to a mere blip in our collective memory. (It would be nice if they kept the bottles of hand sanitiser by the entrance, though.)
To increase the likelihood of all that, the government’s put a few rules in place. Restaurant visitors must make a reservation or do an on-the-spot digital check in (download the Luca app if you don’t have it already). Theoretically, you won’t be seated unless you present a negative Covid test from the past 24 hours, a fully stamped Impfpass or a doctor’s note confirming they’ve recovered from the virus in the past six months. You can only sit at a table with 4 other people or fewer, you’ve got to wear a mask when you’re not sitting down, and the alcohol has to stop flowing at 11pm.
So that’s the how. The question remains: Where? Given the short notice (and government funding that won’t run out until the end of the month), many Berlin restaurants won’t resume sit-down service until next week or even June. But some of the city’s most atmospheric courtyards and biergartens are already taking bookings for this weekend. Here’s my top 10:
Clärchens Ballhaus Berlin’s most cherished historic ballroom reopened last July with new owners (what up, GCM overlords!), a new look (bye bye, tinsel) and a revamped menu that killed the pizza but kept the schnitzel. Get a forkful in the lush, expansive courtyard, which is almost as scenic as the old Spiegelsaal.
Night Kitchen The fairylit Heckman Höfe courtyard is the place to go for a lengthy, celebratory group meal, especially if you opt for the never-ending parade of shareable modern-Mediterranean dishes that constitutes the €42/person “Dinner With Friends” and chase it with a potent cocktail or two.
Kanaan Silky-smooth hummus, homemade pita bread, and other vegetarian and vegan Middle Eastern specialties in a big sandy lot off Helmholtzplatz. Co-owned by an Israeli and a Palestinian, it’s also one of the only restaurants in Berlin to publicly give a damn about what’s going on in Gaza right now.
Kink This ambitious, experimental-minded restaurant and cocktail bar took over most of the Pfefferberg complex in late 2019 – including the leafy, elevated patio, where hip Prenzlauer Bergers can unwind over grilled octopus, beef tartare and asparagus sorbet (or more casual lunch dishes from new sister café Frank, with its tantalising French-style tartelettes, hazelnut choux and babas).
Michelberger Restaurant Yeah, it’s too-cool-for-school and you won’t get full at dinner without spending a fortune. But the DJ-soundtracked courtyard ambience is hard to beat, and lunch gets you the same hyperlocal produce (from the regenerative farm the crew opened last summer) for way less money. Also, you might run into Bon Iver once the hotel reopens.
Zollhaus Rutz Meaty German classics from bratwurst to Königsberger Klopse, given an upgrade by the three-Michelin-starred chef Marco Müller and served on a manicured, grassy terrace that’s so close to the Landwehrkanal you could give the swans your leftovers (which you’ll only have if you’re vegan).
3 Schwestern It’s not too cold for an outdoor movie – you’re just not dressed properly. Before bundling up and taking in a screening of Greenland, Mama Weed or The United States vs. Billie Holiday at the freshly opened Freiluftkino Kreuzberg, hit up the courtyard biergarten of its Bethanien neighbor for a free-range schnitzel or belly-warming plate of Käsespätzle.
21 Gramm There’s no more picturesque place to eat pancakes than under the brick-lined eaves of the former funeral parlour across from Tempelhofer Feld. The upmarket brunch, lunch and happy hour fare here may be a tad overrated, but given the setting and the location, the post-reopening dining crowd will be dying to get in. (Sorry.)
Brlo Nasal swab with your IPA? The most happening craft brewery in Gleisdreieck is welcoming spontaneous biergarten drop-ins thanks to an in-house testing station. The full menu, with its BBQ and bangin’ baked cauliflower, may not be available yet, but you can at least expect some tasty snacks and ice cream.
Like Brlo, the Tiergarten biergarten boasts its own Corona testing station – get a swab, have a 20-minute stroll, and circle back for a lakeside Löwenbräu (or a cold-pressed juice), a pretzel or a Flammkuchen. It’s only a matter of time before the Touris retake this gorgeous place, so go ASAP.
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