British folks in Berlin are getting the worst of both worlds right now: all the bureaucratic headaches of Brexit and none of the fast vaccinations, not to mention the sky-high Marmite prices. To help you keep your peckers up, I tracked down three new places offering UK transplants a taste of home.
The first, in fact, is literally Home: the cosy Friedrichshain expat pub, converted since last summer into a miniature shop for British sundries. Pre-lockdown, proprietors Kate Jones and Mike Featherstone always stocked Walkers Crisps to satiate drunk munchies; now those snacks are joined by canned baked beans, Hobnob biscuits, Ribena, Atora beef suet… You get the picture. Broken English in Bergmannkiez might have a wider selection, but Home feels more, well, homey – there are niche products like vegan soap from the cooperative cosmetics company Suma, a well-curated drinks fridge with everything from Buckfast and Irn-Bru to Katy cider and craft stout, homemade pasties or pies sold every Saturday afternoon and a new batch of 50 ciders imported from the UK.
All this comes with an expiry date, though. Mike and Kate are currently working through their last shipment of British goods, a massive order delivered in late December just before Brexit made imports unsustainably expensive. By the time they run out, well, hopefully Home will be able to re-open as a bar. Or they’ll switch their focus to local offerings – the streaky bacon and black pudding from Anglophone-beloved butcher The Sausage Man Never Sleeps are already best sellers.
If your tastes lean pescetarian, head down to Freddy Fey’s in Kreuzberg. It’s not actually hard to find good fish and chips in Berlin these days – Der Fischladen in Prenzlauer Berg has sold a decent version for years, and the gourmet platter at Fish Klub’s new location in Charlottenburg has been getting rave reviews. But this Imbiss run by catering and event company Barkin’ Kitchen comes closest to a proper British chippy, despite the fact that everyone involved is German (head chef “Freddy” Fey’s real name is Christian). An order comes with your choice of flaky white fish (or a vegan seitan-algae substitute I can’t vouch for) in an ethereally light and crispy beer batter, plus golden-brown skin-on fries, malt vinegar, tartar sauce and what my sources tell me are very authentic mushy peas. Skip the pollock, which is the cheapest option for a reason, and spring for the more flavourful redfish or cod. And invest 80 cents in a side of homemade brown or hot sauce – nothing against the tartar, but you’re going to need some extra zing to get through this much fried stuff.
Also in Kreuzberg, Two Trick Pony isn’t a British restaurant per se. Rather, I’d call the Bergmannstraße café a spiritual cousin to gastropubs St. Bart and Hirsch & Hase, in that all three serve seriously good food that just happens to scratch some specific British itches. Opened mere days before the pandemic by Irish-South African couple Gary Young and Jason Starmer (with the help of chef Nathan Perrin, a Yorkshireman and award-winning piemaker Starmer had met in the London restaurant trenches), what was intended to be an upmarket experimental brunchery has now spent most of its young life as a takeout window. Its marquee offerings: pies and sausage rolls.
If you aren’t vegan and have €6 in your pocket right now, head straight there and order the latter – either the traditional pork and sage version, or a fantastic, deeply savoury mix of portobello mushroom, Swiss chard and lentils. Both are wrapped in buttery handmade puff pastry, and come with a tub of plum ketchup that provides the perfect tangy complement. For bigger appetites, the pie with piquant curried cauliflower and potatoes more than hits the spot, especially ordered as a meal with peas, mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Finish off with something sweet, like a dense, sticky slice of parsnip-ginger cake that’ll make you wonder why carrots get all the dessert attention and love. Depending on the lockdown situation, you might have to eat in a graveyard (the nearest green space is the adjoining Jerusalem Friedhof) – but with food this life-affirming, who cares?
Of course, there’s more to the menu than dough. Weekly specials have included smoked mackerel kedgeree, duck confit waffles and other intriguing dishes that hint at what Two Trick Pony might become once restaurant service resumes. I can’t wait, but let’s all hope those sausage rolls stay on the menu.