“You’re so brave for serving meat,” a passerby apparently commented to house manager Rebecca Lynch, barman Andy Costello and chef Sean Duff shortly after they opened their bar and restaurant Salt ‘n’ Bone. The Prenzlauer Berg joint is only the latest evidence of the meaty tide a-turning in the veggie-friendly Hauptstadt. Think about how high-end vegan eatery Mio Matto recently closed after barely a year in business, while offal purveyors Herz und Niere, roughly the same age, have to beat patrons away with a (salami) stick. But we digress.
The Berlin-via-Dublin trifecta took over the former home of music venue Intersoup back in February, giving it a “gastropub” makeover that fits as snugly into the international food zeitgeist as an Edison bulb in its socket (and yes, they’ve got plenty of those hanging around to illuminate the obligatory unfinished wood and vintage photos). But hey, the zeitgeist can be delicious, and while the combination of craft beer and gussied-up pub grub might be nothing new in other parts of the world, it’s still a relative rarity here.
Their tap and bottled beer selection is impeccable, ranging from American-style ales made by the local boys at Spent and Flying Turtle (€3.20-3.50/.3L), to German standards like Waldhaus’ “Fucking Hell” pilsner and that Bamberg Rauchbier everyone’s on about these days, to Belgian brews like the intense Trappistes Rochefort (€5.50) and more. It’s the crisp, bitter pale ales that pair best with the food, which is exactly what you’d expect: all locally sourced meat, organic-when-possible ingredients, house-made everything (including the sausages and all the condiments) and fusion touches – kimchi, anyone? – in eye-catching, gut-busting, not altogether cheap combinations.
A prime example would be the popular starter “Meat on a Stick” (€8.50), which isn’t quite as primitive as its name might suggest. Duff ’s skewered pork belly cubes come plated like high art, their dark, shiny soy glaze contrasting with a bright yellow sweet potato puree and swirls of chilli aioli. Take a bite and we’re back to primordial – the salty-sweet-sticky sauce and juicy meat hit you right in the reptile brain.
Another bestseller is the Scotch egg (€7.50), coated in herbed sausage and deep-fried, a fat-on-fat-on-fat construction made fattier still with the addition of gribiche sauce – mayo, Dijon and more egg. Save this one for UK expats and those with strong constitutions. It sure does look pretty, though, as does the hot dog (“Beef Dog”, €12 with fries) – a beefy sausage in a milk bun from bakers Bekarei, topped with diagonally layered sliced cornichons and artistically drizzled with ketchup and mayo, placed carefully on a sheet of butcher paper with a pile of fried shallots on the side and a little cone of mustard for DIY drizzling. An IPA from Amsterdam’s Browerij T’ij (€4.50) makes it all go down easy.
Don’t eat meat? Your options are limited, but not lacking. Duff makes a mean veggie burger, the components of which rotate weekly. And if you’re beer-averse, the cocktails, such as the “low-alcohol” Spring In Your Step (€7.50), an insanely refreshing rose-coloured blend of St. Germain, Chambord, cucumber and citrus, still make Salt ‘n’ Bone worth a visit. But meat and beer are clearly the cornerstones of the Salt ‘n’ Bone experience, a fact about which Lynch, Costello and Duff are delightfully unapologetic – don’t be surprised if you see bowls of chilli- dusted pigskin chicharrones gracing tables like crisps. They’ve also been doing regular Sunday roasts, in which they cook up a whole animal or big cut of meat, and, someday, brunch. It’s safe to say you can expect bacon.