Kreuzberg 36 rabble-rousers might still be trying to block Google’s impending move into their hood (see our March issue), but culinarily speaking, the red carpet’s long been rolled out. Walk along the canal from Kottbusser Brücke to Google’s future home at the Umspannwerk on Ohlauer Straße and witness an endless supply of bright young English-speaking software developers, marketers and UX designers sipping mezcal Negronis at La Lucha, tucking into wood-fired pizza at Zola or crossing the bridge for ceviche at Chicha. Different food, same Silicon Valley vibe.
In the Umspannwerk itself, that crowd has a new hangout in Wagner Cocktail Bistro, the latest resto-bar from the guys behind Neukölln’s Industry Standard and Wild Things. The wines are natural; the cocktails duly artisanal; the food a hotchpotch of French, German and all-purpose gourmet casual, masterminded by Austrian fine dining vet Thomas Leitner.
On our visit, simple snacks were the kitchen’s strongest game. You can’t go wrong with Fine de Claire oysters, jamon iberico or whipped butter spread on thick whole-wheat sourdough from nearby Albatross Bakery. Half an artichoke, grilled and presented with aioli for dipping (€6), isn’t exactly the most ambitious dish in the book, but damn if it didn’t satisfy.
Then again, you don’t nab a sous-chef from Pierre Gagnaire just to make aioli, and so the always-changing menu gets more complex – and more hit-and-miss – from there. A spongy disc of veal spleen (€5), served on a Ritz-like cracker and covered in yoghurt, was too salty to win over this offal lover. On the other hand, the “Guinness-marinated” daikon radish with shaved fennel and crispy buckwheat (€7) was both inventive and delicious… and suspiciously savoury for what was, on paper, a vegetarian dish. A quick inquiry confirmed that “of course” the marinade contained not only stout but beef broth. We’d forgive that kind of stunt from a well-meaning Polish granny, but a Kreuzberg restaurant in 2018? It’s emblematic of what we’d call the Industry Standard school of arrogant cheffery, just like the barrage of over-strong flavours (sesame, brown butter) that drowned an otherwise perfectly cooked piece of Scottish salmon (€16).
The wine list, courtesy of neighbouring tasting room Ladidadi Wines, specialises in the usual natural varietals from tiny French/Austrian/German/Italian vineyards; it’s constantly rotating but there’s always a decent €5 option (that’s for “0.12” litres). We wouldn’t blame you if you went straight to the cocktails, though – like the Sakura, a signature sake-Lillet concoction mixed with Cruiselike panache by “bar chef” Tuan Nguyen and served in a chilled ceramic bowl. The prices (€10-13) are fairly reasonable for this level of showmanship, not to mention alcohol.
The bottom line? If Chad, Alyssa and the gang try to drag you here for dinner after a hard day of pivoting to crypto, suggest heading to Zola-Lucha-Chicha for more substantial fare instead. Afterwards, sneak back past the “Fuck Off Google” picket lines to Wagner for drinks, snacks and maybe a slice of their excellent chestnut fondant (€6) for dessert.