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Winners and losers of the Berlin food scene in 2019

Our food critic rounds up the winners and losers of the Berlin restaurant scene in 2019. From stand-out female chefs to the disappearance of the city's best €12 burger and collapse of Berlin's New Nordic trend, here's what you need to know.

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Photo by Robert Rieger. Kin Dee’s Dalad Kambhu became Berlin’s second-ever female Michelin-starred chef this year.

Winners of the year

A world of female chefs

At long last, diversity in Berlin’s culinary scene no longer means “20 white men and Duc Ngo”. All over the city, enterprising women opened restaurants and cafés that put a deeply personal spin on their own heritage, from the Persian-Australian sister act Rocket & Basil to the Korean set dinners of Choi. And Dalad Kambhu of high-Thai concept Kin Dee became Berlin’s second-ever female Michelin-starred chef, leaving her devotes thrilled and certain other critics scratching their head (sorry not sorry!). Great news either way, though it does seem like women of colour are nudged towards “authentic” family recipes while the dude-bros of Ernst, Otto, and Nobelhart & Schmutzig are free to make the brutalist, borderless cuisine that brings the real money. We’re not saying we need to see Syrian superstar Malakeh ikejime-ing a trout a la Ernst’s Dylan Wat­son, but… wait, actually, that’d be awesome.

The Beyond Burger

Remember last year when we said Dutch fake meat pro­ducer The Vegetarian Butcher made the most convincing plant-based burger in town? Yeah, neither do we. California start-up Beyond Meat steamrolled into Berlin at the end of 2018 and soon transformed from rare find to ubiquitous (but still expensive) menu offering, appearing at chains and local fast-food joints alike and spawning a slew of pea protein-based, beetroot-“bleeding” imitators in its wake. The Impossible Burger can’t be too far behind, can it? We may soon look back at the 2010s as a lost era of patty creativity, those pre­cious few years when a “burger” could mean auber­gine, chickpeas or halloumi and not just a ground-up pinkish disc from a cow or Silicon Valley.

Fish Klub

Margaux Friocourt and her team began this year as Oyster Klub, popping up with organic shell­fish from the French Atlantic coast in Neukölln’s cooler wine bars. In short order, they expanded to lobsters, salmon, sardines, and more, all of it fresh, most of it sustainable (jury’s out on the Mada­gascar shrimp). By summer, thanks to Friocourt’s pristine supply and background in marketing, Fish Klub had replaced Küstlichkeiten as Berlin’s seafood darling du jour, its products appearing on menus from Capperi to St. Bart. Right now they’ve got Khwan’s Dan Lambert currying their cod at a new stand in Markhalle Neun; 2020 brings a full-fledged restaurant – and then, perhaps, the world?

Losers of the year

Stone Brewing

Greg Koch and his fellow Arrogant Bastards bet big on the German market – and lost. After three years and €25 million, the Stone Brewing crew abandoned their Berlin baby, a gar­gantuan former gasworks turned brewery and Biergarten in faraway Mariendorf. Who was to blame, dodgy construction contractors or ungrateful Germans who continue to choose cheap pils over pricey IPAs? Either way, the site’s now in the hands of Scotland’s Brewdog. We’ll see if they fare any bet­ter than the Amis.

The gourmet burger

Amid all the Beyond hoopla, you could be forgiven for missing the closure of Graefekiez gastropub Big Sur – and with it, the disappearance of Berlin’s best €12 burger, the “Patsy Cline”. So long, medium-rare Irish beef and truffle aioli. Today’s burger-eating Bürger want their fancy patties meatless or their meat ones frill-free. Witness the expansion of Burgermeister into Prenzlauer Berg, or the invasion of American import Five Guys (which now has only two fewer Berlin locations than guys).

Scandi food

New Nordic was everywhere last year, then disappeared like an elk into a spruce forest. What happened? Did people get tired of paying €15 for a single perfect shrimp and a sprig of dill? The natural wine bar Palsta and Michelin-starred fusion restaurant Savu are still around and kicking, but with no new openings to speak of and the retreat of smørrebrød stall Rødder from Markthalle Neun, it seems the days of peak hygge have come and gone.