Bellboy knows you’ve seen the spoilers. Either you’ve been to the original bar in Tel Aviv, or you’ve scrolled through the Instagram pics of drinks poured in banana flasks, in forearm-long Viking horns, in miniature bathtubs. But Israeli celebrity mixologist Ariel Leizgold wants to preserve some element of surprise at the new Gendarmenmarkt outpost of his lavish speakeasy.
And so your 1920s-costumed servers, who otherwise indulge your every whim, are not allowed to inform you which signature cocktail arrives in which fanciful vessel. Instead, they probe you about your palate preferences while studiously ignoring the crimson mug, shaped like a gloved fist and garnished with a condom, that has just landed on your neighbour’s table.
Among Bellboy’s other surprises are the location of the restroom, the source of the honking noise that occasionally punctures the upbeat swing soundtrack, and the fact that none of the above gimmicks come off as tacky or grating. All that whimsy belies real craft – take the aforementioned “Lesson in Fisting”, a sophisticated tiki upgrade whose 10 components include absinthe and homemade falernum, or the “Hemingway Daiquiri”, showered in tobacco leaves that lend a scent of world-weariness to the sweet-tart refreshment.
The bar bites, too, might sometimes look ridiculous but taste as grown-up as the bar’s over-25 door policy. There’s a reason why everyone orders the “Ducky liver paté”, and it’s not only because it’s shaped like a glittery rubber duck: spread it on the accompanying pistachio tuille, add some pear chutney and chilli jam, and wait for the gustatory fireworks. Don’t neglect the “lettuce shells”, a play on the classic wedge salad served on ice, oyster-style (there are actual oysters here too, of course), or the tuna crudo with ponzu sauce and crisp tempura nori chips.
No, there’s nothing Berlin about this place; it’s the kind of frictionless immersive wonderland you would expect in London or New York, with prices to match (€14-18 drinks, €12-16 small plates). But here in the grim depths of February, isn’t the feeling that you’ve left the city a feature, not a bug? — JS
Bellboy Berlin, Mohrenstr. 30, Mitte, Sun, Tue-Wed 18-2, Thu-Sat 18-3