This blog is a celebration of the wonderful world of vegan cooking. Enjoy!

* The title of this blog refutes the dangerous idea that veganism is a weight-loss diet and that all vegans are skinny. Conversely, being a-not-so-skinny-vegan is also not the same as being overweight or unhealthy. All food intake must be part of a balanced lifestyle.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Berlin

If you are vegan and you've never been to Berlin then I cannot recommend going enough. I've travelled quite a lot and have visited some fantastic vegan restaurants in some wonderful vegan-friendly cities but no where compares to Berlin. And it's not just the fact that there are vegetarian and vegan restaurants in almost every damn area you can think of (check out the Berlin Vegan website if you don't believe me) it's the fact that even in the non-veg*n establishments they are still so damn vegan-friendly.

One of the reasons for my trip to Berlin was to see my friend Ahmad. He took us to lots of veg*n restaurants all over Berlin, introduced us to the hip and cool areas and took us to the most hipster cafe I've ever been in in my entire life (even The Hipster had trouble keeping up with the coolness). The cafe is a cafe/gallery called Bloody Mary and they have an impressive range of smoothies. And to give you an example of how wonderful Berlin is I will give you an excerpt of my conversation (that I have turned into a short play) with the extremely cool guy working there who spoke perfect English and whose customer service was so overwhelmingly wonderful I considered staying there and marrying him.

***

A Vegan In Berlin

Act I

elise: Um, are you able to make the smoothies without the yoghurt?

coolest hipster cafe dude on earth: Sure. But we have soya yoghurt so I can make it with that instead.

(Elise's jaw drops to floor as she contemplates a cafe having soya yoghurt. Silence ensues and she scrambles to choose a smoothie because she did not, in one million years, expect him to say yes to being able to make it without the yoghurt let alone make it with soya yoghurt.)

The End


***


Bloody Mary cafe; cards and coffee;
Guarana smoothie with soya yoghurt.


Before I get around to writing about the individual places I ate at I wanted to say a couple of things about how I found the restaurants this time. Normally I use the Happy Cow website and work my way to a certain restaurant based on ratings and reviews. This time I did things a little differently and chose places to eat based on where I currently was (or if Ahmad took us there). Before I left England I downloaded the Trip Advisor app onto my phone which can be used offline. It uses your GPS signal to figure out where you are and can find you the closest restaurants. You need to filter by vegetarian restaurants but I found it quite useful. The only thing that was a bit unhelpful is that the app doesn't display opening hours so we turned up to a couple of restaurants at certain times and found that they were closed.

Berlin Vegan also has an app for your phone but it does require a data or wifi connection. Wifi is available almost everywhere in Berlin so that's not always a problem but if you are using it to find somewhere to eat in-between places and you don't want to incur roaming charges then it's a bit inconvenient. The app has a great feature where it draws you a map from your current location to the place you are going, though, so we would look up the restaurant when we had signal and just keep the map active once we were out of range. Just be warned, though, that some of the information for the places on the app are in German only but I certainly hope that this will improve if the English version of the app becomes more popular.

There are a couple of things to remember about eating out in Berlin. Firstly, water is not free. You (most of the time) cannot get tap water so if you order water you will be paying for it. Secondly, you need to tip but the tipping process is extremely confusing. The standard amount is about 10% but there are no tip jars and leaving money on the table is not really done (most places you will pay at the counter after your meal). What you are supposed to do is listen to the total and then say to the person serving you that you would like to make it another amount. So, for example, say your total is 16 euros and you are paying with a 20 euro note just say to the person serving you 'make it 18' or whatever you think is appropriate.

Below are little bits about the places we ate at while in Berlin that I hope is of help for anyone travelling to Berlin any time soon. I've split them up into vegan, vegetarian and omnivore but they are all vegan-friendly. There are many, many more that I would like to visit so I am already planning my next visit to this wonderful vegan-friendly city.


Vegan


Wind & Wetter




This was the first cafe that we went to simply because it was a short walk from the hostel we were staying at (EastSeven Berlin Hostel which I cannot recommend enough). Lunch is served between 12 and 4 and dinner is served between 7 and 11. The place is spacious and the menus are in both German and English. The food seems to be vegan versions of pub food mixed with a bit of American diner influence. We went there for lunch and I had the Grilled BBQ Smoked Tofu Sandwich and The Hipster had the soup of the day which was a vegetable soup. We both got freshly squeezed/pressed juices which was rather yummy.

It's not exactly gourmet food (my sandwich was served on a white baguette) but it was hearty and tasty. There was also an impressive range of cakes on display that I would have like to have tried but I couldn't actually finished my sandwich so there was no way cake would have fitted.

Grilled BBQ Smoked Tofu Sandwich

Kopps Bar & Restaurant

Ahmad had told us that one of the must-do things in Berlin was brunch on the weekend. Knowing that I was vegan he booked us a table at the all-vegan restaurant Kopps who have a vegan buffet brunch on weekends from 10am -4pm. They are also open on weekdays for lunch and dinner where you can order from an al a carte menu (you can also order from this on weekends).

I don't think I've ever been to an all-you-can-eat vegan buffet before. I also don't think I've ever eaten so much food in my entire life! A lot of the dishes had TVP in them, which I am not a fan of, so I steered clear of them. But there was a large range of hot dishes, salads, cold 'meats', breads, condiments and desserts available. I especially liked the desserts. There was a polenta dessert made with almonds, orange and sultanas that was delicious. There was also chocolate brownies, two different style of vegan pancakes, vegan cream, vegan custard and fresh fruit. The great thing was that even though I was the only vegan (and there was only one vegetarian in the group) everyone really enjoyed the buffet and stuffed themselves silly.

Drinks were not included in the price of the buffet (which was 13.50 euros) but it was still excellent value for money.


Vegetarian (vegan friendly)


Cafe V


This was a nice vegetarian restaurant that we decided to venture to after checking out the East Side Gallery. The menu is really quite extensive with a lot of options for vegans that are clearly marked. The menu is also available in English.

Chickpea Polenta in Indian Curry Sauce with
Sultana-Almond Spinach



I had the Chickpea Polenta in Indian Curry Sauce with Sultana-Almond Spinach. The polenta was really yummy with the sauce but the thing that made the dish absolutely amazing was the spinach. I've never enjoyed eating my vegetables so much in my entire life! Another friend ordered one of the other vegan options (the Stuffed Aubergine) and he said it was really nice. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their meals although The Hipster order one of the salads and said it was rather heavy on cheese. However, after a very long day of walking around being tourists the restaurant was nice and cosy and the meals were generous and generally delicious.

Take cash because they don't take card.

Stuffed Aubergine


Satyam

This is a vegetarian Indian restaurant near Savignyplatz in the Charlottenburg region of Berlin. We visited this restaurant by recommendation from a friend of Ahmad's.

They have a buffet available but we missed it so were left to order off the very extensive menu (which has English translations). There are quite a few vegan options and they are all clearly marked, although I was a bit confused by some of them as they seemed to contain paneer so I just steered clear from those ones.

I ended up ordering the vegan platter which was huge and quite tasty. The style of food was more like the Indian I used to get in Australia rather than the oily Indian served here in the UK. Everyone really enjoyed their meals and it was really reasonably priced.


Omnivore (vegetarian/vegan friendly)


CHIPPS
Make your own salad at CHIPPS: the only vegan
option on the lunch menu.

This was probably the most expensive and less vegan-friendly. So why did we end up there? Well, it's a bit of a funny story.

The Hipster and I had spent the morning in the Pergamon Museum and wanted to check out another hipster vegan cafe in Berlin before heading back to the UK that evening. I used the Trip Advisor app on my phone to find the closest/coolest vegetarian cafe/restaurant to us. After some avid scrolling on my phone while basking in the beautiful spring sun we decided on a place called Cookies Cream. It seemed to be the closest place to us although it also seemed to have some rather cryptic reviews about actually finding the restaurant once you had reached the address.

Turns out these cryptic reviews weren't so cryptic: the address is easy to find but the restaurant itself is hidden. We found it eventually, relying on our friend's German, only to discover a very friendly staff member who congratulated us on finding it but informed us that it was closed for lunch. But he raced away to grab some business cards that showed us the location of another restaurant that was owned by the same 'hard vegetarian' (I have no idea what that term means). And that's how we ended up at CHIPPS.

CHIPPS actually has a completely vegetarian menu but with a couple of meat side dishes you can add on if you are omnivore. The breakfast menu had a couple of options for vegans but we had missed the times for that. The lunch menu doesn't have any vegan options except for a 'make-you-own' salad which was actually quite nice and rather large (I ordered the medium just to get more choices) although they did forget to put in one of my options. However, I got muddled with the tipping so I feel CHIPPS and I are even on that score. But if you aren't keen on the idea of getting 'just a salad' for lunch then maybe CHIPPS is not the place for you. I enjoyed mine, though.

Soya milk is available (although, it's available everywhere) and the coffee was good.

Azzam
(They don't have a website but you can check out their Qype page and a review in English and a German review)


Azzam is found in the Arab-Turkish district of Neuk├Âlln. It's not at all in the standard tourist part of town but there are many locals who claim that this place has the best hummus in Berlin and possibly the best falafel too!


The menu wasn't in English (although it was in both Arabic and German) and I'm not entirely sure if the staff spoke English (Ahmad ordered in Arabic for us) but it was still pretty easy to figure out what was what on the menu.
 
I ordered the falafel plate and for 3.50 euros I was given a full plate of falafel with hummus and pita and pickled vegetables and all-you-can-drink tea. It also came with some sides of a tahini-yoghurt sauce and a garlic sauce but these didn't look vegan so I avoid them (they were shared among the group). It was tasty and by far the best value for money meal we had in Berlin.