The Barn

A chic and health-conscious Slow Food hub in the heart of Berlin Mitte…

Ralf Rüller at The Barn

The Barn isn’t a difficult place to find if you’re strolling along pretty Große Hamburger Straße. Just look out for the bales of hay outside—a somewhat incongruous sight in this trendy downtown part of Berlin Mitte.

The hay is symbolic as well as ornamental. As befits a place called The Barn located purposefully in the middle of a modern city, this small café – which opened just a few weeks ago – does a fine line in ‘rustic chic’, balancing a savvy urbanity with a genuine commitment to rural ideals.

The diminutive interior is simultaneously soothing, chic and full of exciting, quality promise. The earth-brown walls, gorgeous thick-wood shelving and the fresh herbs (not flowers) that decorate the tables provide a countrified counterpoint to the sleek design of the place—as does the friendly service from owner Ralf Rüller and his crew of international staff.

‘I wanted to work in a neighbourhood deli-cafe that offers both great coffee and fresh food,’ says Ralf. ‘I couldn’t find anything that could hold the standards you find in New York or London, for example, so I created my own. Having lived in London for ten years, I saw both the quality of coffee and quick lunches increasing. Also, I lived near Borough Market and appreciated the Slow Food movement in the UK. I’m not following Slow Food by the book but I do pick things that are both important to me and can be applied from a practical viewpoint. I like being regional and being established in my neighbourhood.’

Image by Paul Sullivan

Look more closely at the products that line those hefty shelves and you’ll discover a mix of local products – coffee from Bremen, jams, apple juice and honey all from the outskirts of Berlin – and imported goods like Gragnano pasta, mostly from family-run businesses in France and Italy who ‘take good care of their products.’

The blackboard advertises the day’s specials, which are as often as possible sourced locally, mostly a variety of sandwiches, salads, cakes and quiches. The bread is either homemade or comes from a local, organic bakery. The quiches are hand-whipped with vegetables from the local market. The cheese in the salads come from local farmers. Cakes and fresh juices are also home made.

Then there’s the coffee. The Barn are particularly proud of theirs, and so they should be. They work with a medium-sized local roaster who custom makes their blend for the espresso-based drinks. The beans are put through a La Marzocco machine – handmade from Italy – which delivers constant output that can be adjusted throughout the day, and Mazzer Grinders. The state of the beans is checked regularly and the grind, temperature and treatment continually adjusted to get the best results.

Ralf even uses bottomless porterfilters (naked shots) so the coffee goes straight into the cup instead of running through metal spouts. And as a special, they offer single-origin filtered coffee either on Japanese Hario V60 ceramic filters or aeropress—pure papers without any taste to keep the coffee taste close to its origin.

‘There are only a few good coffee shops in Berlin so far,’ states Ralf, ‘and we are doing our best to network with them so that we can push Berlin onto another level that should be equal to other Metropolitan cities that are far ahead of us. Chief baristas Shawn and [former Bonanza Coffee Heroes employee] Olli here are working with me to establish The Barn as one of the main coffee places in Berlin.’

If you’re lucky enough to live in the area, you can also take advantage of The Barn’s delivery service. Every lunchtime, one of the crew hop on The Barn bike and drop off tasty selections – usually salad or sandwiches, supplemented by juice, cake, bread and fruits – to the galleries, shops, media agencies and offices in the area.

If you’re out of the area, you’re out of luck. Ralf plans to stay strictly within a 500 meter radius of the shop in order to comfortably reach his neighbours just before lunch. ‘I’m not planning to expand this service into larger areas because I’m just the guy in the neighbourhood and I don’t want to start a larger catering or delivery business.’

A rare, refreshingly ‘slow’ attitude to business that surely deserves to be rewarded. You can show your support by dropping in for one of their perfect flat whites and a healthy bite.

Editor’s note: The Barn opened up a spacious new roastery and cafe in 2012 on Schönhauser Allee. You can find more information on both spaces here.