Barbara Woolsey profiles some of the city’s best locavore spots…
Although the locavore movement started in the U.S., it has quickly stormed restaurant tables around the world.
The British book “The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating” by Fergus Henderson is now a Bible for sustainable cooking, challenging more chefs than ever to learn about serving up animal parts that (especially in the West) they’re not used to working with.
By now, Berlin is definitely up on its locavore game. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Kiez from Neukölln to Prenzlauer Berg without a fresh farmers’ market or Bioladen, with “seasonal and regional” dining slowly shifting from a niche lifestyle into a standard.
For chefs here, the surrounding countryside of Brandenburg is the best place for sourcing local product, which has prompted a rise in productivity from regional organic farms; last year the state announced €178 million from an EU initiative called the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), to be invested into developing organic farming in the region over the next few years
Berlin-Brandenburg’s association of bio producers, institutions and interested consumers (chefs, for example) is also growing, and still includes long-time farmers like Gut Hirschaue known for providing vegetables, pork and venison to quite a few Berlin restaurants.
But despite all the demand, it’s far from easy being a small-scale farmer in Brandenburg, mainly because – you guessed it – multinational corporations are ruthlessly buying up land in the area and forcing out the little guys.
Of course, sourcing product that’s not too many kilometres away (preferably less than 100), while still creating progressive recipes is anyway a tough task. So whether it’s raw cheese milk made in Petershagen to “stress-free slaughtered” Brandenburg pigs, the daily menu of a proudly locavore eatery in Berlin is always an adventure – and a treat.
Here’s a pick of some of the city’s most committed spots…
Don’t let this unassuming basement restaurant in Kollwitz Straße fool you: it’s serving up some of Berlin’s best vegan eats. From cabbage roulade to eggplant tartlet, fresh produce replaces meat in a satisfying way. Don’t expect minimalism either, but at least five ingredients per plate from flavourful risottos and stroganoffs to full-bodied sauces. The menu changes monthly, and even though the dessert is also technically “healthy, it’s delicious – think homemade ice creams, coconut mousse and pistachio or plum crumble.
Lucky Leek, Kollwitzstraße 54, 10405 Berlin; 030 66408710
For the locavore meat-lover, it doesn’t get much better than Katz Orange. You might as well pack a bib for this restaurant’s succulent slow-roasted regional meat – or as the menu appropriately calls it, “candy-on-bone”. Surrounded by wood motifs and Native American artwork, guests can tuck into sustainable delicacies from free-range short ribs to saltmarsh lamb shoulder and melted pork belly; second helpings are not only allowed, but encouraged. “For us, it’s very important to have a relationship with our farmers,” says project manager Verena Scola. “We source our vegetables from Carlo Polland, wild boar, meat and herbs from Guido Richard, among others. Our menu lists the suppliers, so our guests are always informed.”
Katz Orange, Bergstraße 22, 10115 Berlin, 030 983208430
Ask the couple behind this contemporary German kitchen in Mitte, and they’ll tell you that provenance is part-and-parcel of running a family business. The menu changes daily not because it’s hip but, according to owner Maren Thimm, because “we purchase mostly whole animals from a few small farms. Or when our supplier Markus can only deliver one pig … because his daughter missed school with a cold and he missed a day of slaughter, we answer with our creativity and hard work.” The vegetables come from a handful of farmers too – as well as the restaurant’s own garden. Which is why you’ll see rhubarb streusel one day and a rhubarb-blackcurrant sorbet the next.
Das Lokal, Linienstraße 160, 10115 Berlin, 030 28449500
This low lit, vibey restaurant initially gained fame for being located above Cookies nightclub, but it now stands on its own name thanks to chef Stefan Henschel’s regional, avant-garde cuisine—and the Michelin star he won in 2017. Henschel is secretive about his suppliers, yet assures that every ingredient comes from Berlin and its outskirts. It’s indeed easy to taste the freshness in the food, with staples like crunchy potato lasagna and Parmesan dumplings, revolving around a fresh turn of different vegetables according to season. In 2019,
Cookies & Cream, Behrenstraße 55, 10117 Berlin, 030 27492940
This trendy new Friedrichstraße restaurant has its very own locavore motto: “vocally local”. They serve up a different set menu each evening based on whatever ingredients are in season around the Berlin-Brandenburg and Mecklenberg-Vorpommern areas, except for a couple of special exceptions like “salt from Göttingen and raw milk cream from Stettin in Poland” (says chef Milcha Schäfer). Non-regional ingredients like peppers, lemon or chocolate are creatively substituted to the point where you won’t notice anything lacking. Sommelier-owner Billy Wagner also likes to serve surprises like local craft beers and specially procured ciders as well as classy wines with the food.
Nobelhart & Schmutzig, Friedrichstraße 218, 10969, 030 25940610
Markthalle Neun’s long been leading Berlin’s locavore scene, but nothing quite says a return to traditional (and sustainable) eating like the carnivorous event Schlachtfest. Created by an outside team of up-and-coming chefs, the event consists of all parts of a Brandenburg animal (pig, cow, lamb) being expertly disassembled to provide a multi-faceted meal for selected dinner guests.
The Markthalle also has a fresh regional market running three days a week, and its Kantine Neun gets vegetables from west Brandenburg. “Transparency is very important to us, and that our dealers make it clear in advance where their products are coming from,” says the venue’s event manager Pamela Dorsch. “Even with stalls with typical regional products from other regions, for example, Italy or Greece, it is very important to us that these are authentic products, and they know the producers directly.”
Markthalle Neun, Eisenbahnstraße 42-43, 10997 Berlin, 030 61073473
Two years ago, Ernst head chef Dylan Watson and his team of twenty-something fellow cooks set out to network with farmers from around the region for their former project Jung, Grün & Blau. “One of our main farmers is a woman with a very small plot of land near the Polish border. She came at us with a healthy skepticism for over a year,” says Watson. “Her vegetables were so beautiful and her methods were exactly what we were looking for. Her farm is 100 percent biodynamic, and though it sits on relatively poor, sandy soil, she has worked the land for 20 years.” Connections like this are now fuelling Ernst’s lush cornucopia dinners – a three-hour round-table experience cooked and served at the guest’s home for up to six people.
When Pantry opened three years ago on Friedrichstraße, it quickly set the bar high for upscale sustainable dining. Today, it’s a Berlin locavore mainstay – and chefs Jarno Huhn and Ralf Geisendorf are still hitting farmer’s markets every day at 4:30 a.m. for the best plunder. The restaurant serves Iberian-Pacific cuisine with a hint of German and Asian fusion (the latest menu got’s everything from white asparagus to Japanese tataki). Expect ambitious dishes (meat cooked three ways and the like) done up with herbs, roasted nuts and other fresh goodies.
Pantry, Friedrichstraße 120, 10117 Berlin, 030 34623612