xXx The avant guardians of black

Loath as we are to get into the hornets nest of hipsterdom, there appears to be two factions (among many) at opposing ends of the Berlin style spectrum. In the decidedly multicolour corner, you’ve got the vintage pixies and their joyous hand-me-down garbs. While at the other end, there are the avant guardians of the colour black. From a seemingly dystopian future, their Matrix reboot involves rags atop of rags, so much so, that you can no longer tell where one piece of clothing ends and the other begins.

To cut to the chase: xXx belongs to the latter, post-apocalyptic hipster camp. Though androgyny is positively encouraged in this brave new world, there are nominative menswear and womenswear sections sprinkled throughout this stunning loft space. Created with love by a small crew of Dutch implants, it’s a masterclass in stripped-back interior design, with artworks offsetting the stark black-and-white colour palette.

For lovers of all things black or those searching for some off-the-rack cool, xXx could be your new be-all-and-end-all boutique – granted the word ‘luxury’ doesn’t make you nor your bank manager wince. For the remaining hoi polloi, though well and truly hidden in a courtyard off Skalitzer Straße, the interior itself is still worth your most determined through-the-rabbit-hole efforts.

Horváth Tradition redefined

While Berlin might not yet be snapping at Paris and London’s culinary heels, the Haupstadt’s certainly gaining ground on Europe’s two foodie Meccas — it’s now got 19 Michelin stars under its belt to prove it. And while some of this select group of lauded restos have their tie done up to 11 (here’s looking at you Fischers Fritz), there are others that have taken a less starched approach to dining this fine. Horváth is proudly in the latter camp.

Don’t be fooled by that traditional image: wood panelling, creamy leather chairs and brass touches. Kitchen wizard Sebastian Frank is whipping up some seriously adventurous stuff here. The cuisine takes its nod from the Austrian cooking that Frank grew up with, albeit pushed to its most sophisticated limits: a sliver of steak tartar, with spring onion and morel, grilled for 30 seconds on a hot stone slab, then served alongside chopped pumpkin seeds, sorrel and drops of red beet, for example. The desserts, such as the apricot-infused water-kefir jelly, with soaked quince and orange, are just as funky and just as delicious.

Be warned, the portions tend to max out at around appetizer size, but if you came here to fill yourself to bursting you missed the point. The biggest surprise of all, though, comes at the business end of proceedings — no mind-boggling mega bill here. Sure it’s not cheap, but it’s amongst the most affordable Michelin food in the city: one dish will set you back around €25 (give or take a few coins), four courses €58, and the 10-piece whole shebang €119. Plus, the space used to be the home of Exil so you’ll be treading the same ground as a boundary-pusher of another ilk, Mr. David Bowie.

westberlin It's Kreuzberg, honest!

Ah Checkpoint Charlie… Best known as a crass tourist free-for-all of chuntering Trabis, Stasi-uniform-selling kebab kiosks, and porn stars posing as US military policemen (true story). A nightmare, it’s fair to say, if you’re unfortunate enough to find yourself caught in the maelstrom. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of this darkest of tunnels: A cafe and print media shop a little further south down Friedrichstraße, on the Kreuzberg frontier, called westberlin.

In true Haupstadt style it’s a collaborative effort. Owner Kai Bröer, an architect by trade, designed the simple light space himself, tricking it out with some angular pinewood touches in the process. He then enlisted the help of Portland transplant and coffee pro April Melnick to oversee the caffeinated side of things. And she knows her stuff. Their beans are delivered fresh from Berlin’s local third wave heroes Five Elephant and lauded Stockholm roastery Drop Coffee, before being ground, pressed, filtered or brewed up with equal panache by the international crew of baristas on site.

Eats-wise, it’s a lunchy-snacky affair: Sandwiches, tarts, salads, cake and cookies. The coffee’s best friends — a who’s who of slick German and international publications for your perusal — though, are over in the opposite corner, where magazine racks snake round an alcove at the back. Browsers fear not, these mags are for trying as well as buying — just make sure you don’t slop any of that nice hot beverage across any of those glossy cover shoots.

Voo Store Conceptually yours

While every retail PR dummy in the world has been spewing the ‘concept store’ tag for nearly a decade now, credit where it’s due, Voo Store is a bona fide bricks-and-mortar concept. And what that means for the layman, one unversed in buzzwords and the correct angle to wear a snapback this season? Well…

This former locksmiths has been converted into an expansively cool space where fashion, art and design mingle effortlessly, as if free prosecco were on tap. Rather than just presenting trendy clothes and accessories from both established and leftfield names, the offering is more all-encompassing than that. Displays and furniture double-up as a showcase for contemporary design whereas the products for sale stretch out from the fashion world to include unique trinkets, gift ideas, and coffee table books. The concept store T’s being crossed by the occasional popup exhibition or fashion week schmoozer, naturally.

Through this breadth and ambience, Voo represents a young, creative and style-conscious scene unlike any other store in the city. Or put more succinctly: Hipster HQ. As evidenced further by the miniature third-wave coffee bar lurking in the corner. At Companion Coffee, a delicately whiskered barista will sort you out with a stonkingly fine brew as you soak up the vibes, getting high on the tailpipe of modern Berlin. Just be careful, in this state, not to spill your jet-black drink over that €1000+ concrete doozy of a table from local design wunderkind, Sigurd Larsen.

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