Nansen Distinctly Deutsch

On the northern brim of Neukölln, an area previously known more for its döner and cheap eats, Nansen stands out as a beacon of culinary sophistication. It might be on a cosy corner but this isn’t any old Eck-kneipe. Forget the tried-and-tested Schnitzel, Sauerkraut and Schweinebraten—here’s a menu that is both creative and distinctly German. We’re talking about shoulder of lamb with beetroot chutney and pan-fried potato cakes, or grilled trout and mashed potatoes with an artichoke and coriander sauce. There’s a price to be paid for such delicacy with mains hitting the twenty mark, but you get a whole lot of bang for your buck. Take note: skipping dessert would be a folly of monumental proportions—they are specialists here. And the canal-side location is an absolute winner in warmer months as you can eat outside and take a digestif stroll along the waterway.

MJ's Foodshop New York, Neukölln

Neukölln does Italians, it does burgers, and it does five-euro Vietnamese. In abundance. What it doesn’t do is proper homemade American food—the greasy, soul-soothing sort that extinguishes a hangover in about 10 seconds flat. OK, so now it does. And it looks like MJ’s Foodshop is here to stay…

Opening in summer 2014, it quickly gained a local cult following: Oh ye that hath tasted MJ’s ambrosia shall spread the word. And how social media feeds did light up with Instagrammed gurgles of joy. Philly cheese steak that melts in your mouth! Mac and cheese just like Mama makes! The best cheesecake in town! (In case you hadn’t noticed, MJ uses a shit ton of cheese).

So, actually, there isn’t one MJ as such. There’s Michael Rosenfeld (roaming chef extraordinaire, from NYC no less) and his business partner Johannes Scharf (local boy who also runs DNP music). Together (M+J) they’ve created a very decent, down-to-earth diner where everything is made in-house, and that’s literally everything: from the lemonade, to the bread, to the mayo-bloody-naise. Be warned: the portions are mighty so go easy on the sides.

Ø Urban island eats

Somewhere along the line, Berlin started getting used as an abstract adjective: “That bar/look/tune/whatever is so Berlin!” There are, however, ways to use such a descriptive aid a) literally and b) without sounding like a tool. One of them is describing Ø (which means ‘island’, and is pronounced ‘oe’, in case you were wondering). Because the inside of this slick eatery is a patchwork homage to the Haupstadt’s interior design back-catalogue: Metal ceiling from Cafe Moskau, monster lights from the GDR’s ministry of construction, mottled wallpaper salvaged from various torn down buildings, and a staircase rail from the grand old Staatsoper.

There’s a nostalgic kind of vibe to the menu too, where traditional German dishes have been given a 21st century, artisanal revamp — and are way better because of it. The Bratwurst, for example, is made with boar meat (mmm manly), and comes with fried potato and pimento peppers, cherry tomatoes, leek, and cranberry mustard. If you twisted our arm for a standout, we’d suggest you plump for the veal liver, dripping in sage butter, with braised lettuce and a potato-apple puree on the side. There is also, for the less teutonically disposed, the odd concession to international staples, in the form of burgers and steaks.

Dinner isn’t the be all and end all here, though. There’s more than enough for breakfasters, brunchers and lunchers to get busy with too — the cakes, especially, are remarkable. What’s more, if you’ve got a special occasion on the cards, you’d be hard pressed to find a better spot to spend it in than the regal room out back, with its epic vaulted ceiling and pocket-size turquoise bar in the corner. You’ll just have to brush up on your pronunciation so you can let your friends know where you are…

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