Le Bon And, behold, it was very good

Not content with being Queen of the local coffee scene (see: KaffeeBar), Johanna Schellenberger has now opened up Le Bon: a crackerjack of a restaurant in Graefekiez, the culinary likes of which this ‘hood hasn’t seen since Little Otik jumped ship back in 2013.

Split across two large rooms on a corner of Boppstraße—rough concrete floors, hefty wooden tables and the odd cactus or two—it’s beautifully understated, putting the emphasis firmly on the food where it belongs. The menu is equally pared-down with just a few options for each course—never a bad sign in our books. Generally the food is a tasty bastard of French and German cuisine; one dish changes every couple days meaning that the menu is totally new again in two weeks. Should the lamb couscous (heaven itself) ever reappear, it’d be a brave person who opted for anything else.

Le Bon is also open for breakfast and lunch, effortlessly raising the bar for Kreuzberg cafes in these domains too. Competition for the ante-meridian attention of the locals is high but given the popularity of their avocado eggs benedict, or better yet, the granola pancakes and chantilly cream, it just goes to show that the denizens of Graefekiez know a good brunch when they see one.

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.

Aunt Benny Canadian bacon

Co-owned by two charming Canadian expat siblings, Aunt Benny is a straight-up Friedrichshain stalwart. When they landed just off Traveplatz way back when in 2008, they snatched the Kiez’s brunch ball from the cold cuts, processed cheese and bread roll brigade — who’d dropped it in a big way — and have been running with it ever since.

It’s pretty plain to see why no one’s been able to wrestle it out of their grasp for such a long time, too. The menu is watertight: Deep-filled savory tarts, baguette-sized croissants stuffed with cheese and ham, Montreal-style bagels, inventive salads, smoothies, and spot-on coffee. They’re detail fiends to boot — that’s solid silver cutlery you’re holding in your hand there, none of this silver-plated pretender rubbish!

What’s more, having conquered the earlier hours of the day, they’re now opening beyond the twilight hours into bonafide after-dark territory — to combat the ever-present menace of Simon-Dach-Straße a few streets over. The evening menu is wine and cake-centric, so you can plonk yourself in one of the homey wooden chairs, hunker down with a bottle of Riesling and a bowl of fruit crumble (big splodge of ice cream included), and watch Berlin’s night-owls come out to play.

La Pecora Nera Black sheep, done good

Somewhere deep down inside, we all have an Italian mamma. And in this joyous make-believe world, she cooks exactly like they do at La Pecora Nera. This being Berlin, however, the chef sports tattoos and untamed whiskers, but trust us, this is the real deal.

Roberto Falcone comes from Veneto and serves straight-up classics from his native region to an insatiable Schillerkiez clientele: Think lush slabs of polenta grilled with put-a-fork-in-it salsiccia and tangy radicchio leaves, or long chewy tubes of bigoli pasta with a rich meaty duck sauce. The menu here is as tight as the aforementioned animal’s arse and doesn’t miss a step. Variety is provided by the daily specials which dance to a veggie-Tuesday, fish-Friday, roast-Sunday kind of rhythm – and there’s a traditional Venetian spritz happy hour every day from 6-8pm.

In the not so Siberian months, there’s also a wonky pavement overlooking a red-brick church on which to imbibe the aperitif or one of their exclusive northern Italian wines. All in all, for this sort of money, it doesn’t get much tastier, or cosier, in this city.

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