My Lebanese friend was feeling unwell in Berlin. Gluten intolerant and miles away from the food of her home, her body craved comfort. Moments earlier we had trooped into one of the city’s buzziest restaurants, but the thought of dinner made her queasy. Learning of her gluten allergy, the server brought a large bowl of chips, the colour of the setting sun. Crafted out of corn, they shattered into a thousand shards on the tongue. Every diner on our table, even those who were gluten-tolerant, scooped up the chips by the handful, the bowl emptied within minutes. We were at Frea, believed to be Germany’s first vegan and zero waste restaurant.
The vegetarian movement in Berlin is gaining the velocity of a storm. It captures the zeitgeist of our times through restaurant and bar menus, informed by environmental concerns. Plant-based foods, homemade vinegars and innovative vegan options are aplenty. Here is a ready reckoner of premium restaurants and gastro-pubs in Berlin for vegans and vegetarians.
Frea, Tor Strasse
Frea offers a wholesome vegan food experience. The menu, as one of its founders David Suchy shares on multiple public platforms, is vegan and sustainable, and most ingredients at the restaurant are made in-house from scratch. Bread, pasta, hazelnut butter and milk, probiotic water kefir and more are turned out in batches. My main course that day was a minimal hunk of corn bread, paired with mashed potatoes, mushrooms, red cabbage and grape fruit. The price of a four-course set menu here is € 61 ( ₹ 5,273 approx) per person, without wine pairing.
Bonvivant Cocktail Bistro, Goltzstrasse
At the Bonvivant Cocktail Bistro, ingredients for vegan and vegetarian dishes are foraged. They make trips to forest areas like Grunewald, Park am Gleisdreieck, Tempelhofer Feld, Volkspark Wilmersdorf to score flavours of the wild. “Some of the stuff we find will be used immediately, some stuff can be preserved for the winter like cherry blossoms, walnut leaves, unripe walnuts, elderflower, capers or wild garlic,” says Nikodemus Berger, Bonvivant’s head chef.
Foraged fruits make an appearance in their drinks too. Go for the Bourbon coffee cocktail which comes with wild raspberries for a touch of winter warmth.
Their chefs push the envelope. For instance, a dish at Bonvivant can simply be called tomato. The footnote mentions, “Tomato from the Pretschen estate (the largest organic glasshouse in Germany), with saffron, bronze fennel and algae. A five-course meal without drinks for two will cost € 152 ( ₹ 13,141 approx) here.
While vegetarian food maximises drama and artistry in equal measure, a lot of restaurants feature meat and egg-based dishes too. Terz, a contemporary bistro kitchen, spins a narrative of cultural identity with seasonal, local ingredients like rhubarb, oak leaf and buckwheat. The produce is then used to create a unique cuisine featuring German traditional dishes like the sauerkraut or lacto-fermented cabbage with an international flourish in the form of hummus and labneh. Just as German dishes like kaesespatzle (German pasta variety with cheese) finds its way into the menu, cuisines from regions of Southwest Asia and North Africa, long part of Berlin’s culinary culture find representation through dishes like the Egyptian dukkah (blend of nuts, seeds and warm spices) or the Middle Eastern tahini. The price of small plates such as citrus, rhubarb chutney and radishes as well as fermented vegetables, radishes and tahini at Terz ranges from 4-8 Euros ( ₹346- ₹692), while big plates like pancakes with blueberry compote, brown butter and white chocolate are approximately €12-13 Euros ( ₹ 1038 -1125 approx).
A modern gourmet restaurant, Brikz serves meat and vegetarian food with emphasis on seasonal ingredients. There are 30 different types of vinegars as well as citrus fruits, including Buddha’s hand, kaffir limes and finger limes. Dishes are listed on its menus just as a combination of ingredients. Hence, there’s no particular name given to a dish. Rather the ingredients that have gone into its making are listed. So, the vegan dish called ‘fennel, peach, lovage’ comes as a small pile of these fresh vegetables and herbs slicked with a medley of hand-crafted vinegars. The price is € 85 ( ₹ 7357 approx) per person for four dishes and sourdough bread, without wine pairing.
Other vegetarian/vegan dishes served by the restaurant include asparagus with pepper, rhubarb and kaffir lime. Another highlight is a dish featuring white asparagus coated with oats and Mexican tarragon.
Dolden Mädel, Mehringdamm
Surrounded by a canopy of trees and wooden benches, this gastropub blends the outdoors and indoors seamlessly. Vegan offerings though popular, feature way less than meat-based menu items here. Patrons however are fond of the smoked lentil burger, which gives its red meat predecessor stiff competition. It has a sourdough bun, braised onions and truffle dip and is priced at € 15.5 ( ₹ 1337 approx).
The gastropub also serves a vegan Indian dish with a twist. Their chickpea curry comes with marinated Chinese cabbage, crispy vegetables and rice. Their Caesar Salad too can be had with a variety of toppings including thyme honey and warm goat cheese.
It serves a dizzying variety of beers; from IPAs, pale lager pilsners, bitter ale, Trappist beer to the strong German bock beer and more. They also offer a range of non-alcoholic beers such as organic ale and non-alcoholic pilsner.
Zeit für Brot, Schönhauser Allee
Zeit für Brot, that translates to time for bread, is an artisanal, sustainable bakery chain that runs on renewable energy.
The live baking sessions are fun to watch, while the wooden shelves are packed with everything from black bread (rye wholegrain bread crafted out of roughly grated rye grain, rye sourdough with fermented cocoa, turnip syrup and layers of sunflower seeds) to vegan spelt bars with dark chocolate. Sweet spiral pastries like the white chocolate raspberry snails are priced at € 3.6 Euros ( ₹ 311 approx) while savoury tomato-leek focaccia squares cost € 4.9 Euros ( ₹ 423 approx).
The writer visited Berlin on the invitation of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), as part of a press trip in October, 2022