German cuisine interests me, as generally speaking, it receives a bad rep and sometimes I wonder why.
German food, in particular Berlinerish food, has a focus on pork, cabbage and possibly somewhat dubious sausages. Don't get me wrong- these can be things of beauty, but as far as 'refined' cuisine goes, that is not necessarily what German food is about.
I spoke to a German chef once who explained that much of the beauty of German cooking was lost due to the extremities of the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Desperate times called for cheap and filling fare which could be effectively produced using simple things like potatoes, bread and cheap cuts of meat. Berlin in particular was hit hard and with the Communist occupation of the East after the war, life was tough for some time and food creativity was possibly not so high on the agenda. I read an interesting interview with a German woman who said that while growing up, her parents would strive to cook Italian and Mediterranean food, anything but German. There was a lack of pride in being German and that affected how Germans cooked for some time.
I feel this is changing and we are starting to see the development of German food, something that I feel is definitely already happening here in Berlin, with new gastronomic havens popping up constantly.
In Berlin, the German Hauptstadt, you would imagine there would be a plethora of places offering amazing, traditional German fare. To some extent this is true, but more often you'll find a wealth of options such as Mexican, Vietnamese or Spanish. As far as German goes, not always so easy to find.
Typically, the best German food I have ever had comes from the South. This could be a testament to the fact it is both a more affluent area in Germany compared to Berlin in the North, and was also unaffected, at least directly, by the Communist occupation after the War.
If you visit Munich, you will find delicious dishes such as beautifully roasted pork with dumplings (there are many varieties of dumpling which can be made from potato or bread and they are spe-cial!). Or in Baden-Württemberg, another Southern state, a Schnitzel with Jägersoße ('hunter sauce', rich with cream and mushrooms, sooo good) and spätzle (little egg noodles served with butter). Or there is Maultaschen, similar to ravioli but thicker and more hearty, stuffed with either meat or vegetables. First boiled and then pan fried, or baked with cheese, served with a lovely side salad and potatoes is heaven on a plate.
This food is GOOD. Of course, I may be biased as my boyfriend’s German family comes from the South and I have always had such a wonderful time down there.
One of the best German restaurants in Berlin, from my experience, offers Southern German fare and Hirsch is a fantastic example.
Situated in Friedrichshain which is a pretty funky part of Berlin, it is a comfy, warm restaurant, recreating the atmosphere of an authentic Southern German stube (pub).
The food here is fantastic.
With the typical Schwäbisch cuisine (Baden- Württemberg) such as succulent Schnitzels served with simple but expertly dressed salads and spätzle. There is hearty Maultaschen, rich, creamy Kasespätzle and traditional lentil and sausage soup. The fact that even our vegan friend was satisfied with a massive salad of fresh leaves, carrot, toasted seeds and a beautiful vinegary potato salad served with fresh rye bread, reflects the quality of this restaurant. This little thing, a well dressed and seasoned salad, is a far cry from the measly lettuce leaf and sad cucumber and tomato slices I'd expect from back home and something the Germans do perfectly. Those extra touches make all the difference for me. And of course, perhaps most importantly, the beer is fantastic and also the service.
Another thing worth mentioning is just how affordable Hirsch is, especially considering how generous the portions are.
I went last Sunday with a couple of friends who had already eaten and were enjoying the traditional Southern beers, who on trying a bite each of my schnitzel, immediately decided that they had in fact room for a schnitzel to share!
I definitely recommend this place for a taste of good German food, even if it may not be Berlinian.
Perhaps one day we shall be able to see a reemergence of the cooking that was lost to us in Berlin, for now, the Southerners have it under wraps.
Hirsch, Kopernikusstr. 3
U-bahn/S-bahn Warschauer Straße