Here are the highlights:
Hotel Esplanade where Kaiser Wihelm II hosted parties and the likes of Charlie Chaplin stayed. Virtually destroyed by the bombings in World War II, the Kaisersaal and breakfast hall were all that remained intact, and have now been incorporated into the Sony Center.
We were served by the most charming German waiter, who claimed that
Anyway, we had this:
... which consisted of a selection of warm breads, cold meats, and cheeses, along with the most delicious scrambled eggs and chives I've ever had. The cafe was also empty (the center became busier as the morning progressed), so we had a lovely corner seat all to ourselves. Our energy-filled breakfast lasted us until the afternoon and I'm still thinking of the warm, freshly baked rolls above.
Lutter & Wegner
I'd been told before the trip that I had to have dinner at Lutter & Wegner on Charlottenstrasse as its reputation for being one of Berlin's oldest and most traditional German restaurants was truly one to experience. The restaurant's environment is relaxed, yet distinguished, and the guests dining there certainly dressed the part (minus one awesome guy with a huge, unruly beard and size XXL-tie-dyed t-shirt). Although the menu changes (for example, the current menu shown on the website isn't the same as the one we had), the choices are traditional: everything from currywurst to, of course, Wiener schnitzel, is on the cards.
I had a delicious ox dish in horseradish sauce with potatoes and swede, while stealing sips from John's crisp glass of Riesling (Lutter & Wegner's own):
And John had a very famous dish (so famous that the restaurant won first place in the [insert name of dish] championships), that I just can't remember the name of. The food had a real home-style taste to it: hearty and comforting. Perfect for a cold, winter's night but not over the top or overdone. I'm sure there are plenty of nice places to eat out in Berlin, but for that evening, we had both wanted to try something traditional and authentic.
Afterward, just to offset my guidebook restaurant choices for the day, John found us an ultra-cool (i.e. one that made Hackney hipsters look like the wannabes they are) bar for a nightcap - or, as he put it - one where "real Berliners hang out" called, Bar 3 (or "Bar Drei", if you're a "real Berliner"). With its dimly lit surroundings, beer served in slim, tonic glasses and chain-smoking, turtleneck-wearing, 30-something clientele, Bar 3 was clearly the place to be on a Saturday night. The barman (in vintage Nikes, natch) doubled as a DJ and we were lucky enough to find a seat to perch on before the room became too crowded. The only downside was that everything I owned (including my hair), reeked of smoke when we left. But at least we were in with the cool kids. And that's probably all that mattered at that moment.
G. Buchwald Bakery
I grew up eating apple cake and kartoffelsalat (potato salad) from our local German bakery in Washington. When the restaurant closed down, I was devastated. So when we practically fell into Buchwald after a hunger-building power walk through Tiergarten on Sunday morning and asked for "fruestueck" (sorry, I'm too lazy to do umlauts right now), the lady behind the counter gesticulated to the cakes and replied, in German, that only cakes and sweets were available - I nearly kissed her. For there, nearly center stage in the display, was the most glorious offering of apple cake that I have ever seen. And oh, was it divine. Who cares that we were having cake for breakfast?! The apples were soft, tart, cold, and juicy, carefully layered between a perfectly baked base and crumbly, iced top. John and I also shared a piece of the cherry cake and Baumkuchen - a dark-chocolate covered, layered cake baked over an open flame (it looks even more incredible than it sounds, believe me), which the family-owned bakery has been making for over 150 years.
While we were eating, a man came in and selected around fifteen slices of different cakes - some covered in fruits as exotic as dragon fruit, and others topped with white, milk, and dark chocolate. I can't even begin to imagine what birthday cakes are like in Germany!
We were absolutely spoiled by all the amazing food we had in Berlin (especially the cakes!). I can't wait to go back and try other places too.