Living in exile here in Switzerland, undoubtedly the single thing I miss most is the Australian cafe. You can tell how dire things are from this. Go to tripadvisor and look for the highest rated cafe in Zurich. It is Cafe New Zealand. It’s only been open a few months, it’s in the seedy redlight district below a backpacker’s hostel. One wouldn’t have thought this was the stuff to make the hospitality industry of Switzerland quake in its boots, but such is the dismal nature of the cafe in this country that it should be doing so. The antipodean cafe is heading this way. Unfortunately this intrepid sortie into Switzerland has a food menu which is, alas, more Swiss than Australian. But do I have cause for optimism?
Enter Berlin, my newly discovered and unexpected home away from home. I’ve never been in a place in Europe that feels like Australia – maybe Melbourne, or even Adelaide. Part of this was the look of the place. Wide roads, a combination of very high buildings (which are generally lacking in Europe) and lower ones mixed together.
But it was also because of the cafe scene. There is a strong Australian influence, though I shouldn’t ignore NZ either.
1) Mitte Kollwitzkiez Prenzlauer Berg area
One of the first places we went to was The Antipodes. It’s a charming place with good coffee, good tea and, though the sampling will have to be for another time, we believe good food. Its setting is serene, the day was lovely, sitting outside with a book – wunderbar.
Nearby is The Barn. I don’t know if this was an Australian venture – it did have several Australians behind the counter while we were there. This does European food, so we had a nice sandwich, good cakes. As for the coffee, I will leave it to you to decide if they take themselves just a tad too seriously.
Apart from coffee rules regarding milk and sugar, there are some others to do with how the place functions. The first I thoroughly approve of: no laptops. It was a pleasure to be in a place that didn’t feel like an office as we lingered over our repast. The second is not something of which to approve or disapprove: strollers/prams aren’t allowed. Well, honestly, the place is about 2 square metres in all, so this is hardly surprising. Who would try to take a baby in tow to such a place?
What struck me, having read their spiel online and being a little circumspect about going, is that it is a lovely friendly place for people who aren’t addicted to being online. Yay.
In this Mitte Kollwitzkiez Prenzlauer Berg area there are lots of other lovely cafes as well: next time for us.
2) Kreuzberg Bermannkiez area
Our next outing took us to the Kreuzberg Bermannkiez area where you will find – again amongst lots of cafes that look good – The Melbourne Canteen. Oh the happy little humming noises I could have made here. It’s fairly large, a bit dark, but a nice place to hang out. It has an unambitious but quintessentially Australian menu.
Melbourne Canteen Breakfast & Lunch Menu
Two Eggs poached, fried or scrambled on a sourdough toast 4 €
with a choice of sides from 1,5 €
Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon or Parma ham 7 €
Eggs Florentine 6,5 €
Eggs Berliner 6,5 €
Boiled egg with toy soldiers 2,5 €
Avocado on toast 5,90 €
Sourdough toast with marmelade, honey or Vegemite 1,5 €
Corn fritters with bacon & avocado and a crispy salad 7,5 €
Parma ham & cheese toastie 5,5 €
Ricotta pancakes with Greek yoghurt & banana 5,9 €
Seasonal fruit salad with Greek yoghurt & walnuts 4,5 €
Sausage rolls 4,5 €
Quiche Lorraine 3,5 €
Vegetable tart 3,5 €
Selection of daily fresh salads from 4 €
FRESHLY BAKED PANINI
Tomato & mozzarella with fresh basil 3,5 €
Ham & Cheese 3,5 €
Roasted seasonal vegetables & rocket 3,5 €
Bacon lettuce & tomato 3,9 €
Chicken, tomato & basil 4 €
FOR THE SWEET TOOTH
The Melbourne Canteen citrus cheese cake
Lamingtons, Madeleines, Anzac biscuits
And many other freshly baked cakes and pastries
After egg dishes, we decided to sample the sausage rolls too – simple unadulterated honest things they were.
Again, there are lots of cafes in the area. We would have dropped in on Chapter One, but they were closed on a Monday.
Now, although we will happily return to The Melbourne Canteen, nonetheless, the highpoint for us was Silo. It’s in a third part of Berlin’s ‘burbs that we explored, Friedrichshain. They pretty much only speak Australian, the menu is written in Australian and it has that high end Australian cafe commitment to both ingredients and the outcome.
We both had Citrus Avo, with Bacon & Manchego; true this is a simple dish that requires and did have excellent components, but nonetheless, poached eggs require precision timing and these are as good as I’ve ever had, maybe the best. My whole-hearted admiration for a kitchen staff which can do that at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, with a packed out – if small – restaurant banging their cutlery on their tables ‘Eggs, eggs, eggs, give us EGGS’!! Well, okay, nobody was doing that, but the staff all knows that this is what the patrons want to do. They are thinking it, for sure.
Coffee was good; a small miscommunication with my order meant I used my own teabag as I thought they only had weird teas, but this practice was welcome. Super friendly, completely together staff, brilliant. Oh, and the cakes we had for dessert? A gluten free banana bread was as it should be, ie yummy and not an afterthought for the diet fusspots. A pear and salted caramel stacked brioche with mint and Philadelphia was supposed to be shared with the banana bread, but we were both so happy with our starts, we didn’t want to exchange.
I notice on their fb page a while back this statement which really sums up the place:
Silo Coffee are looking for a Kitchen Assistant to produce and prep our daily breakfast menu. This job requires to produce orders on demand both independently and in a team. We are a close knit, passionate, organised and hard-working team and are only seeking people of a similar mindset and work ethic.
Prep, time management and efficiency are all absolutely key in providing a good service out of a relatively small kitchen for a lot of covers.
The successful candidate will gain long-term, contracted employment with a workplace committed to team culture and delivering great coffee and food to Berlin.
To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, and hoping for the best, ‘First we’ll take Berlin, then we’ll take Geneva’. Please come and take us. Please, please, PLEAAAASSSE?