When I visited Berlin recently it was a hair-volumising 38 degrees and there was almost no escape from the sun. It was the sort of hot that people say, “Oh, you’re brave to go out there” or, “Have you remembered an extra bottle of water to take with you” or “Global Warming eh?… no need for further proof then”. I mean, it was HOT.
As much the half Greek side of me likes to convince myself that I am “built for the sun and hot weather!”, the half Irish side is always there to remind me that, “…No you’re not”
So, while the Summer was in full swing, what everyone was craving was somewhere beautiful, bright, air conditioned and settling to spend their time and honestly, there is nowhere I wanted to spend my time more than The Ritz Carlton in Berlin.
Spoiler Alert, I had been to this hotel before… not as a guest but as a visitor to what I had said in a previous blog was my most interesting bar in the world – Fragrances.
However, the difference is that this time… I went to their other bar The Curtain Club and…*Controversial statement alert*… This may have been on a par cocktail wise. Ok. Technically, they are the same bar staff, they use the same fairytale cocktail methodology and have since moved all of their exciting cocktail vessels into the Curtain Club.
The idea is that each cocktail (including its glass/vessel) and flavours represent a story or a fairytale. So before you drink it, you read the fairytale to prepare you for that drink.
While Fragrances still remains maybe the most inventive and unique bar I have ever been to with an upgraded fragrance offering since I was last there. Infusing the exact notes used within each perfume/fragrance and adding alcohol, it replicates that particular fragrance. With me?
The truth is that on first inspection, given the CNN news crews, the diplomatic cars and the secret service convoys complete with ear and cuff comms pieces, you would be forgiven for thinking that this place is full of suits. However the Juxtaposition between this and the Jonathan Adler furnishings all over the hotel, the all copper dining room, the flamingo cocktail glasses and fairytale book bar means that it is actually very clever.
It is formal enough for a business meeting, but design lead enough for a champagne and macaron (or even tacos and tequila) meeting… Or as I have labelled it, “Dignitary meets Designer” (Feel free to use it again). The fact that they have macarons on tap has nothing to do with my positive opinion 😉
The great thing about this restaurant is how willing they were to accommodate my friend who is… (the dreaded word for any chef to hear)… a vegan. Given how heavily good meat and fish features on this menu.
They selected speciality dishes for him that would a) work for a vegan but b) were also really tasty… But actually tasty.
So often, you see vegans being lumbered with a plate of kale or a bowl of old carrots. Of course, if they are in a meat restaurant or a restaurant where the chef has curated a 10 course tasting menu (and therefore ONLY has those ingredients in the kitchen) then you cannot expect the chef to magically produce a mung bean casserole out of thin air, but for the most part, there are usually a couple of options on the menu.
In this instance, it was a fully prepared 5 course/dish menu for him and not one hint of a mung bean. He also went nuts for the vanilla carrots and didnt stop praising the Pickled veg (…I know… Vegans right?)
I started with the fish-dish, a Matjes style whitefish with green apple, cucumber. It was really beautiful to look at and the fish was meaty and cooked perfectly for my liking with subtle fresh flavours from the apple and cucumber.
Meatballs and Prawns. My thoughts on this will not waiver under any setting… the prawns were good, the meatballs were very good, the sauce was delish but not together for me. While this take on surf and turf may work in lobster and steak form, it does not translate in this dish for me.
The “Burnt cabbage”dish with parsley, Miso from Berlin was delish and sort of tastes like Bonfire night. Warm, comforting and homely… Perhaps not ideal for 38 degrees but I definitely would order it again.
Potatoes. Every way imaginable. Something else to mention is that they are bigger fans of potatoes than the Irish. Who knew?
The real stand out for me was the Maitre D and head Sommelier Mathias Brandweiner. Firstly for fashioning one of the most stylish blazers I had seen that trip but also being a consummate professional as well as completely informed while remaining personable and engaging throughout.
In addition, if you have EVER read one of my reviews previously, you will know that a Creme Brûlée is one of the quickest ways to get me on your side and their Spiced crème brûlée with woodruff ice cream? Did the trick.
The wine was also pretty wonderful. Mattius was excellent at recommending the perfect wine to go with each dish but what is more impressive is that they serve 80% biodynamic wine and 100% German wines including one of the best Rieslings I have had. Now, I wouldn’t profess to be a German wine connoisseur but I do really believe in endorsing, supporting and promoting local produce and producers wherever possible. (Another time, I’ll get into the whole shop local and it will save your own economy and the world in sustainability and carbon footprint but for now, I’ll simply say, “Bravo”.
The selection was perfectly chosen and ever changing in their menu.
It is also the setting for breakfast. Again, while the only way to go is eggs and coffee in my mind, my guest went to town on vegan breads etc.
I also need to take a couple of minutes to talk about my new obsession, which I have mentioned before… honeycomb… like real honeycomb. Even if it is 17,536 calories per slice… it is worth it.
The rooms are modern and sleek with a hot tub style bath and a great shower. They have had a recent renovation, including the newly renovated Carlton Club Suite and the Ritz Carlton Penthouse.
I always think that it is the small comforts that make hotel rooms good or bad for me and this has been a real turning point on even the very best suites and hotels.
Having a good hairdryer, having charger cables for every device already pre-designed into the bedside, having a floor to ceiling mirror, having good bath products and good lighting for hair and make up turns a good room, into a room I want to stay in. Because, lets stop and be realistic here… while a neon art instillation light and tarnished vintage mirror is great to look at, it is as much use as a chocolate teapot. (or something far ruder that I had written and then deleted here).
The spa is tranquil and calm and as it’s quite a business-guest favoured hotel, it tends to be quite quiet in there. Which is a GREAT thing for me as I HATE a packed out spa.
So, while the facade look like it is full of politicians, business persons and suits, look a little deeper and you will see that it is stylish, innovative, cool and artistic in it’s decor.
Or as I like to say it, “Business at the front, Party at the back“