26 November 2016
In the morning, we were up, out and on our way to Weyers – our usual breakfast haunt. They do an incredible continental breakfast for 2 people that could easily feed more. We had breads, jams, multiple types of cheese and cured meats and some salmon. It was delicious and definitely defeated us. Weyers 1 – Us 0.
Afterwards, we headed over to the Charlottenburg Palace to explore the Christmas market that is held there every year. Sadly, part of the palace was hidden under layers of scaffolding so it wasn’t quite as picturesque as I had hoped.
It was only when we arrived that we realised we made a mistake by having already eaten. There were lots of stalls serving up sausages and roasted meat but we were far too full to try any of them. Instead, we just wandered around the pretty wooden huts on the hunt for Christmas presents. We were there shortly after the market opened at 12pm so although there were several people milling around it wasn’t packed, meaning that we didn’t have to fight our way through crowds to pick out our purchases.
My Dad was a bit skeptical about going to the Christmas markets (he thought they would just be really touristy) but we actually had a lot of fun wandering around – particularly after we found a stall selling Berlin brewed vodka – normal vodka and hot, apple vodka – and were given samples of both. We also were pretty successful in finding Christmas presents – especially for our respective Secret Santas. Apart from the alcohol, there was chocolates, jewellery, candles, leather goods, Christmas decorations and much more. We got so into the spirit of things that I even managed to persuade my Dad to try a gluhwein (aka mulled wine) even though he doesn’ actually like it. Admittedly, I am not a massive fan either but it certainly warmed us up which was very necessary given the freezing temperatures.
Once we’d explored all the stalls, we headed back to the U Bahn so we could go to Christmas Market Number Two at Gendarmenmarkt. Unlike Charlottenburg, this one wasn’t free to get into and we knew it would be heaving but it only cost €1 and we’d both heard it was meant to be one of the best so we decided to brave it. It also had the added benefit of being next to one of my favourite places in the world: Fassbender & Rausch chocolatiers, with their chocolate cafe and restaurant.
We stopped off at the cafe for some of their amazing hot chocolates and chocolate tortes before hitting the market which – as always – turned out to be an excellent decision. We arrived at about 2.30pm and didn’t have to wait long at all before we were seated. By the time we left, the queue was much longer and when we swung by the chocolate shop again hours later to grab some chocolate based presents (hope my Secret Santa doesn’t read this), it didn’t seem to have eased at all. Anyway, I got my deliciously rich milk hot chocolate with whipped cream and a white chocolate and raspberry torte (my favourite). No matter how many times I go to Fassbenders, I am always in heaven.
Full of chocolatey goodness, we were now ready to hit the market. There was a queue to get in but it moved pretty quickly (just a heads up, we arrived at about 3.15pm and left just after 5pm, by which time the queue had multiplied). Inside was predictably packed however it was still pretty beautiful. The stalls were in white tents topped with gold stars, there was a huge Christmas tree covered in fairylights and the whole thing was sandwiched between the two cathedrals in Gendarmenmarkt and the concert hall. Here I could get my Instagram-worthy, scaffolding-free shot.
We quickly discovered that there were several stalls set up in an inside area that was mercifully warm. It didn’t look like much from the outside but it turned out to be much bigger once we were inside. I heard a guy behind me remark that it was like the tardis. Here we found a lot of stalls selling perfect stuff for Christmas presents. Although we might have had more fun at Charlottenburg (thanks to the mulled wine and vodka) and got lots of good bits and pieces for Secret Santas, we found more stuff for proper Christmas presents at this market. Here there was a lot more arts and crafts-y stuff. Admittedly some of it (but not all) was a bit more expensive but much of it seemed to be handmade. We found a woman making scarves at a loom, a man making pens out of wood and my Dad totally nerded out over a printing press that made business cards.
There was a lot of good looking food on sale here too, including a raclette that made my mouth water, but unfortunately we were once again full – this time full of chocolate – and had dinner reservations at 7pm so we couldn’t eat any of this either. I definitely needed longer in Berlin so that I could fit in all the food I wanted to eat.
After shopping for a couple of hours (with some stops to watch some of the performances taking place in front of the concert hall) we left and crossed the square to Newton Bar, where we planned to kill the rest of the time we had before dinner. I love this bar because it has that old school feeling, with a dark decor, a big bar surrounded by barstools and lots of leather seating. It does also have photographs taken by the bar’s namesake – Helmut Newton – showing his iconic female nudes across one wall, which is admittedly a little awkward when you’re with your Dad. But anyway, we stayed for a couple of beers and then headed over to Prenzlauer Berg for dinner.
Our destination was Cecconi’s, a short walk from Rosa-Luxemburg Platz. I had heard about the restaurant after my friend informed me that they served a pasta dish INSIDE a wheel of cheese. She thought that sounded like me. She knew most of my meals consist of cheese with a side of something else. Usually pasta.
As we talked towards Cecconi’s, it didn’t feel like the nicest part of Berlin but the building itself was beautiful. Cecconi’s turned out to be in Berlin’s Soho House – which explains why it was so nice and why there were some quite expensive things on the menu. Somewhat surprisingly however there were also some cheaper options and my pasta and cheese wheel (aka tonnarelli cacio and pepe) was only €12.
Much like most places in Berlin, Cecconi’s felt like it was set in a formerly abandoned buildings, with its stripped-back walls. In particular, it felt like the building used to be a grand old house, thanks to its sculpted ceiling, chandeliers and leather furniture.
I started my meal off with the baked gnocchi romana with gorgonzola (€7). This basically meant I had cheesy potatoes for starter and cheesy pasta for my main – but that’s really not a problem for me. I love the cheese. Besides when I make cheesy gnocchi at home it doesn’t taste anything like the stuff I had here. Don’t get me wrong, I make a great baked macaroni cheese with gnocchi instead of the macaroni but this gnocchi was so much softer and the sauce so much richer.
Just in case, I wasn’t all cheesed out, my next course soon turned up. I spotted the waiter carrying over from the bar since it was pretty hard to miss – being a wheel of cheese after all. Sadly, despite it possibly being the most Instagram-able thing ever, I didn’t get a decent picture. There wasn’t really space for the waiter to serve it up at the table so he served it on a cart nearby. My Dad got a picture of him working away. Basically, he swooshed my pasta inside the wheel, cheese-ifying the sauce, and then served it up on my plate. It. Was. So. Tasty. I was pretty impressed. I’ve been to expensive places before where the cheapest thing on the menu is significantly less good than everything else. That was really not the case here.
Sadly, after all that dairy and carbs, I was too full for dessert. Even though I loved the sound of profiteroles and the flourless chocolate cake. I did debate just going for some sorbet but the service did slow down a bit at this point and by the time we flagged someone down I felt even more full. Instead we both just got coffee. Next time I’m in Berlin, I just won’t eat anything for the entire day before I go.