THE first thing I packed for my recent trip to Berlin was not the typical essentials like my passport or plane tickets. It was a 500g bag of quinoa and some rice cakes.
For the past eight weeks, I’ve been on a dietician-imposed elimination diet that has meant no gluten, lactose or fructose and saying goodbye to a whole range of vegetables and legumes for two months. It was overwhelming at first. But after feeling bloated and nauseous every afternoon for many months I was up for the challenge in the hope of determining the culprit.
After an initial shock factor, it has been surprisingly easy (although admittedly time-consuming and a little tedious) to maintain. Except when it has come to eating out. With such complex dietary requirements, I’ve been housebound at mealtimes. So you can imagine the anxiety I felt when my long-anticipated Berlin holiday fell just before the end of the elimination phase.
Luckily for me, and anyone else with allergies, intolerances or simply certain food preferences, Berlin has come up with the (gluten-free) goods that will allow even the fussiest of eaters to enjoy their city break.
Firstly, for those planning to cook, there’s no need to waste precious luggage space on food supplies. Quinoa, rice cakes and all kinds of gluten and lactose-free foods, as well as fruit, vegetables, baking goods, cheese and more, can be found at Bio Company, an organic whole food supermarket chain with 26 locations across Berlin. If one isn’t near you, there are locally run whole food stores in most neighbourhoods. For fresh produce, the brilliant Turkish Market along the canal in Kreuzberg is on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Further north a recently revived market hall, Markthalle IX, plays host to a lively food market Thursday nights and all day Friday and Saturday. Local farmers and food producers attend, so you can pick up artisan cheese or bread to take away, or linger and enjoy melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork from Big Stuff Smoked BBQ, vegan burgers from Kantine Neun or smoked fish from Glut & Spaene.
For Aussie-style breakky, try Melbourne Canteen in Kreuzberg. Eggs are cooked how you like them and served alongside a mix-and-match selection of delicious sides including perfectly crispy bacon, cherry tomatoes and garlic mushrooms. The menu is in both German and English, handy for those of us not so familiar with Deutsch and trying to avoid certain foods. As you would expect from a café inspired by Melbourne, the coffee is also exceptional.
Further down the same road is Lupus, a café/restaurant open all day serving locally sourced, organic dishes. The menu offers lots of gluten-free and vegan options alongside meat dishes, catering for everyone. With a beautiful, rustic interior, and ample outdoor seating, it’s the kind of place where a breakfast of quinoa-cranberry museli could very quickly turn into an evening of black bean burgers and cucumber pomegranate salad.
For dinner, my favourite spot was Vietnamese restaurant Chi Chu located on the lovely green square of Laustizer Platz. Choose from inexpensive, fresh Pho soups or one of the many rice and veggie variations. Sit outside and enjoy the buzz of the neighbourhood as the day fades away.
After a week exploring Berlin’s food scene I hadn’t even scratched the surface. But I did discover there is something for every taste and budget, unlike London no hour-long queues at the hotspots, and plenty of healthy, wholesome meal opportunities to satisfy even the fussiest of foodies.
Turkish Market, Maybachufer, 12047
Markthalle IX, Eisenbahnstasse, 10997
Melbourne Canteen, Pannierstrasse 57, 12047
Lupus, Pannierstrasse 40, 12047
Chi Chu, Laustizer Platz 14, 10997