Monday, 27 June 2016

Burgers in Berlin

“Ich bin ein Berlin(burg)er.”

Having had the best laid plans for a romantic weekend in Venice scuppered by the French air traffic controllers strike (*shakes fist*) just three hours before we were supposed to fly out, it took another hour and a half to scramble around and find a last second replacement that didn’t involve flying over French air space. Cue a hastily booked trip to Germany’s capital, Berlin.


Knowing nothing about the city, or the area where our hotel was, meant a bit of a voyage of discovery, the eat-y/drink-y bits I’ll fill you in on shortly.

Over the last couple of years, lagging London by some distance, there have been a spate of burger joints opening over the city. It’s fair to say it’s nascent, and there’s some serious competition in the sausage space (words I use very carefully, given how liberal this city is) – but I found a couple of places I can give the Hamburger Me! seal of approval.

Burger de Ville

Serving out of a silver trailer in Charlie’s beach, a derelict space that’s been converted into an urban beach, in the very heart of Berlin a stone’s throw from Checkpoint Charlie - the famous checkpoint on the Berlin wall between East and West Berlin. It’s a space that reminds me of Red Market {link} just off Old Street in London – bars, street food, communal seating, and graffiti – but couple that with 37 degree sunshine and you’ve got the perfect chill out space.
Burger de Ville is one of the street food sellers – part of a network of three vans and an offshoot of the 25 Hour Hotels. Izzay is the grill boss and he’s pretty pleased it’s a quiet day (given the heat and humidity of 80%). The balls of chuck mince for the patties are heavily speckled with fat, and pressed onto the chrome flat-top grill with a wide burger flipper. Seasoning on the grill is liberal, and the emmental cheese slice is added immediately after the burger is flipped to give ample melting time.


Both the classic burger – Eur 4.80 – and cheeseburger (with extra bacon) – Eur 8.50 – are served in toasted sesame-seeded buns. They’re cooked just over medium, although I was asked (late!) if that was ok. One patty was pinker than the other, but both retained decent juciness, and the caramelised crust of the burgers delivered a hit of flavour. My tip – get bacon. It’s a huge hit of smoke, salt, and crunch against the nutty emmental and mellow caramelised onions.

Wrapped up with the beef patties are a host of salad items. German lettuce norms seem to be great wedges of curly salad which gives these burgers a continental feel. Pickles don’t have the acidity of their American or UK relatives but the bdv burger sauce is full of umami.

Sweet potato and French fries are both tasty (although retail boxed and fried from frozen).
Overall very enjoyable, particularly with a cold beer soaking up the rays and the urban beach atmosphere.

Burgermeister 

I’m going to use the words “Berlin’s MeatLiquor” here. It’s as close to the London equivalent as you can get in terms of hype and vibe. Situated outside the Schlesiches Tor station (under the U-Bahn railway) in a converted public convenience – the queues, blaring rock music and sweet smell of grilled meat immediately give this away.

The system is simple. Order from hatch 1 (burgers here are around Eur 5 each and beers are about Eur 3.5), perch at a communal table, open a beer and chill during the inexorable wait for your burger to come out of hatch 2. The fact this is in the middle of a traffic island with trains passing overhead definitely makes for an urban Berlin experience.

The burgers, when they arrive, are good looking beasts. Thickly caramelised, dark brown crusts on the patties (almost chicken-fried levels of crustiness) contrast against the bright yellow American cheese. It’s all wrapped in a toasted brioche bun too. The flavour is also big – ketchup and mayo mingling with the full-flavoured bacon and sticky American cheese – for me this pips Burger de Ville and it’s the cheese that’s the difference.

Salad here is iceburg lettuce, it’s not chopped but gives a great crunch against the softness of the rest of the burger. The big wedge of tomato is the let-down.

Top marks for vibe, burgers are good, but in terms of cities for burger tourism, London won't be quaking in its shoes just yet...

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