Super Duper | La Soupe Populaire, Atelierhaus, Prenzlauer Allee 242, 10405 Berlin
Firstly, wow! And secondly, WOW! It’s not very often that we get blown away by a restaurant but La Soupe Populaire’s decor and food left us speechless. It was the last full day of the We Love Food tour of Berlin and with the morning’s visit to Checkpoint Charlie done, our thoughts, as always, turned to our stomachs.
For us visiting great restaurants, bars and hotels balances out the sombreness and sadness that visiting these historical places bring, I don’t know how anyone could get through a trip to Berlin without them.
So off we trot to La Soupe Populaire, the brainchild of chef Tim Raue, who has a couple of Michelin stars and more awards/accolades than you can shake a spoon at.
Finding the restaurant is the most challenging part of the procedure, we walked straight past it – twice. Our advice, head towards the Soho House hotel on Torstraße. Turn left past the fantastic The Store Kitchen onto Prenzlauer Allee, continue along this road until you spy the red neon signage of Curry B, after that turn left towards what looks like an empty warehouse.
This is only half the battle, especially if your sense of direction is as terrible as mine. Once past the friendly yet stoney faced security guard, up to what can only be described as a loading bay you enter through some heavy ironised metal doors into belly of the beast.
Once inside we found ourselves amazed by the size and scale of the building. Unlike London, where floor-space is at a premium, Berlin restaurants don’t seem to be restricted by size and that makes for some imaginative (and sometimes quirky) decor and interior design. For example Kaschk, a coffee and craft beer bar, had several shuffleboards in its basement. Whilst Distinct Mot (Vietnamese street food) had a very peculiar altar/bike shed combo it its cellar! Don’t even ask.
Back to La Soupe Populaire. It shares its vast space with an art gallery (of sorts) and a bar (only open in the evenings). Walking through this old brewery (it shut in 1947 and has a basement spanning 5km) was like being on the set of Dr Who or the baddies liar in a Bond movie.
Most new London restaurants strive to get the industrial/distressed look, La Soupe Populaire simply WAS industrial. There were heavy shuttered doors leading to who knew where and iron staircase and ladders weaved from suspended platform to suspended platform.
Huge pipes emerge from the floor whilst long outdated electronics, switches and fuse boxes hung eerily silent on cracked and chipped tiled walls. We loved it and we have a feeling that Russell Norman would too. The very decadent hand washing area by the toilets gave little doubt whose toilet was whose!
The actual dining space is on two levels along one wall, tables and chairs are heavy and solid, in keeping with the surroundings. But the dainty crockery, cutlery and glassware, in stark contrast, wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Downton Abbey tea party.
There was a certain type of clientele – no back-packing tourists or students here. There were tourists, a large table of French diners sounded as if there where having a good time but on the whole the restaurant was populated with the more ‘well-heeled’ Berliner. Not that the atmosphere was snobby or stuffy, if anything it was the opposite – mostly down to the friendliness of the waitresses.
Some warm sourdough bread served with horseradish butter was brought to the table along with a little wooden board with a jar of picked gherkins and a few inch-long portions of German sausage (but we assume here it’s just called sausage). These had a similar girth, appearance and taste to a Pepperoni. Trying to identify it led us to this.
A selection of La Soupe Populaire‘s signature dishes were chosen for us, we’re glad they did. As we would have probably ordered something else and missed out. Before our starters arrived we were treated to a delicate sparkling Riesling Sect (€7.50/£5) from their very impressive wine list.
First up was the Smoked eel (€14/£10) – a beautiful looking colourful dish, perfectly presented. The lightly smoked eel was brushed with a sweet oriental sauce (a little like plum sauce) and served with little rows of fresh raspberry, tiny balled beetroot, salted cod purée (with a subtle kick of heat) and vibrant pickled red cabbage. This starter had it all – colour, texture, saltiness, sweetness – all the sensory bases covered here.
The main course wasn’t about colour (apart from the beetroot) it was all about the depth of flavour. The Königsberger Klopse (€18,£12.95) isn’t something we would normally order, mainly because we had no idea what it was! But these traditional German finely ground veal meatballs are gently simmered in salt water to create a soft texture whilst retaining all the punch from the sweet mustard in the meat. Topped with a herbed breadcrumb and served with smooth mashed potato and a beetroot and apple ball. This was made up of thin ribbons of the apple and beetroot moulded into sphere that unraveled as you cut into it – very clever.
All swimming in the light white wine and cream sauce that perfectly complemented the crisp yet light special edition Riesling (€22/£15.80 a bottle) created especially for La Soupe Populaire at Tesch (manager Katharina Bambach helped source this wine and is very proud of ‘her baby’.)
Dessert was what we would have picked anyway, the fascinating sounding Bee sting cake (€9/£6.50). A disc of light and pillowy vanilla sponge cake topped with cream with a hidden core of tangy apricot sorbet (the sting we presumed) and finished off with a delicate peanut and caramel brittle. But it’s the little chocolate work bee on edge the bowl that we will remember, so cute!
La La Soupe Populaire started as a pop-up but two and a half years later, they are still going strong. German rules and regulations only allow them to be open for 100 days a year, hence the limited sessions and days, but this only makes it more special and exclusive. If you’re planning a trip to Berlin (and we strongly advise that you do) put La Soupe Populaire at the top of your ‘must eat there’ list. For more places to eat and drink, keep your eyes peeled for our round-up.
Opening hours: Thursday – Saturday 12pm – 2.30pm & 5.30 – 10.30pm
Book a table online
Find them on Facebook
Nearest station: Prenzlauer Allee/Metzer Str tram stop (2 mins walk) Senefelderplatz (7 mins walk) Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (10 mins walk)
We ate as guests of La Soupe Populaire, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.