October 04 2009
Last winter I spent some time in Berlin and tried to sample as many of the city’s atmospheric bars and cafés as possible. So much of the capital is modern and hard-edged, but if you want to catch a flavour of the sophisticated old Berliner lifestyle, I recommend the Café Wintergarten im Literaturhaus, which is in a 19th-century art deco villa on Fasanenstrasse just south of the Ku’damm. The building is owned by a private foundation dedicated to the promotion of German literature, and the basement bookshop is one of the best in town.
But discriminating locals, who wouldn’t be seen dead in one of the brash modern outlets on Potsdamer Platz, come here primarily for the delicious coffee and cakes, a leisurely breakfast and the appetising lunches and dinners – I can assure you that the choucroute from Alsace will fortify you for even the bitterest winter’s day – served in the conservatory-style restaurant overlooking the garden. One February afternoon I lingered for several hours, surrounded by newspapers and magazines and feasting on home-made Apfelstrudel with whipped cream (€30). Outside it was snowing, but inside, the café felt warm, intimate and like stepping back in time to the era of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin. For a moment you could almost believe that the Berlin Wall and National Socialism had never happened.