I firmly believe that cocktails and pudding are the highlights of any evening meal. So I was giddy with excitement when friends told me about Coda, Berlin’s new dessert bar in the vibrant district of Neukölln. Who needs the savoury filler when you can sit down to six courses of intricate desserts, each paired with an equally considerately crafted drink?
Concerns about the glucose content of such an indulgence disappeared as soon as I saw the menu (from €25 for three courses; €17 for accompanying drinks): there are no stodgy cakes or processed sugar in sight. Instead the emphasis here is on extracting natural sweetness from seasonal fruits, vegetables and nuts, and contrasting this with a range of flavours that are sometimes reassuringly familiar, but at times entirely exotic. For example, the nutty sweetness of parsley root ice cream on a bed of rich blackened garlic cream is far from what I would call a traditional pudding, but provides the same satisfying richness, especially when offset with a glass of robust oatmeal stout mixed with Moscatel. My personal favourite was a square of white chocolate mousse flavoured with sake and coriander, which was paired with a verdant glass of fresh Thai Pandan leaves, rowanberry and lime – a cocktail I would be happy to drink every day of the year.
Indeed, umami flavours are prevalent throughout the menu, and the cocktail list is matched by an impressive sake menu (from €5). These elements are important to “offset the sweetness” says Coda chef and co-founder René Frank, who left his post as head pastry chef at the three-Michelin-star restaurant La Vie in Osnabrück to realise his longtime dream of opening a dessert bar. Thanks to the involvement of Oliver Bischoff, the Berlin designer behind some of the city’s hippest restaurants, the resulting space is slick and modern, yet the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, allowing the menu to take centre stage. “Of course, some dishes stand alone without the drinks, but we really believe in the concept of pairing to get the full effect,” Frank insists. “These desserts are not made for sharing.” Don’t worry, I wasn’t planning to.