Stuart Forster reports on lunch at chef Tim Raue’s La Soupe Populaire restaurant in Berlin, Germany.
La Soupe Populaire is a fashionable restaurant with a hip, post-industrial vibe and menus by Michelin-starred chef Tim Raue. Michael Jaeger and his team work in the kitchen, preparing traditional German dishes with a creative edge.
Berlin’s former Bötzow Brewery
The restaurant stands within the former Bötzow Brewery, which was built in 1885 and used to store seafood during the era of the German Democratic Republic. The expansive site is owned by Professor Hans Georg Näder, who has unveiled plans, drawn up by British architect David Chipperfield, to re-redevelop the brewery into a creative and manufacturing hub with a boutique hotel and an art gallery.
Regularly changing contemporary art exhibitions are already held in the studio below the restaurant. While I dined, works by Dominique Auerbacher, a French photographer, were on display. Raue develops a menu to accompany each of the exhibitions and, in this case, included French dishes and wine suggestions.
An industrial chic setting
Tables are set out on the pressed metal plates of a mezzanine level located by two concrete hoppers, which presumably stored grain when the site was a brewery. A skylight allows daylight to flood into the dining space, whose brick walls are burnished in places. Retro-style lamps and bare bulbs hang by concrete pillars and metal girders.
The setting is a chic yet gritty memorial to Berlin’s industrial heritage but the cuisine, by contrast, is contemporary and delicate.
While I was mulling over the menu I nibbled on crisp Brandenburg Forest gherkins, a local delicacy, served with lightly spiced sausages, a creamy lovage and herb spread plus freshly baked bread.
My waitress spoke good English and was happy to answer questions about the restaurant, which opened in May 2013. She explained that the mustard egg plus the cod, served with tarragon and cucumber in summer and lentils in winter, are both very popular. I asked to be pointed me in the direction of Tim Raue’s signature dishes.
Chef Tim Raue’s signature dishes
White asparagus is a seasonal delicacy throughout Germany. Here at La Soupe Populaire it is served as a starter with melon, grapes and buttermilk cream. Elderflower provides a floral tone balanced by a twist of Tabasco that gradually reveals its fire.
For my main course, I ordered the Königsberger Klopse, an East Prussian dish named after the city today known as Kaliningrad. Königsberger Klopse are essentially meatballs made from minced veal with capers and anchovies. Traditionally, every family has its own variant of the basic recipe. They are served here with a sauce, featuring a Riesling reduction, that’s deliciously custardy in texture and appearance. Red cabbage and mashed potato accompany the dish, which is hearty without being heavy.
You can order a selection of wines by the glass or go for a bottle. Most of the wines on the menu are from French and German estates and there’s a handful from Italy and Portugal. I plumped for a crisp glass of Kaitui Sauvignon Blanc from the Pfalz region.
Waiter, there’s a bee on my cake
La Soupe Populaire’s signature dessert is Bienenstich (bee sting cake), whose filling includes sorbet, topped with caramelised almonds. A chocolate bee, complete with almond flake wings, sat patiently by the cake before I dismembered it, head first, with my spoon.
If you’re looking to get closer to the action, down by the kitchen, then book a seat at the chef’s table, giving you an opportunity to see Jaeger and the La Soupe Populaire team at close quarters.
Additionally, if you’re into industrial heritage, you might be interested in booking a place on one of the free tours of the brewery premises. You can enter the former stables and vast vaulted cellars, which once stored ice, cut from nearby lakes during winter, in their triple-layered walls.
If you enjoy good food and thought-provoking insights into urban heritage then consider adding La Soupe Populaire to your itinerary for your next visit to Berlin.
La Soupe Populaire Canteen is at Prenzlauer Allee 242, 10405 Berlin. See the restaurant’s menu for opening times. Make your reservation eight weeks in advance of dinner and a couple of days ahead of lunch.
Find out more about the city and its attractions on the Visit Berlin website.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
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