It took approximately two hours, that’s all I needed to confirm that Berlin and I were just not meant to be. It’s something I probably knew five years ago when I first set foot into the city, but was too green and travel-shy to admit it. Everyone I met raved about the German capital – the troubled but engrossing history, the edgy culture, and even the late night or early morning raves themselves. I am fascinated in the tales from its divisive past, but the transformation that followed is less appealing to me. Berlin is often praised for being grungy and alternative, but frustratingly, I have failed to find the charm in the grit as others do. I am self-aware enough to admit that the truth is, I’m just not cool enough. Berlin, it’s not you, it’s me.
However, it didn’t help that during the weekend we had to shelter in a construction site during a twenty minute torrential downpour, I felt the need to re-try currywurst to make sure they weren’t as bad as I remembered (they were), and I fell horribly ill one day which severely hindered my enthusiasm for seeing anything other than our hotel room! But there was a silver lining… and as ever, my salvation came in the form of food, in particular the food at Industry Standard. Frequently lauded as one of the city’s ambitious new bistros, it seems that when it comes to a restaurants, I might just be cool enough to appreciate Berlin’s edginess…
After a lacklustre meal at Lokal, an apparent Berlin institution, and being able to stomach very little during the day, I was more than ready to journey across town to the neighbourhood of Neukölln in search of a decent dinner. We found Industry Standard on the main drag, snuggled amongst the kebab shops and dingy bars; it’s not somewhere you stumble upon but given its growing reputation, I suspect they’re not reliant on walk-ins. There is probably very little truth in it but I’m sure I was once told by someone (an Asian aunty is the most likely culprit) that pickled things were good for settling an upset tummy, so those graced our table pretty swiftly.
The trio of vegetables consisted of the familiar and delicious cucumber and cauliflower, and then the far from common corn cobs. Corn would have never made my top ten list of vegetables to pickle, but lo and behold, the sweet and sharp balance is fantastic. My stomach felt better by the bite… a slice or two of medical sourdough seemed wise too. We resolved to order one of the snacks purely out of intrigue and played a version of animal, vegetable or mineral to guess what it was. Animal, as it turns out. A cured meat made from retired dairy cows which might not sound appealing but tastes spectacular due to the prominent marbling in the meat. It also seems like a good use of a quality animal which might otherwise be discarded in a less mindful manner, an added bonus.
Far less mysterious was the mackerel with fennel and citrus, a combination which is as perfect as they come. We were hoping for a fleshy fillet with a crisp, seared skin, and a vivacious fennel salad full of freshness to counteract the oily fish, and that’s exactly what we got. There’s something quite satisfying about a well executed mackerel dish. The pile of razor clams poached in cider and sauerkraut knocked me around a bit with jabs of tartness in each mouthful, I am squishing up my face at the thought of it now. We order these long, slithery molluscs whenever they turn up on a menu, probably because they’re not something we cook at home, but these were a touch too rich and sickly for my liking. For me, less is more when it comes to razor clams; lesson learnt there!
I often get asked how I choose the restaurants we dine in when we’re abroad; the answer is that I employ a haphazard formula of recommendations and reviews from trusted sources, the style of the menu, and sometimes the neighbourhood. In the case of Industry Standard, it was a dish. I read many claims that their beef tartare was perhaps the best, if not a close second, in Berlin and that sealed the deal. And so here we were with the famed dish in front of us; a rough and ready chopped version, the pureness of the meat was positively palpable, and a garnish of pesto and toasted buckwheat added such unexpected zing, my tastebuds were rather dazzled. My gut told me that I had had better tartares, but this was one of the more off piste versions and for that, it will always be memorable.
If I ever decide I am cool enough or possess enough of the required grunge to set foot in Berlin again, I will be making a stop at Industry Standard. Where the rest of the city made me feel a little lost and out of place, in here I felt at ease… good food has a way of doing that to you! Their dishes are seasonal, simple and made to share, all qualities which a certain someone and I are fond of. So whether you’ve walked your little feet off visiting all the historical sites and museums, or gained valuable hipster points through the Kreuzberg neighbourhood, or just gearing up for a night of non-stop raving… find some time in your itinerary for Industry Standard.
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