When to go
There’s never a bad time to visit Berlin. In the balmy summer, there are all kinds of alfresco delights to indulge in; in winter, it may be cold and up-to-your-knees snowy, but it’s also incredibly atmospheric. And there’s glühwein on sale everywhere to warm you up.
PlanesThere are two airports in Berlin. Berlin International, better known as Tegel is the most likely arrival point for visitors from the US. It’s about six miles north of the city centre and is well served by transport links. Schönefeld is equally easy to get to and from. For information go to www.berlin-airport.de.
TrainsDeutsche Bahn (www.bahn.de) is Germany’s national rail service, and operates cross-country links, as well as routes to other European cities. Berlin’s metro system – the U-bahn – runs from the early hours of the morning until just after midnight; and all night at weekends.
AutomobilesDon’t bother. Parking places in central Berlin are difficult to find | and very expensive when you do…
TaxisYou’ll find taxi ranks all over the city, and you can also call Taxi Fon (0800 8001 1554) to get one sent to you. When you get into a cab, the meter will always be set to €2.50. Expect to pay €1.50 a kilometre after that.
As you might expect from a chef who trained under Ferran Adrià, Paco Pérez creates dishes that could pass as artworks, colourful culinary portraits painted in foams, jus and powders. But these are not just hollow theatrics – Pérez has a gift for combining flavours that has bagged him a quintet of Michelin stars over the years. Miramar, the seafood-slanted restaurant he set up with his wife in his hometown of Llançà, near Girona, has become a site of gastronomic pilgrimage (sea cucumbers are a speciality). Peréz has not confined himself to Spain, however. When he opened Cinco at the Das Stue in Berlin in 2013, expectations ran high. Within a year, its technically accomplished, Iberian-inflected, 25-course tasting menu had added another Michelin star to his CV.
Born in Orviedo, Patricia Urquiola is one of the most versatile and prolific designers in Europe today, with a roster of clients that many of her contemporaries would kill for: Dior, Louis Vuitton, B&B Italia, Salvatore Ferragamo, BMW and dozens more. Over her career, her unconventional eye and warm aesthetic approach has turned from furniture to interiors to architecture, and have won her so many ‘Designer of the Year’ awards, it’s very possible she has had to design a cabinet to keep them in. Smith hotel aficionados will spot her hand in the innovative and colourful look of Das Stue in Berlin, and Urquiola’s credentials as an architectural designer are on resplendent display in the lacework- and origami-inspired interiors of the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona.
Where Cinco, Das Stue, Berlin, Germany
What's the inspiration for your cooking?
Inspiration has many aspects: places, moments, memories, aromas – but above all, work and consistency.
Favourite ingredient right now?
Always some product from the sea, but perhaps at the moment gamba panxuda (spot prawn) from Llançá – it's extraordinary.
Best breakfast ?
The best breakfast is the one I can sometime enjoy with my wife and children; I like fruit, red tea, jamón iberíco, fried eggs and pastries.
Where do you like to eat out?
On Sunday evenings I usually go to a little restaurant, La Sirena in Rosas, to dine on simple things: roast artichoke, jamón, calamari, scampi.
German street food may conjure up stodgy Christmas Market mainstays, but Berlin's perennial hipness has influenced its gastro scene, bringing sophisticated snackage to the city's coolest corners, which means you're more likely to bite into Beijing Jiaozi dumplings and fresh ceviche than clutching a solitary wurst.
What's cooking? Nigerian Fufu (cassava balls with soup), Korean buns, British pies – anything goes, as long as it's washed down with something frosty and foam-topped.
• German's foodie fests are a frequent affair: Street Food Thursday (Thursdays, from 5pm–10pm) and Asian-night-market-aping Bite Club (every Friday and Staurday) bring the city's finest on-the-go chefs to the fore: we love Taco Kween's plump gorditas, Sababa's Isreali mezze and Brot and Zeit's hearty platters.
• For a little taste of weimar-era dining, time travel to vintage deli Rogacki on Wilmersdorfer Straße. Primly uniformed staff, dressed-to-the-nines lobsters and hams and dainty canapé platters make this a unique souvenir-hunting experience.
• Since the German Beer Purity Law slackened, Berliners have merrily knocked back steins of Ale Mania’s 19th-century Prussian-recipe beer (brewed with coriander seeds) and BrauKunstKeller’s smoky-citrus and malty-caramel ales. Sip them both at Oktoberfest's cooler cousin, Licht zum Bier festival in May.
Stay Das Stue's elegant restaurant Cinco earned a Michelin star within a year of opening – master chef Paco Pérez has already racked up four of the accolades.
Discerning foodies will admire the skilfully slivered truffes and cleaved meats served up at Cinco (Das Stue boutique hotel's divine restaurant). If you already know your Saji from your Tojiro Senkou (Heston’s fave) the next step is a hand-forged blade. For €200 (including materials) you can take a two-day metalsmithing course at Holzapfel, in association with the Berlin smithy. You might get a bit Thor, hammering your blade into sirloin-slicing submission, but when finished you’ll be carré-ing on with pride. Contact Holzapfel for details.
Stay at Das Stue. There’s not a whiff of curry wurst on Cinco’s à la carte; however, its chef Paco Pérez’s all-truffle and 25-course tasting menus that keep punters tongues wagging.