A review of Hangmee, Berlin

If there is one thing Berlin has that London so miserably lacks is space. Berlin seems to have buckets of space. Its peaceful, quiet Allees, lined by rows of trees, are so spacious that if you were to open your arms, as if to hug an imaginary friend, you probably would not cause an accident that would later be featured on BBC News. And I believe that all this space, the simple ability to walk from A to B without having to elbow and huff and puff and tut, makes everyone just so much more relaxed.

As I sat in what my friend kept referring to as “the yellow restaurant” (it is indeed quite yellow), I was trying to grasp the essence of these Berlin restaurants – relaxed, buzzy, cool, non-pretentious, sleek but never too sleek – and I decided that space played an important role in it. Now, I love the dinky Soho spots with wonky tables and a handwritten menu that is just a list of ingredients, but there is just something about a spacious restaurant, filled enough for the atmosphere to be warm but not so much to have a queue outside.

Hangmee is all primary colours, yellow walls with red accents, neon-signs like those on the streets of Thailand, big murals of food on the walls. Its fun decor very carefully treads the line between cool and corny, but there is simplicity to a very extensive menu of, well, “Thai-Laotian tapas”.

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Here is where I stand on the “everything-turn-tapas” trend. I love the idea of being able to try more by having smaller portions. I don’t love it as much when it becomes an excuse to overcharge for tiny portions on immaculate plates that you couldn’t share even if you wanted to (erm, shall I cut this asparagus in two?). Hangmee does tapas so, so, right. The portions are generous and come on a rotating dish to ensure that no one hoards any of the food (you will try).

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We chose a long list of dishes and every single one of them was excellent. There were supple bites of chicken wrapped in aromatic pandan leaves and their thick, addictive sauce; bright papaya salad with savoury dried shrimps; a mind-blowing dipping sauce with mince and lightly steamed, thin slices of broccoli and cabbage; crispy slices of juicy chicken bathed in a mild curry, chewy rice noodles stir-fried with egg and vegetables; pink, thick-skinned juicy dumplings with a creamy beef filling and a celery kick. Everything was bright, aromatic, filling, in generous portions to be scooped up with copious amounts of rice. The sort of tapas you can actually share – although you won’t want to.

 

Hangmee

Boxhagener Str. 108, Friedrichshain

Berlin

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Where to eat in Berlin: Roamers, Neukolln

This is the third installment of a series that I called ‘where to eat in Berlin’ but should really be called ‘things I like to eat in Berlin and I think you should try too if you have a chance’. To read all about the first restaurant, Tangs Kantine and Cocolo, go here and here.

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Roamers is genuinely tiny, adorned with cascades of all sorts of plants and flowers and herbs and greenery, with small wobbly tables all jammed in like in a game of tetris, where you’ll have to sit cheek to cheek with well-dressed intellectual-looking couples and big families and kids with their sticky toy cars.

In Roamers, they just love their greens. Rosemary is piled on a lavender cake, bunches of thyme adorn bright lemon loaves, sweet and sticky with syrup; fragile mint leaves are scattered on brownies. Every dish is beautifully plated with a side salad and generous bunches of herbs, served on a wooden board.

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Tucked away in a grey corner of Neukolln, every detail in Roamers is reminiscent of nature itself, the porous wood, the aromatic herbs, fragile plants growing out of the stone animal heads on the walls, their list of peculiar infusions (they serve fresh rosemary and thyme tea).

The roamer’s beans were a starchy, warming, soft comfort blanket covered with spicy tomato salsa, a beautifully runny egg, its yolk sticky and oozing, and coriander. The scrambled eggs were a perfect creamy canvas for the breakfast salad and its vibrant dressing to shine.

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We shared a side of French Toast (that’s totally a side) which was incredibly fluffy, just sweet enough, its corners almost blackened by the burnt syrup and the middle fluffy and creamy.

I’m going to make a big claim: Roamer’s is my favourite brunch place. Of all time. In the whole world. There, I’ve said it. It’s not often I get to gorge on French toast and then feel good about it because of how green my plate looked.

 

Roamers

Pannierstraße 64, 12043 Berlin

 

Where to eat in Berlin: Cocolo, Kreuzberg

This is the second installment of a series that I called ‘where to eat in Berlin’ but should really be called ‘things I like to eat in Berlin and I think you should try too if you have a chance’. To read all about the first restaurant, Tangs Kantine, go here.

I adore any cuisine that can be classed as ‘Asian’. I love plain steamed rice with glazed, sticky meat, the tender filling of dim sum dumplings, the fresh herbal notes of Vietnamese food, the crunchy, nutty quality of Thai dishes, the toungue-numbing power of Sechuan pepper,  and the clear simplicity of Japanese ramen. I love it all.

And while I adore instant ramen, of the Korean kind that comes in a red plastic cup with a sachet containing a magically savoury and spicy powder, it’s proper Japanese ramen that I find myself longing for, especially in winter.

Nothing quite like ramen to beat the cold. A beautifully crafted bowl of milky, savoury broth, silky, thin slices of pork; crispy seaweed, chewy mushrooms, starchy noodles. An this is where Cocolo comes into play.

Now, Cocolo is busy. Very busy. You may have to wait and you’ll certainly have to share long tables with strangers, but that’s ok, because Cocolo’s ramen has that shiver-down-your-spine quality which makes it all worth it.

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The meal starts with the most delicious ginger lemonade, homemade, aggressively fizzy, with droplets dancing on the surface, served in a rustic, unpolished mug. I have had a lot of supposedly ‘homemade’ lemonades in my life but nothing quite like this one.

Their ramen is just beautiful. I went for tonkatsu, the creamy and milky broth that’s both savoury and delicate, the deep flavour of meat and bones and time; marbled slices of porkiness tha fall apart in their liquor, pork belly with its crunchy crackling and a layer of unapologetically trembling fat that melts in your mouth, a soft boiled egg, its sticky yolk bright orange, and finally a piercing pink slice of pickled ginger. And the humble noodles, slippery, chewy, just hard enough, to mop it all up. Ramen is a simple pleasure but it’s so much greater than the sum of its parts when done the right way.

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Cocolo Ramen X-Berg

Paul-Lincke-Ufer 39-40, 10999 Berlin, Germany

Cocolo Ramen X-berg

 

Where to eat in Berlin: Tangs Kantine, Kreuzberg

If you have ever attempted travelling in time by merely catching a flight, you may know this already. If not, a word of warning: it rarely works.

I lived in Berlin during a hauntingly beautiful winter, with naked trees dancing in the howling wind, a cold that permeated every fibre of your being, the snow forever falling, forever white. Its beautiful, pastel turn-of-the-century buildings, with their subtle elegance and faded grandeur; and then the square, grim-looking Plattenbauen, geometrical windows and layers upon layers of grey were the background of one of the happiest periods of my life. It was a unique combination of excitement, happiness and absolute freedom that come with being very young and in such a special place.

So when I went to Berlin last weekend, and stood by the bridge I used to cross every day, imagining the river swollen with ice, and desperately trying to recreate the very feeling I was after, pretending I still lived there, I failed. I stood there for so long just trying to impress every detail in my memory and feeling melancholic at the thought that later that day I would be back in my room in London.

I made it all the way to my old flat and got very close to ringing the bell and it became clear: I could not feel the way I would have felt three years ago. Travelling through time cannot be achieved by  simply travelling. But that’s ok: I found new places to eat.

It feels a bit funny to call this series ‘where to eat in Berlin‘ because this is in no way a comprehensive guide – it’s more of a diary of places I ate in and would recommend, but surely you see how that would make a less catchy title.

Tangs Kantine

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When it comes to Chinese, it can be hard to find a middle ground.

There are the somewhat shady-looking take-aways, with their laminated, sticky menus, serving dry chicken on Formica tables; or the authentic, loud, messy joints that serve beautiful ribbons of hand pulled rice noodles and juicy meat swimming in a pool of chilli oil, or even the very elegant and very expensive restaurants with big round tables and golden centrepieces.

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Tangs Kantine has a chic, minimalistic decor that hints at Imperial China without over doing it; it has a lovely atmosphere, a quiet buzz that makes it perfect for a date or a catch up. We started a meal with some lychee wine, a beautifully floral take on fortified wine, and a warming bowl of wanton soup. Then came the baozi, pillow-soft, white, with their chewy, springy texture and a savoury and creamy filling of stewed pork.

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The aubergine (pictured above) was the star of the show, a very meaty, soft texture, a hint of smokiness, drowned in an aggressively savoury, sweet and sour dark sauce. The food was solid, but what I loved the most about the place was the carefully crafted balance between its chic, understated, atmospheric charm and the huge-portioned, generous plates of hearty food (which also come with an enormous china bowl of white rice). Prices are a little bit over the Berlin average but still very affordable.

 

Tangs Kantine
Dieffenbachstraße 18
10967 Berlin-Kreuzberg
+49 30 69814658