For a city that seems to like breakfast so very much, Berlin certainly has a paucity of decent Frühstück options.
When I first moved here, it was from a city–Prague–where the concept of going out for breakfast is just not a thing, culturally speaking. And so moving to Berlin felt like arriving in the Promised Land of Breakfasts, a place resplendent with fresh Brötchen and where the streets are paved with cheese. But now, six years later, the allure of the ubiquitous Berlin Käsefrühstück and Wurstfrühstück self-assembly breakfast platters has long since worn off. There are only so many times one can get excited about eating white Brötchen with things–always the same, boring things, my God–on top. Not to mention that I have been served more lame, half-assed Käsefrühstück plates than I care to recall: i.e. woody Toastbrot, Lidl’s finest Butterkäse, only €1.29 for a package of yellowed dairy-rubber…
So when I noticed a new restaurant in my neighbourhood recently, one of the few eateries to emerge in the never-ending surge of cafés and bars that are constantly opening up ’round these parts, I sidled right up to the menu posted outside to check if there was a promising-looking breakfast option. And there was. And so we made plans to go.
The Lupus restaurant (slogan: “fine organic food and wine”) took over a prime piece of real estate right on the corner of Pannierstraße and Pflügerstraße. The space, long-occupied by the Heil Quelle Späti, has been attractively redecorated with a hip mix of dark wooden furnishings (vintage, but of course), antique doodads, even a wood-burning stove/fireplace. On the Sunday morning when we arrived, sun was streaming in through the enormous corner windows, making the front room a very pleasant place to sit.
The breakfast menu was fairly simple: omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan; regular-sized or large. Between the four of us, we tried the meaty plate, the cheese plate, an add-on boiled egg or two, and coffee in various incarnations. Each platter came with a variety of hard and soft cheeses that were more unique than the usual Käsefrühstück suspects, including a particularly memorable flower-petal-encrusted one.
Also included were three homemade spreads: a chunky avocado one, a baba ghanoush type thing with a strong smokey tahini flavour, and a savoury fig-balsamic chutney-like concoction. Plus a bit of salad nestling some tasty olives in its green leaves, a cup of fruit compote, and a dish of fruit salad with yogurt and a sprinkling of granola. The bread, the glue that binds every German breakfast together, was a sliced baguette-type thing.
Perhaps the introduction above was a little anti-climactic, because in the end, this is once again another bread-and-cheese breakfast. Caveat: better bread, with better cheese, and much better accompaniments, and organic to boot. While 90+ per cent of the breakfast spots in Berlin are content to serve the same old lackluster Quark-and-chive mishmash with their standard Käsefrühstück, everything on the the Lupus plates is evident of someone in the kitchen actually trying to make something fresh, different, and a little creative, which wins points in my books.
It must be said that the service was a major hiccup: Though friendly enough, there was one (one!) person on staff on a Sunday morning to take orders and then go prepare the food, and our meals took about 45 minutes to arrive. Also, when they finally came, there were only two (two!) measly slices of baguette for each of us. We had to ask for two bread top-ups in order to achieve the optimum bread-cheese ratio. That said, however, the refills were brought cheerfully enough and we weren’t charged extra. And just as we were leaving, a second staffer showed up… with baguettes tucked under his arm. Also, the coffee was fine, but not fantastic — but then again, I’ve never had a cup of organic coffee that I wanted to write home about.
The rest of the menu also looks quite promising, with an inventive, seasonal mix of mezzes, mains, cocktails and desserts reminiscent of the Mediterranean, Ottolenghi-style of eating that is so trendy right now. And given its fresh, organic focus, I’d say it fits right in with its across-the-street neighbour, paleo restaurant Sauvage, though it’s thankfully more affordable than its caveman competition. So while Lupus may not fulfill my wildest brunch fantasies, I’m happy to have it in the ‘hood and would definitely give it another go.
Lupus: Pannierstr. 40 | Open Tues.-Sun. 10.00-01.30 | No website yet, just a Facebook page