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WE HEART: Berlin

So we fleeted off to Berlin with just 48 hours to enjoy ourselves. The just over an hour flight from Gatwick, makes Berlin the perfect destination to fit in over a short sweet period.

Having gone numerous times, mainly to listen to techno music and lose my mind and decided it was time to embrace Berlin`s food scene which it is earning quite the repuation amongst it’s european competitors. When I first came to Berlin 10 years ago, it was quite the struggle to find anything beyond a schnitzel in a sit down restaurant…oh how times have changed.

There really are few cities in the world that transform themselves as profoundly from season to season as Berlin. The purgatorial ice cold winter, with its dark days, gives way to four months of balmy intoxication. Cafe and gallery culture spills out into graffitied alleyways; the parks fill with techno D.J.s, nudists and picnicking families; and young people arrive by the planeload from Brooklyn, Copenhagen and East London to take part in an open-air night-life scene.

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If you are lucky enough to be there on Friday pop down to Kruezberg for the turkish market, where men hawk their wares loudly in a weird german style turkish accents. Tucked among the produce, spices and textiles are unexpected delights: artisanal Dutch licorice; quark, a fermented dairy product, flavored with rhubarb or dark chocolate; and locally designed jewelry. Afterward, cross the Kottbusser Bridge for a drop-in at Hard Wax, a revered record store in a canalside courtyard that’s still a haunt for the D.J.s and audio geeks who fuel the city’s electronic music scene.

As mentioned the Berlin food culture has really started to catch up with its counterparts, the firm hotspot is Long March Canteen. Think low lit fashionable Chinese restaurant in Kreuzberg. This is truly one of the hippest spots in town, with gold star service and truly divine tapas style Chinese dishes.

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Long March combines your favourite Chinese dishes such as spare ribs in dark honey-soy sauce with more unique dishes jelly fish carpaccio with apple and coriander. We went all out and had the Pak Choi salad with baked ginger and soy sauce, tuna sashimi topped with beetroot, wasabi and soy beans, pink roast beef strips with chilli and soy, delicate octopus salad, moist cod fillet in dark bean chilli sauce followed by the best EVER melt in your mouth pork belly and then spare ribs in dark honey soy. Ending with a basket of steaming Shanghai pork dumplings…. I know it was a mountain of food.

But then there is always room for dessert, isn’t there? So we had the glorious juicy, crispy, sticky sweet bananas… oh how I wish I could be there again devouring this delicious food. All the delicious dishes were washed down with a range of recommended cocktails, fine german white wines and herbal teas. Overall this place is truly amazing and the service is absolutely top notch.

A second absolute gem in the city, which we had the pleasure of visiting was Chutnify founded by the amazing fashion designer turned restauranteur Aparna Aurora. Berlin certainly has it fair share of indian restaurants which sadly are all terrible. But this operating on a completely different realm and is unique, authentic south indian street food. There`s been so much of a buzz about Chutnify in Berlin, that they have had to open a second outlet in the leafy Neukoln neighbourhood. We were warmly greeted by the owner Aparna Aurora who sat waiting for us at the bar with house homemade indian lemonade… wow so refreshing and flavoursome. Walking into the restaurant is a true experience its colourful, fun and eye catching…. with a good dollop of kitsch-ness which is LOVE.

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The mains are focused on dosa dishes, a kind of Indian crepe made out of rice and lentil flour which then is filled with meats or vegetables. These dosas are very good, the dough is fantastic, moist and soft in the middle with slightly crunchy edges.We choose the squeaky paneer cheese and marinated bell peppers. All topped of with a good dollop of their spicy homemade chutneys that will make your eyes water – tasty tears of joys, naturally. My partner in crime chose the minced lamb thali… now this was truly something else. The flavours were sensational, so fresh, so fragrant so so tasty… I can almost relive the experience just thinking about it.

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For starters we chose the Bombay Bell which was sooo scrumptious, puffed rice, bombay potatoes with pomegranate, nuts and tons of spicy chutneys, which is both so very tasty and refreshing. As well as the highly recommended Pani Puri`s they are light and crispy mini bowl like puris, that you fill up with chaat masala, chutney and fresh delicately chopped veggies. Again mmmm, tasty, fragrant, delicate and packed full of flavours.

Sadly there was no room for dessert, but what I did manage was a homemade chai tea, which Aparna informed me that they make fresh onsite every morning and which is a secret family recipe that takes a good few hours to brew. It was sublime, i`ve never tasted anything like it and long for the day I can try it again. Be warned the restaurant fills up really quick, so make sure you book in advance.

Overlooking Berlin zoo during Lunch at Neni on the top floor of the 25Hours Hotel in Berlin. The view is spectacular, but I wasn’t expecting was just how good the food was. Neni is a sort of Persian, Moroccan European fusion. It’s perfect for lunch as all the dishes are small and designed for sharing. I’d recommend the Best Of Neni, which is a Balagan mixed mezze giving you the opportunity to taste a bit of everything. With the sun shining down and 360 degree views of the city, this is a place it’s hard not to enjoy.

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After a day of walking, eating, drinking a much needed calm restoration was needed. It seems this is quite the place to be, for most Berliners on a Sat afternoon. vabali spa Berlin is on everyone’s lips these days and you should find out why! With a huge outdoor area including a pool, Jacuzzi and saunas, vabali spa Berlin offers the ultimate wellness experience. A place where nakedness is essential, trust me..after 10 mins you`ll truly feel liberated as you’ll see the various shapes and sizes of the people surround you. The saunas are nothing like we have in the UK, they are truly worth experiencing and its recommended that you join a scheduled session which generally last 10 mins. You get a variety, menthol scented experiences, ones where you add a mud mask to your face… others where they simply serve you a lime ice lolly upon exiting.

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(photo credit vabali spa Berlin)

Berlin still remains a place for the strange and libertine…. and that’s exactly how we like it.

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