Coffee top shots

Last time I wrote a blog about my favourite places to grab coffee, there weren’t any of these newer independents on the scene.

My tastes in coffee have changed considerably since, with the quality of local coffee shops rising above the corporate coffee blandness.

Now I will not stand for bland lack lustre coffee. I expect my Americano to make a statement, expect pour overs to be on offer bringing the complexities of marshmallow through to grapefruit, whilst I still want to have the freedom of choice to dabble with syrups for that cheap sugary hit without being frowned upon.

The new crème de la crème in the coffee world offer this.

First up … North Tea Power. I mentioned these back in 2010, they originally opened as a tea specialist and now the cute Indie cafe serves up teas, coffees, food and beers. I recently went to a Has Bean: In My Mug Live event, where we tasted the El Salvador Finca from Argentina. It was a lovely contrast to kick start the event with a can of Brooklyn ale before sampling washed, natural and pulped varieties of the blend moving to the final hit of espresso. My favourite was the washed varietal and surprisingly we didn’t need much of the coffee to give us the kick ass caffeine hit.

Newish to Gatley is Coffee Fix who opened there doors last year, but lay unbeknown to me until two months ago. They are excellent for their pour overs with the Sidamo from Ethiopia being a particular favourite of mine, served both hot cold and on those extremely hung-over days lending itself to being sweetened with a sugar shot. Coffee Fix owners are good friends with the lovelies from North Tea and also with the next coffee mention Trove in Levenshulme.

Trove is a delightful little coffee plus homemade bread and cake spot, situated on the A6 opposite the Antique showroom.  It is run by husband and wife duo Marcus and Kate who specialise in goodness and creativity, making bread and jams and creating their own magazine http://www.trovefoods.co.uk/trovelife/. They often run stalls on local farmers markets, at Northenden earlier this month and Levenshulme on Saturday. They’ve got the style spot on with a lovely stampy stamp of the Trove van. A great place and nice to see good things happening in Levy.

The next two coffee shops are a bit further West of Manchester, in Liverpool… Bold St and sibling coffee bar Duke St. Again, these beauties rack up an impressive array of pour overs and underpriced espresso. The staff a friendly bunch who know what they are doing with coffee, style and presence.

The incestuous nature of these locals, show a real sense of growing community. Sampling the new and vibrant coffee culture goes hand in hand with the trendy real ale trail that’s made its mark on the British landscape over the past few years.

Next up on the radar to try will be Caffeine & Co, Manchester who the friendly chap at Duke St gave a shout out to.


Alan Turing – The Creator

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On Saturday I went to the UK premiere of “The Creator”. An Abandon Normal Devices preview commissioned by the Cornerhouse and Creative England, coinciding with Alan Turing’s 100th anniversary and the Olympic Torch’s visit to Manchester.

“The Creator” explores the legendary myth behind Turing using CGI to take us into his mind and last days. We see him lay on a therapy couch playing out an imagined conversation with his Jungian psychiatrist just before his death. The film plays out the myth of Turing spinning on the tragic fairytale end, blurring together the tides of history and myth. Al and Al the creators of “The Creator” explore the extreme contrast between arriving from a point of rational mathematics, to the heightened sense of the world and otherness Turing experienced during his time lived in Manchester. Here the narrative shows the computers as sophisticated “thinking machines” who want to discover their originator, juxtaposed against their originator’s mind that has been warped with suicidal thoughts through his arrest and conviction for being gay. The film was fitting in helping me reflect on what I know about Turing, what a fascinating figure he was and the injustice of his end in life.

I didn’t know of Turing till I was healthily into double figures, in fact the first time I think I’d heard of him was when I walked through Sackville Gardens in Manchester and saw his statue sat on the bench. I learnt that Turing is often hailed as the father of modern computing and that he was chemically castrated for being gay. I became morbidly fascinated by the fact that he took his own life through eating an apple laced with cyanide, because of the obvious Snow White connotations and on a more personal note because I knew someone who was collecting the seeds from apples because of the cyanide they contain to try and kill cancer. The story of Alan Turing is such an intriguing mythologised tale that my quest to know more about him and his work will definitely continue and undoubtedly it will do for a much wider audience with the centenary and also the rumours that Leonardo Dicaprio is set to play him in a new biopic!

Turing was only 41 years old when he died, born in 1912 he worked as a code breaker during World War II. It was in 1948 he came to Manchester to work in the Maths department at the University. Here he created what we know as the “Turing test”, a test for measuring how intelligent a machine is. Turing’s idea was that a computer could be said to “think” if a human could not tell it apart from another human being through conversation. It was in 1952 that Turing was investigated by the police for his relationship with another man, he was faced with the choice between a prison sentence or oestrogen injections that would cause him to become impotent and grow breasts. Turing was left unable to work and found dead in 1954 with a half eaten apple by his bedside table. The cause of Turing’s death was cyanide poisoning and the conclusion was that he had taken his own life through eating an apple laced with cyanide , though the apple was never tested.

Now 58 years on, Turing’s death has been called into question again by Turing expert Prof Jack Copeland. The myth of Turing’s life and death will continue to be surrounded in uncertainty and speculation, because of the fascinating mind that carried out extraordinary creations.


Lovely Jubil…eey Wanderings

My first chunk of time away from work for a while gave me distance from the daily same old and run away escapisms to get back to a bit of writing and a good slice of exploring music.

Here is a sum of my musical findings through last week, with the kickoff event on Bank Holiday Monday at Dot to Dot festival, Manchester.  Prenders and myself found ourselves there on a half baked whim after umming and ahhing about what we should do on the forced fun weekend.  We didn’t arrive until the bands of the day were in full swing and had missed Clock Opera, but the type of mood we were in was evident as neither of us cared and I’d been drinking fruli for old time’s sake.  We started at Sound Control with a band called Pure Love, an English-American rock act (who I’d never heard of before)  formed in 2011 by former Gallows front man Frank Carter.  They proved a fitting way to start the day with the stage scrapped in light of the dance floor, and the microphone cable contorted in a rock out.  Next up Cloud Nothings – simply awesome.  Only playing a short set, but included the 8 minute track Wasted Days as they filled out the sweat fest of Sound Control.  I proceeded to have an amusing accident walking on stage whilst Wavves were playing, as I tried to get back from the toilets via the wrong staircase.  Next stop the Ritz where I found an early game over, whilst The Drums were in full swing.  Baileys tipped me over the edge on the sticky sprung floored venue and after the amount I’d consumed since midday.

Friday last week saw the visit to festival début No Direction Home, set in the heart of Welbeck Abbey (near Sherwood Forest).  A twee fest that hosts along with tunes: a Post Office Service who’s workers cycle around delivering mail to your friends by description; The Long Lost Picture Show – a cinema with a giant bedded floor; bird making master classes and Artisan food and drink.  The festival fell a bit on the rainy side, but because of the small scale it was easy to navigate from tent to tent and stay relatively dry and extremely merry.

Band highlights on the Friday included Boat to Row who were the first group to kick off my shindig in The Electric Dustbowl.  Onto Django Django fun, where I had a good laugh and a dancaroo to their awesome debut album.  Dirty Three and The Low Anthem speak for themselves as being always splendid – highlighted as the rain subsided to the backdrop of Welbeck Abbey.  The real highlight of the evening was sexy Austra, the Canadian electro outfit.  I missed Austra at last year’s EOTR festival as they were playing when Bob Log III was on – a difficult predicament.  They were pure danceatronic.

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Woke up feeling relatively fresh after having a giant pile of friends dancing the night away to tunes in the Dustbowl after the live music had stopped.  The music of Saturday did not find me till later that day – I was entrapped making a bird which I’m yet to complete.  I successfully missed Liz Green once again, she sounded lovely from the birdy tent though.  The first act I properly saw that day was Beth Jeans Houghton who I didn’t like from Green Man all those years ago when she was supposedly cherry picked from the crowd to join Devendra Banhart on stage.  Moving swiftly from the 22 year old Geordie to David Thomas Broughton who always provides a good tune and comedy value.  Other Lives happened and were awesome, I could see the drink was taking its toll though as I kept shouting at every song “This is the one I like!”.  They were followed by Gryff Rhys and as far as I’m concerned this was expert scheduling.

“And though I look for inspiration . . . Lion… Still my favourite combinations”. 

Onto Andrew Bird who was lovely, but instead of mesmerising in the loops and percussion I found myself wandering the forest with Ames and going down to the boat stage to dance to cheesey pop.  We reliably sobered ourselves up for a second crack of the whip with The Pyramids.  All else remains a bit of a blur, but I know hot cider happened as the pictures say so.

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Sunday fresh and early to watch The Iron Giant – a really cool animation with a bizarrely cast Vin Diesel as the Giant’s voice.  Perked up and ready for round ???.  Bloody Mary and a lovely bit of Trembling Bells.  Next up Cold Specks, but I got them confused with the band I really liked who were on later.  The Wave Pictures were in a perfect slot at 3pm in the now basking Summer Sun.  Tiredness and booze crept upon so I ventured wandering to drink water.  Slow Club at 6pm roused me and then we had mammoth presence at The Unthanks with Bighouse & Rastrick Brass Band, as over 30 of them were on stage.  A quick bit of Spectrals then the awesome Richard Hawley as the headline act for the evening.  With glitter on our faces and a hot cider in my gullet we ventured to The Electric Dustbowl for Mikal Cronin.  An excellent round-up of acts for the first No Direction Home.

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I will have seen more bands than I remember and have many more than just music highlights, including Jon Ronson’s talk and reading from The Psychopath Test, which is winging its way from Amazon to me as I write. The memories of sitting round the tents and talking merrily with the gaggle about our memories of life, pile-ons in the Dustbowl, drawings in sketchbooks, hugs, giggles and Hardcore IPA being drunk out of a Carling can.  Festivals don’t come much better than having a quality group of loveliness and a well thought through event.

After the weekend was rounded up and the tent was placed back in our mop bucket, we had what might seem like the end of the road . . . a gig to see Sunn O))).  This proved the perfect way to combat the fatigue and lack lustre feel a festival end.  I stood near the speaker with ear plugs in and fell into a trance, whilst the members of Sunn O))) proceeded to drone and drink four bottles of wine on stage.  By the end of the gig my feet were throbbing and I couldn’t hear, but it was an awesome way to end the week of tunage and reconnect with thoughts and feeling.


Stockport Silver Beer Festival

Round one. After three years of coming to Stockport beer festival, I was pleasantly surprised that this year I made it to the opening day, when the beer supplies were not in danger of running out. First 1/3 had to be Quantum, AAA 5 %, style: American Amber Ale, launched for its debut at the festival by good friend of mine and Port St; Mister Jay Krause. It was really good, deliciously hoppy with Bravo and Summit whilst staying true to its name with a rich Amber colour, it went down a treat and so I went back for another half. Ordinarily my rule is to move on, but this was extra special. Over to a nip on the dark side, which came highly recommended by the Port St crew Pied Bull, Black Bull Porter 5.2%, with an amazing sophisticated dry smokiness to it. I went from excellence to a mere ick with a nip of Off Beat, Way Out Wheat 4.5%, style: watered down coriander, so I plucked for 1/2 of the Outstanding, Silver Magnet 4%, brewed especially for the beer festival and The Magnet Freehouse, Stockport. This was a real good palate cleanser, on the nose a whiff of citrus, a really good example of a session ale that has something more complex going on. Next to a pass on by my sister, who was battling her way through. I had no problem with this amply malty Hardknott, Infra Red IPA 6.5% with Cascade and Centennial hops and Crystal malt leading to a rich ruby hue. Moving nicely onto the dark, Summer Wine, Barista Espresso Stout 4.8%. I’m a big fan of Dark Star, Espresso 4.2%, so this had some to live up to; I was not disappointed as this coffee stout had everything going for it. It was bitter as decent coffee brewed with ground Arabica, dark and not too creamy, there was nothing forced about the taste. Last one for the night Acorn, Simcoe IPA 5%, always a nice move, this is the 4th in their second series of American IPA’s, golden in colour and taste.

There were plenty more to try with 150 beers, ciders and perrys, they hadn’t put any Marble on yet and I like to try the Summer as it changes year by year. I never got round to some of the good old faithful brewery’s like Dark Star and Thornbridge, so I made up for this with a delightful Friday evening in Port St where they had on the exceptionally good Ramsgate, Common Conspiracy 4.8%: Amber American Ale. I tried a nip but alas it ran out, only to be replaced by Thornbridge, Sequoia 4.5%, which was excellent. I made up for Summer in bottle form, with Brooklyn, Summer Ale 5%, delightfully good on what felt like the hottest day of the year.

Large beer festivals are always a strange occasion, as they are most definitely about drinking the beer and the chances to talk about it are quashed by the masses. It was good to see a large selection of old and new beers on at Stockport that were more than your average. They had a wide variety of ciders and perrys, which although are not for me are great for those who prefer these to the ale. The next beer festival I will go to will be at The Albert Club in West Didsbury, as it was a real hidden gem last year and quiet enough to sit in the bowling green with time to ponder the flavours. There won’t be as many beers to try, but it’s free entry and definitely worth a couple of pints, 24th-26th June.

For a full listing of the beers that were on at this year’s festival go to http://www.stockportfestival.org.uk/BeerList.pdf

And for the flyer that advertises the West Didsbury beer festival http://www.thealbertclub.co.uk/home/noticeboard

 A blog post for http://portstreetbeerhouse.co.uk/blog/

Twitter Follow @babamonchichi @portstreetbeer


Private Lives

Noel Coward’s 1930’s play hits Oldham Coliseum.  The divorced couple Elyot and Amanda are honeymooners with their new respective spouses when they meet again cocktail swilling on the balcony.  It takes all of five minutes for them to realise their erred ways and to escape the hotel in Deaville, leaving behind a bewildered foppish Victor and tartan clad Sybil to wonder what have become of their newlywed partners.

Coward is said to have written the play in four days whilst stricken with influenza in Shanghai, first off playing Elyot himself, and Laurence Olivier in the role of Victor.  The play premiered on 18 August 1930 at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh. Five weeks later, when it reached the Phoenix Theatre in London the reviews became mixed.  I like the fact that it was said to be,

“amusing, no doubt, yet hardly moving farther below the surface than a paper boat in a bathtub and, like the paper boat, ever in imminent danger of becoming a shapeless, sodden mass.”

Agreeably or disagreeably, not much happens in terms of action, apart from a fair few raised fisticuffs between all the characters.

The beauty is in the change and turn of conversation, love which turns to sour, sour which turns to passion, and then the unflattering portrayal of what it is to be in a relationship and to be a person, hammed up for comic and dramatic effect.

Apparently the play has been made into a BBC Radio 4 broadcast with Helena Bonham Carter and Bill Nighy. In Toronto’s 2011-2012 Season, Kim Catrall is to play Amanda after already playing the London show.  The cast we were greeted with last night in Oldham were wonderfully convincing as the lavish characters, and the script stood the test of time to shock, giggle, and confuse.

Thanks to the youngsters of the Pathways scheme and their officerAmy Guest (he he),  for making it an extra special evening, I especially liked the suitably fitting middle class school uniform.

 


Things to do this February with Beer and Art

The People You’re Not: www.cornerhouse.org/people

Good friend and top notch artist Bren O Callaghan’s exhibition at The Cornerhouse, until Sunday 27th February is well worth a visit into the world of unfulfilled ideas presented through beautifully constructed mini theatres and stages around Gallery 1.  I think I’m right in saying Bren worked with youngsters through a series of workshops  to produce the unrealised until now proposals of Edward Barton, the eccentric Manchester poet and musician, Norman Clayture, wooden pant clad balladeer and comedian Harry Hill.  The exhibition is a sensation through seeing many depictions of memorable people in settings unusual for some (and probably not so unusual for others) and pinpointing the bits of ourselves we both are and are not.

There’s a free evening with Edward Barton Sat 12th Feb 6pm, book though.  There’s also a gallery discussion on Wed 23rd February 4-5pm, book.  Other than go for your own perusal at the drunks and delirious ramblings that The People You’re Not creates, it’s a great place to excuse the next recommended on my to do . . .

Portstreet Beer House: http://portstreetbeerhouse.co.uk/

Wohoho, not a good week to be on antibiotics with this new exceptionally good ale joint.  I could not believe the selection, true to their word craft beers are a plenty and with the amount of new comings and goings it’s going to be enough to keep the most well rounded craft beer drinker on their toes.  Brought to us by the delightful Common bunch, we have this new baby in the Northern Quarter.  On Friday when I had my first outing, I had 5am saint on draft and a bottle of one of my old time favourites Dark Star Espresso beer, though it failed to keep me from being too goosey come the amount I’d consumed in total that evening.  I will definitely be enjoying a few delights here on Saturday evening and my hope is to try the much raved about Caldera IPA, craft beer in a can, so don’t buy it all with their new card machine.

Back to Art with tonight’s sampling

Rotar at Whitworth: www.manchester.ac.uk/whitworth

Great 40 minute live piece in response to Siobhan Davies’ new dance work The Score.  Four dance artists sing, walk, move, harmonica play and shout their way through the performance.  I really enjoyed the fact that there was the continuity of four performers in translation of different artists work in quickish succession.  I really responded to the last section Songbook by Matteo Fargion, but that is to do with my own love of word play and sound manipulation.  All the pieces brought something unique and played with my concentration levels, commenting on the minds wanderings and bodies.  I only got chance for a quick squizz around the exhibitions, but I will go back as they are there till 13Th March, I was struck by The Babel Flower and would like to spend more time with the pieces.  Great performance, the live show is only till Sunday and if you go smile when you make out the word plums in Songbook, I did as I had them in my bag.

To Beer of the home variety

The Bottle Stop, Bramhall Acre Lane:

Should have blogged about this place way sooner, and I will do in more detail at some point when I don’t want to listen to Front row  where Bren and Harry Hill discuss the realisation of the idea bought for £50. The Bottle Stops exceptional both in being well priced and well stocked, especially in Continental, Marble, Bollington beers and loads of amazing wines.  I had a lovely Shiraz for less than £8, so probably £7.99 called Dignite, which we had at Christmas number 2 bought on Christmas day, which they were open for!  Also they do changing cask ale to take home, we bought 3 pints of Dinner Ale by Bollington Brewery, which we had with Christmas dinner 1.  It is well worth a visit even if you live 50 miles away. Taras Boulba.

Quantum Brewing Company: twitter.com/quantumbc

Last but not in any means least the exceptional Burnt Amber IPA by the newly formed Quantum Brewing Co, absolutely amazing.  It tasted chocolaty with no use of chocolate malt, it is a new formed favourite, thanks Mister JK can’t wait for the next release.

 


BrewDog and Beer Evolution 2011

Having bought Nanny State BrewDog’s 0.5% (I think a Swedish import) and sampling it for the first time last night, it seems in fitting to blog about BrewDog’s plans for 2011. 

With BrewDog’s Turnover up from £1.7m in 2009 to £3.6m+ in 2010, 2011 sees the launch of limited edition beers in the first 5 months of this year.

Alpha Dog

Launched on 1st January (yet to find and try)

A cask only 3.8% beer. A spin on the ESB style combining Scottish malts and bucket loads of US hops.

I Hardcore You

Launches 25th January

A 9.5% Imperial India Pale Ale, a blend of BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA and Mikkeller’s I Beat You. After the blending, the beer was then dryhopped a further twice. Available in 330ml bottles and kegs.

 29th January – launches a 4 pack of single hop IPAs. Using the same base 7.5% beer, IPA is Dead showcases BrewDogs 4 favourite hops from 4 corners of the planet. Available in 4 packs and kegs.

Alice Porter

Launches 1st February

Alice Porter is a 6.2% sacred union of one 300-year old recipe and two cross continental hop varieties. Described as a delicate mirage of chocolate, red fruit and burnt sugar. Available in bottle, keg and cask.

AB:05

Launches 16th February

The latest instalment in BrewDog’s conceptual beer series. Details yet to be released.

Dog A

Launches 27th March

A new 15.1% Imperial Stout with a BrewDog twist!

Launches in April

Bitch Please

A  Rock ‘n Roll collaboration with Three Floyds. The beer is a 10% barley wine with New Zealand Hops, Shortbread, Scottish Highland Toffee and  some peated malt from Islay. Available in bottle and keg.

Paradox Jura

A new edition to the Paradox series. A 13% Imperial Stout aged in Jura single malt whiskycasks. Available in bottle and keg.

Launches in May

Dark Tokyo Horizon

A beer brewed with from Mikkeller and Nogne O. The beer is a fusion of the 3 brewery’s respective big stouts, Black, Dark Horizon and Tokyo*. Available in bottle.

AB:06

The 6th instalment in BrewDog’s conceptual beer series. Details yet to be released.

So BrewDog are set to keep the marker in craft beer evolutionary.  The market for ale that does something different, that is an experience as opposed to a dull level of numb taste buds, is something that is in continual growth. Though there still continues to not be enough of beer that does that extra bit of work, especially at gig venues and theatres, and there are still a lack of pubs that are prepared to take a chance and maybe make the beer drinker think twice before he/she orders a Stella or Bud. 

For changing the beer you drink is a reflection on your philosophy of life, a commentary suggestive that you are open to experience and taking a chance.  With this in mind it will be interesting to see how 2011 pans out in the brewing industry.  I have a special interest on BrewDog and a personal interest on Quantum Brewing Company that is being set up by Jay Krause a great friend and awesomely refined craft beer drinker and master brewer.  2011 looks set to be good for the changing.

PS Nanny State was good, but it lacked that certain, which is an easy guess reflected in the ABV.


Food and Drinks Berlin

Although the guide books I had been reading did not credit the traditional Berlin cuisine as being anymore sophisticated than ‘Pig and Stodge,’ Berlin offers so much in the way of adventurous, hearty and affordable food. 

There are many multinational restaurants. We visited Thai, Japanese, Indian and Greek as well as traditional  ‘lokal’ fare.  The areas we found best to explore were anywhere away from the centre, but not too far that it became slum-like.  Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg and just off the side streets of Mitte, avoiding where the prostitutes trawl, there are excellent places to dine and sup.  Although my favourite area to explore had to be, where we stayed, in Fredrichshain.  We found the staff, quality, wealth of places and prices made Fredrichshain a great area to trawl.  Here are some places I liked and remembered.

Fredrichshain

Bariton Cafe Bar Restaurant, Weserstr. 23 – nice bar, cool innards and has cocktails for  €3.50 at happy hour, though I stuck to Augustiner.  Here’s their facebook link  http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=47253738116&v=wall#!/group.php?gid=47253738116&v=info

  

 Hirsch Bar, Kopernikusstraße – reviewed in Ex-Berliner as a gastro pub, this was a lovely addition to our stay.  The bar opened earlier in 2010, and is extremely accommodating and lovely inside.  The food sizes are smaller than most places in Berlin, but are excellent quality and filling.  The house pilsner was crisp and €2.50.  Here is a link to their website http://www.hirsch-friedrichshain.de/

  

 Hops & Barley, Wühlischstr 22/23 – excellent and friendly micro brewery, try their spezialbier it changes all the time, mine was fantastic and a nice change to the taste buds as I had been drinking so much pilsner.  This place even offers accommodation, it only serves bar snacks.  Here is their link http://www.hopsandbarley-berlin.de

 

  Kino Intimes, Boxhagener Straße 107 – the bar with the cinema, excellent to sit outside in the biergarten on a sunny day.  They do the biggest meals I have seen and exceptionally well priced and wholesome.  This area is full of great bars to plod onto when you’ve finished.

Kreuzberg

Eckstück,Wrangelstraße 20 this cafe only opened in August 2010 and if you like it gritty, this is the place to dine.  We were the only people in there and I did get a mobster vibe.  All that said the food was really good and cooked fresh in the kitchen that is in the bar, if you want burger and chips or massive chicken salad you could do worse, but you could also do better.  Here’s their website http://www.eckstueck.de/cms/

Cafe Taz  Presso, Rudi-Dutschke-Straße 23this place had a Manchester “Green Room” vibe, which we returned to numerous times in our stay.  The food and coffee were excellent and the price amazingly inexpensive.  The menu changed daily and for €3 for chicken kneidel soup and a baguette don’t expect to come away hungry.  One of the best coffees I had in here. http://www.taz.de/zeitung/tazcafe/

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    T A I S U, Rudi – Dutschke – Str. 28 this place was sold to us by the 50% off lunch time menu, I had 12 pieces of sushi (albeit veg option) and miso soup for  €5.  It had the feel of a chain, but the lunchtime menu had good options, though annoyingly as in every chain like Wagamama they never serve your food at the same time as the person you’re with.  All I can say is that my sushi must have been rolled fresh as it took so long to get from the server to me, it was very nice though and a good place to sit back and watch the neighbourhood bustle by.  Although this was good enough there were a lot of Japanese restaurants about that may be lots better so check them out, just head to the area and see what you can unleash. http://www.sushiwok.de/

Knofi,Bergmannstr. 98 – this was a lovely little Greek deli serving 5 tapas dishes and a lot of pitta for €11.  Me and Adam purchased a bottle of €6 merlot, but stick to the house in a carafe, as the wine is poor and the corkage is €8.  This place was so charming and looking at their website it appears that there are three of them.  It was a lovely place to sit in wicker chairs and reflect on the day. http://www.knofi.de/

Phuket, Mehringdamm 67 – We visited this lovely Thai restaurant on our first time in Berlin and were tempted to go back, but we branched out to Knofi instead.   The food was well prepared with lots of lemongrass as I remember, and Adam’s massaman was true to the Thai taste.

 


 


A Berlin Guide to Museums, Galleries, Memorials and Parks

Art Galleries, Memorials, Museums and Parks

As far as capital cities go, Berlin is inexpensive in comparison.  The museum pass is just €19 and allows admission into many of the main exhibitions for free over 3 consecutive days.  We purchased this card on both trips and found it a good way to see a lot of what we wanted, as well as encouraging us to go and see other things we wouldn’t necessarily have gone to if it wasn’t already included in the cost of the card.  We purchased the cards both times from the Tourist Office at Brandenburger Tor, but you can buy it from many of the museums that accept the card as payment.

My best museums and galleries to visit with the card:

Red are my favourites

Area: Hauptbahnhof/Central Station

  • Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery – Modern art gallery highlights include Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly and Roy Lichtenstein.
  • Museum für Naturkunde – Highlight the largest exhibited skeleton of a dinosaur to greet you.



Area: Museum Insel/Museum Island +Mitte

  • Alte Nationalgalerie – 19th century art.
  • Altes Museum – Greek and Roman art.
  • Markisches Museum – Plotting the history of Berlin.
  • Neues Museum – Classical art with the modernised building in the old structure, awesome.
  • Pergamonmuseum – Massive Altar stolen from Pergamon, great building to run about in.

Area: Bahnhof Zoologischer Garten

  • Museum für Fotografie – The Helmut Newton collection, fantastic exhibition of important photography of fashion and portrait shots from 20th century.

Area: Kulturforum + Potsdamer Platz

  • Berlinische Galerie – Art and photography from 1870 to present day, amazing model replicas.
  • Judisches Museum – The Jewish museum designed by Daniel Liebskind (architect for Imperial war museums and Twin Tower Memorial), unbelievable experience.
  • Kulturforum – Houses many museums and next to Musikinstrumentum museum.
  • Neue Nationalgalerie – Fantastic use of space as this building hosts the permanent exhibits of 20th century art in the basement.

The Best Museums, galleries, memorials and parks to visit that are free:

Area: Museum Insel/Museum Island +Mitte

  • Deutscher Dom – Amazing building to explore.
  • Knoblauchhaus – One of the few 18th century houses remaining in Berlin.
  • Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe – Memorial designed by American architect Peter Eisenmen, a piece to be experienced.
  • Neue Wache – The New Guard house, used as a war memorial since 1931.
  • Reichstag – Never been personally, but it would be on my most favoured list.  First time in Berlin, at the height of summer, the queue was massive and second time round it was shut due to terrorist threats.
  • Tacheles Gallery – Ex department store on Oranienburger St, now an artist commune.
  • Tiergarten – Massive park in Mitte, which was the park of West Berlin before reunification.

Area: Friedrichshain

  • STYX Project,The Old Brewery – Amazing warehouse to explore if you like art to be presented as gritty sometimes, Landsberger Allee 54.

Area: Kreuzberg

  • Tempelhof Airport The old airport that ceased operating in 2008 now a massive park.

Area: Kulturforum + Potsdamer Platz

  • Topographie des Terrors – This was the location of the Gestapo’s main office and now the site tells the story of it’s history.

Worth paying for individually

Area: Kulturforum + Potsdamer Platz

  • Museum für Film und Fernsehen – €6 entry, through infinity mirrors to see some stunning reminders of the epic films of Berlin.
  • Martin-Gropias-Bau – Fantastic building, look what the individual exhibits are before choosing which one to go to, €6 entry per exhibit.

Further Tips

  • State Museums are Free Thurs from 6pm till 8pm and Hamburger Bahnhof from 2pm.
  • The Temporary Kunsthalle no longer exists.
  • Do not visit the Anne Frank Zentrum, unless you like the idea of viewing a super imposed Anne Frank’s face with 14 year olds that looks like an S Club 7 photo shoot.
  • You get a guide to all the galleries, museums, palaces and memorials with map, opening hours and transport links when you purchase the museum card.

Berlin the Return

And how the seasons have changed.  As it was here, Berlin was a snowy one, Germany was embedded in the thick white flakes.

We visited sights new and revisited others changed by winter. There were laughs, pains and very cold fingers, but hand warmers, ear muffs and gluhwein helped to stave off the most part.  I hobbled around like a limp dog, as I had injured my knee, whilst Adam proved a shoulder to lean on.

We stayed in Berlin this time for 9 nights, the memories are too many to recall and this is my recount in a whistle stop tour of the highs and low, places to visit and to avoid, and drinks to indulge and deny.

Our arrival 14/12/2010

We had a tight connection as our first plane was delayed so with 5 minutes me and Adam legged it through Munich’s terminal, it turned out we had time for a double espresso (provided free in the Lufthansa suite, as the plane was delayed.  Arrival in Berlin to snow, Warsteiner, Augustiner, and en route to the Magnet club to see Best Coast supported by Sky Larkin.

A good gig, though it made me realise I’m not that into indie pop at the minute.  We had fun though tanked up on Berliner pilsner and bopping in Germany.

15/12/2010

Our first full day and we started as we continued, cramming in the city.  This was marketing out day, as we visited too many Christmas markets.  We started out with breakfast from the Netto next door, still quality and so inexpensively priced.  Off to the Museum für Film und Fernsehen, which was a new museum for us.  As with all the exhibitions in Berlin it was a real treat, done to a quality that makes them a sensory indulgence.  We entered through a chamber of infinity, which was dozens of mirrors placed so that you went on forever, I could have stayed with my head hung upside down all day.  We then went on to be guided through the film history of Berlin, visiting the classics such as Metropolis and Wings of Desire.  We had already visited market one before this point at Potsdamer Platz, which actually turned out to be the worst one, it’s a strange place and reminds me of the feeling I get in Spinningfields, Manchester. We went on to market number two, Gendarmenmarkt, which cost one euro to enter.  We mulled up at €3.50 a pop, and sat inside to watch some sort of dancing, a little warmer we made our way to Prenzlauer Berg to get a decent beer, where Adam spotted Brew Dog fly posters in the urinals.  Next, to an Indian tea washed down with mango liqueur.  We finished our day tiddly at the Lucia Christmas markets, which by far were the most fun and set in the cool Kollwitzplatz Kultur Brauerei, which used to be an old brewery.  As the temperature collapsed me and Adam were delighted to warm our bums by sitting on a radiator with fur coats suspended overhead.  The end to a lovely -10 °C day.

16/12/2010

In search of the freebies before we purchased our 3 day museum pass, off we head back to Prenzlauer Berg.  First call of day, Americano from one of the many bistros of the area.  We visited the Prenzlauer Berg Museum about its history, which is all in German, but worth a look round for the heating and the building, again like no other you go to.  We visited the oldest water tower in Berlin, Wasserturm, and saw the post lady delivering to the flats below the tower, which is adjacent to what used be a machine hall used as the first concentration camp in Nazi Germany in the first half of 1933.  Off for a bizarre African inspired lunch at one of the many independents, at €8 for us both we couldn’t grumble.  We then went to the spectacle of Zeiss Gross Planetarium – Prenzlauer Allee, but it was shut bar the entrance, so we stayed in there until it became apparent that it was mull-o-clock.  So off we trotted via the H-bahn to Charlottenburg Christmas Markets, and that’s when it hit us that we didn’t want to see another German Christmas market again on this trip.  Fatigue kicked in and so we returned to the City Ost Hotel before recapturing our passion for the city and finding the Hausbrauerei Hops and Barley, which was in walking distance from our hotel.  It was reviewed in this month’s Ex-Berliner and was a real treat, the house special, Spezialbier was excellent and only €2.80 for 0.5L.

17/12/2010

Start of the museum pass extravaganza.  Served by the same old stroppy tourist office man as last time we bought our passes for €19 each and headed off for Berlinisches Galerie, but this time round without the yellow lettered front entrance that was instead snow filled.  I was convinced from an article in the local paper that there was an elevator bed you could pay to go on, this exhibit does not exist . . . The article was for the Soma exhibition that we viewed from the non paying side of the fence in the Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery, which contains reindeers and an elevated bed which you can pay €1000  a night to stay and trip out on reindeer urine. We found a cafe that became a highlight of the trip Taz Prezzo, and I ate a chicken noodle and kneidel soup for €3, followed by a coffee and accompanying dark chocolate bean (always a nice added touch.)  Off to Märkisches Museum, which was a new and hidden gem, as me and Adam trawled its vastness with nobody else in the building except from the suspect staff.  For dessert we finished with a trip back to the awesome Jewish Museum, mainly to see the building than revisit the exhibits.  Then for the two treats of the evening Hirsch bar, where we dined had 2 beers each and an espresso for €26, 0.5L of their own house lager is €2.50 and really good, then back to resample Hops and Barley.

18/12/2010

First new treat of the day Neue Nationalgalerie, which I hadn’t realised existed last time.  Wonderful permanent collections of 20th century art span the basement, and the new exhibit shown on ground level.  Back to Hamburger Bahnhof Gallery to peek at the reindeer from the stairs, it smelt like reindeer and looked a typical German set up, in being an excellently constructed piece.  To the Neues Museum, which blew us away in its scale and its strength in combining old and new architecture. Each and every building lends to a particular uniqueness, and that is what is so exceptional about the utilisation of form and function in this city.  For dinner we decided to sample a bizarre place called Dr.Eckstuck – Kreuzberg, again located in Ex-Berliner, but reviewed by the nurse with a short uniform, so maybe I should have guessed the sort of vibe it would have.  The boys toilets were splattered in porn and the staff looked like they were from Lock Stock, but the food was really good, we were the only people in there.  Well it was Saturday night in Berlin so we felt it our duty to find a club, and we located West Germany as recommended by Hey Manchester Chris.  Bizarrely, seen as every club in Germany doesn’t get going until 3am this one was winding up as they had a gig night on and it was the last night for them this year.  The venue is apparently owned by the brother of the guy who owns Islington Mill, so it was cool to have that connection and dance to Four Tet.  Whilst being a bit merry and thinking I was being smooth, I asked for a cocktail of what the beaker was, only to be ripped off with cheap vodka and rola cola for €4.

19/12/2010

An awesome start to the day by visiting the Helmut Newton Photography Exhibition, which was the perfect start to a Sunday and the perfect antidote to a hangover, especially as I had purchased a gluhwein for €1.50 from the pizza place across the road from our hotel  – mit schluss as well of all things!  A lovely Thai lunch of ramen and green tea before visiting the Kulturforum, which had a cool typography exhibition and many galleries to explore.  We decided on a tamer evening with a couple of beers and a Netto tea, no schluss for me as in the morning we were going on the 7.54am train to Leipzig, to visit where mine and Adam’s friend Thea was born.

20/12/2010

Leipzig, the trip I had been hoping to do, but had proved rather more expensive than anticipated at nearly €80 for a 2 way ticket, me and Adam found Interconnex, a German semi-budget website where we purchased set times at €19 each way.  We set off early, which was a fun but a confusing start to the day, which caused us to somehow succumb to Kamps coffee.  The train ride was magical as we travelled through the snowy countryside of Germany and watched as the bright orange in the sky came up.  We arrived at Leipzig Bahnhof (Europe’s largest railway station), which has 3 floor shopping mall, and garish decorations to adorn it’s beautiful construction.  We limped out to try to find the tourist info which had moved, but eventually found it and to our delight saw that everything on the map was walkable.  Our first stop was to find the Neuroorthopädisches Zentrum für Physiotherapie Leipzig to see Teddy Hurst’s art.  We found it easily and saw the pieces Thea’s husband had produced when he lost his ability to speak after suffering a stroke and art became his means of communicating.  Me and Adam were moved by the strength of his pieces, though we felt bizarre to be walking around looking at them whilst patients were in rehabilitation.  The next stop was to see the Schul Museum, where we saw the memories of Thea’s school days in a room with a reconstruction of the original school floor that was used to help Thea remember the names of her class mates.  It was a really moving place for me to visit and we went on to find the street where she had been evacuated from in the war, only to not find the house as the paving stone tribute to her father was covered under the thick snow.  For lunch with a worthy Augustiner and then to the Coffee Baum Museum.  A couple of coffees later and we headed back to the peculiar train station to purchase goods for our outbound journey.  Tired but pleased we had achieved this voyage we rewarded ourselves with drinks in a side street off Mitte, before we went in pursuit of, the no one goes there in Winter, Tacheles Gallery.  We wondered where the prostitutes that had lined the streets in summer had gone to, but as we looked with closer inspection at the furry bomber jackets and patent thigh fur boots, we realised a valuable lesson that prostitutes too feel the cold, much to our amusement we went happily to bed.

21/12/2010

This day resembled 28 days later as we started the day by visiting Stix Gallery, which is an abandoned brewery that houses a gallery.  Me and Adam crept about the dilapidated building half expecting the ceiling to crumble in and the gallery was closed.  The start of the plane worry that we might not make it home for Christmas, as Adam watched on the sleeping bundles at Heathrow airport.  I cried in to my coffee about not getting home for Christmas where as Adam the voice of reason showed me the way back and we visited the old airfield of Tempelhof Airport left as it was, but not a soul to be seen.  The Topograpie des Terrors put it all into perspective as we looked on the different levels of reality.  Another lovely Thai meal 12 pieces of sushi and miso soup for €5, Taz Presso for coffee, then to Knoblauchaus one of the few 18th century houses left in Berlin, this was a freebie and a very different space to see.  I wanted to squeeze in one more, but we thought sod it and went for an amazing Greek meal at Knofi, a bottle of red and 5 dishes for €25, we got exceptionally drunk and slept heavily.

22/12/2010

Last day of the trip and we started it well with the “WeltWissen – World Knowledge” – 300 Years of Science in Berlin exhibition, at Martin-Gropias Bau.  The wonderful periodic table exhibit and shadow play was a magnificent start to the day.  We went for another truly satisfying lunch at Taz Prezzo, whilst Adam creamed his off with an apfel and quark strudel.  We had 3 more places we wished to go Galleries Lafyette for a joke and warmth, the war memorial near Museum Island, and the Temporary KunsthalleGalleries Lafyette kept us amused for 5 minutes, the war memorial brought all the cold stinging sensations into real perspective as the statue lay their covered in snow and the Temporary Kunsthalle proved very temporary, as it no longer existed.  Our decision was made for a delightful evening of a revisit to Intimes cinema bar, which we had visited on our first evening here in Berlin last time.  The food was even bigger than we remembered and you couldn’t get bigger in our eyes.  Adam’s chicken Schnitzler and chips came with a side salad to accompany his side salad and mine came with a full filed loaf of sun-dried tomato bread, quality indeed and that was what our entire experience of Berlin was filled with.

The memories of Berlin are so many and this is just a snapshot of what I have written down, kept, and can recall.  To follow a rundown of where to go and where the places are, until then Happy New Year everyone and Happy New Year Berlin.


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