Nineteen years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a wave of innovative chefs are fueling a new gastro scene in the German capital.

Spotlight on: Hartmanns

Why here, why now? Nineteen years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, a wave of innovative chefs are fueling an exciting new gastro scene in the German capital, with Hartmanns among them.

The vibe: A small, cavernous -style restaurant in residential Kreuzberg, Berlin’s Turkish quarter and one of the city’s up-and-coming neighbourhoods. The service and surrounds are elegant and intimate, with candles, crisp white table cloths and dry stone walls. The bathrooms even stock toothbrushes and deodorant.

Meet the chef: Thirty-one year old Stefan Hartmanns describes his food as “young German; blending local, organic products with flavours from all over the world”. With a career that has spanned Paris, California and a spell in kitchen of Berlin’s Vau with Kolja Kleeberg, Hartmann is not afraid to experiment.

Everyone is ordering: The degustation menu, which includes cod with baked brandade and pesto of roasted onion and turbot with caper bread, saffron and artichoke. Desserts don’t stack up as well; grab some fresh baklava from one of the nearby Turkish cafes instead.

At the next table: Two happy, young couples making their way through the six course degustation menu and giving each a score out of 10.

Best nights/ worst nights: Book weekends well in advance, especially in winter when the cosy den is a warm retreat from frigid temperatures outside.

If you can’t get in here, try: Vau, the vanguard of Berlin’s new gastro trend (Jagerstrasse 54/55, Mitte; +49 30 2029730; www.vau-berlin.de; dinner for two, including wine, $350)

Details: Fichtestrasse 31, Kreuzberg; +49 30 61201003; www.hartmanns-restaurant.de; dinner only, closed Sunday; dinner for two, including wine, $240

Eat

Facil
This sumptuous rooftop atrium on Potsdamner Platz has 400 plus wines to match their superb “progressive French” dishes, like ox cheek with fresh mustard seed and herbs and raw monk fish with foam of chick pea. Leave room for the extravagant desserts. Mandala Hotel, Potsdamer Strasse 3; +49 30 590051234; www.facil.de; two-course lunch for two, $120

Restaurant Horvath
Chef’s rave about Wolfgang Muller’s original dishes, although they may not please everybody. The plaice with pancake and ragout is a jumble of flavours, mixing snail, ham, tomato, white fish and soy sauce in the same mouthful. Paul Lincke- shore 44a, Kreuzberg; +49 30 61289992; www.restaurant-horvath.de; dinner for two, $220 with wine

San Nicci
This recently opened trattoria is where the jet-set crowd comes to see and be seen. With stark-white and wood interiors, its more about trend than taste, although there are good dishes like ragu di agnello, a modern take on spaghetti bolognaise, and a great wine list � heavy on Italians. Friedrichstrasse 101; +49 30 306454980; www.san-nicci.de; lunch for two, $82

Culinary tours
Dine with a local on one of Henrik Tidefjard’s personalized culinary tours. The genial Swede’s knowledge of Berlin restaurants is infinite, including the enigmatic underground gastro scene. +49 30 43720701; www.berlinagenten.com; Tours start from $132 per person and include food, drinks and transport

Drink

Schlossplatzbrauerei Coepenick
Venture out to the historical village of Köpenick and its legendary Square Brewery, Germany’s smallest, where all beers are made on site; the house dark beer has tones of liquorice, the seasonal Inka Bier is sweet and tangy. Grunstrasse 24, Köpenick; +49 30 42096876; www.schlossplatzbrauerei.de; pints for two, $7

Newton Bar
Dedicated to Berlin-born photographer Helmut Newton with some of the best cocktails in the city (don’t miss the Bombay Crush). Sit inside and shamelessly gaze over a wall of Newton’s naked supermodels, or on the sidewalk for the passing parade. Charlottenstrasse 57, Mitte; +49 30 2029540; www.newton-bar.de; drinks for two, $35

Weinerei Frarosa
Bravo to egalitarian Germany. Bypassing chic-chic bars and their extortionate prices, Frarosa allows guests to rent a glass (for about $1.50) and sample as many (mostly German) wines as they like – then leave an amount they think is fair. 40 Zionskirchstrasse; +49 30 65706756; leave approximately $20 for a few glasses of wine for two people

Shop

Kochlust
This tiny bookshop in Mitte’s trendy shopping district is stacked with English and German culinary titles, including the complete works of El Bulli’s super-chef Ferran Adria. 36/37 Alte Sch�nhauser Str., Mitte; +49 30 638883; www.kochlust-berlin.de

Leo Bettini
Grab freshly made pasta, dumplings and organic wine from this great shop. Mulackstrasse 33, Mitte; +49 30 60507449; www.leobettini.de

Türken Markt
Grab a picnic from Kreuzberg’s bustling Turkish Market then find a patch of grass overlooking the canal to graze. The market bustles with fresh, mostly organic, fruit and vegetables, breads, dips, olives, and halva. Maybachufer; Tuesday and Friday, noon-6pm

Sleep

LUX 11
Elegant pre-war apartment building in the grungy East-Berlin neighbourhood around Hackerscher Markt has small, minimalist rooms all with kitchenettes and brazenly open showers. Downstairs is Mitte’s latest eatery, Japanese inspired Shiro-i-Shiro. 9-13 Rosa-Luxemburg-Strasse, Mitte; +49 30 9362800; www.lux-eleven.com; doubles from $170

Hotel de Rome
Luxury hotelier Rocco Forte’s latest makeover is housed in the former Dresden Bank headquarters. The Hotel de Rome bills itself as Berlin’s most glamorous lodgings, its Parioli restaurant the city’s most authentic Italian cuisine. 37 Behrenstrasse; +49 30 4606090; www.roccofortehotels.com; doubles from $390

T+L Tip: Get around on Berlin’s cheap and extensive U-Bahn and S-Bahn mass transit network for only $10 a day.

This article appeared in a 2008 issue of Travel + Leisure Magazine Australia.