If I said “vegetarian fine dining” you would probably raise an eyebrow. When I tell you it’s a vegetarian fine dining restaurant hidden down a back alley in Berlin, I’d imagine that eyebrow would raise a lot further. Unless you live in Berlin. Then you’re probably like “so far so typical”, right?
Cookies Cream is tucked away, out of sight, behind the Westin Hotel in Mitte. It’s just a few steps from some of the poshest shops in the city, and a five minute walk from the beautiful Gendarmenmarkt with its twin cathedrals. And when I say “behind the Westin Hotel” I mean “behind the Westin Hotel.”
To reach the restaurant you have to walk down the hotel’s service alley (yep, the place where they keep all the bins). Keep walking until you see a chandelier suspended in the alleyway and the romantic lights of a trendy bar. There’s a door, with a piece of paper on it with the restaurant name. Once you get there you know you’ve arrived.
Once you walk inside the sound of air conditioning vents is replaced by the ambient music and buzz of a trendy cocktail bar. We relaxed with a glass of riesling on one of the plush sofas until ourtable was ready. The bar is decorated in quite a quirky style, with lamps shaped like peacocks. There was a sign up saying “no photographs.” What is this, Berghain?
James is learning German, and as we climbed the stairs to the restaurant I noticed the word Ficken written behind the bar. I was already a bit tipsy (we’d had a cocktail in Newton, a champagne bar near Gendarmenmarkt) so I asked him what it meant. I know what it means, but he just deadpanned back “to fuck.” Alright captain serious!
Our friendly American waitress sat us down and handed us the menu, although I’d already studied it extensively online. I had a cosy booth seat while James had a chair that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1970’s office. The cocktails here looked amazing but as I was already half cut I decided against another aperitif. We went for a bottle of Grauburgunder wine instead. While we made up our minds we were given some lovely bread, served in a piece of steel guttering, with a lovely pesto and cottage cheese dip.
Cookies Cream have a very reasonable tasting menu with four pre-selected courses for €48 , but we decided to go for the regular menu (three courses for €39) so we could try a bit of everything. Unfortunately we couldn’t have a bit of everything, as there were a few options for every course on the menu. Still, we chose the things that sounded nicest, a few of which were included in the set menu.
The two starters we chose were the quails egg in brioche, and the seaweed caviar with ricotta cheese. The first was rich and comforting, while the second was fresh and zingy. The brioche was soft and fresh, and the quail’s egg was done to perfection. The seaweed caviar was lovely, the way it popped in the mouth, and the tangy herby sauce that accompanied it was also delicious.
The real winners were our main courses. I had the parmesan dumplings with crème of artichokes first and was quick to announce that they were the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. They came with a tandoori tomato sauce which added an interesting kick. We swapped plates and the dumplings were immediately usurped: the crunchy potato lasagne with fried asparagus was bloody delicious. There were mushrooms, swish cheese truffle, and radish dotted about the plate but I just couldn’t get over the genius of using crispy potato strips in place of lasagne sheets.
James thought the desserts were the best part of the meal. I had the almond pastry with frozen yoghurt, he had the white bubble chocolate and pistachio. My pastry had some interesting salted lemon and liquorice on the side, which definitely added a bit of character, while James’s chocolate was accompanied by home-made cassis ice cream and marscarpone. The ice cream was deliciously vibrant, both in colour and flavour.
Our waitress took our plates away and then stamped the digestif menu onto our table cloth, presumably with vegetable dye. We decided to finish our meal with a home-made infused brandy: williams pear for me, rhubarb for him. Although both ended up being for me as James decided he’d reached his boozy limit for the day.
In total we spent €140 (£90), which is very reasonable. Considering the quality of the food, the wine, and the overall experience, Cookies Cream is a must if you’re looking for a unique fine dining experience in Berlin.