Berlin’s Postdamer Platz is like the new Germany presenting itself to the world … unashamedly modern, progressive. Glass and steel towers line the Strasse leading down from the square. It looks and feels well-heeled, unlike some of the still crumbling streets in the old east.

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband found themselves tottering along the pavement on a squally evening to Postdamer Strasse 3, home to the Mandala Hotel and its restaurant, Facil.

This was a recommendation from a British couple also dining at Vienna’s Steirereck. Asked where we were heading on our gastronomic tour, they said they’d enjoyed every mouthful of German ‘young gun’ Michael Kempf’s cooking. Using standard operating procedure, Greedy Girl immediately got online for a booking.

The restaurant is housed in a glass cube in an open courtyard area on the fifth floor of the hotel. On warm evenings, the walls presumably slide open to permit al fresco dining. This was not one of those.

Germans take punctuality seriously. Note to diners: if your reservation is for a particular time, turn up at that particular time. Not at all sure how long it would take for the transit, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband were 10 minutes early. We were immediately dispatched to the ‘holding pen’ – a couple of sofas outside the restaurant’s space to wait. No bar area. No interaction. Just a place to wait.

Once admitted through the automatic double doors into the glass sanctum, the room is quite delightful. Apart from one large group, tables were overwhelmingly set for just two, with plenty of space and an amazing light, courtesy of the glass ceiling.

Ordering the customary bottle of champagne, this time a Jacquesson Cuvee 735, it was time to peruse the menu. The chef, who calls Berlin his culinary home, divides the menu into two sides – ‘Innovations’ and ‘Classics’. The innovations side was dominated by pigeon and mackerel dishes. Not exactly Greedy Girl’s taste. More to her liking were the ‘classics’. She chose only two courses – a foie gras starter and a ‘fillet of bison’ for the main.

Gluttonous husband also liked the look of the classics. He ordered the Breton sardine, followed by an asparagus soup and then black cod. Sorted.

Facil offers a special deal of four courses for 86 euros or eight for 146. Individual plates average around 35 euros. While the prices may have been on the higher side so far for this trip, there is certainly no stinting in the hospitality. Three amuse bouches were served. Beetroot flavoured macaroon with caviar was partnered with a crisp wafer topped with a tiny quenelle of liverwurst. That was followed by smoked eel served with cucumber and anise crumbs. The final ‘pre-course’ was a tiny pike fillet served on a spoonful of risotto with a mustard crisp. Greedy Girl was sold.

Then came the bread basket. Five different styles of bread, ranging from brioche to heavy German grains were offered with butter, a quenelle of tuna mousse and a cottage cheese and herb (read, parsley) dip. Gluttonous husband got into the latter two, while Greedy Girl opted for the butter.

First course: the foie gras was styled as a terrine and served with a crunchy light salad and a compote of ‘wool pig’. Yes, indeed, apparently there is a breed of pig that is well, woolly. Our friendly waiter noted the breed was originally Hungarian but the restaurant had a supplier from Brandenburg, just outside Berlin. It was an excellent dish. The ‘wool pig’ compote was virtually a chutney and had just the right amount of sweetness to work with the crunch of the vegies and the saltiness and smoothness of the foie gras. Yum.

The Breton sardine was served with apple, a lime caper marmalade and shallot tarte. Gluttonous husband pronounced it OK. He preferred the salad but the sardine itself didn’t have an enormous amount of flavour.

Next up for gluttonous husband was the asparagus soup. It was an interesting dish in that the individual ingredients were generally unremarkable but, taken together, worked. A nugget of coral-pink salmon trout (young salmon) sat in a bowl while the curried asparagus broth was spooned over the top. Gluttonous husband took the highly unusual step of adding salt.

The mains were next. Gluttonous husband’s black cod was served with crispy skin with a radish and coriander salad and a white wine sauce. The fish was cooked to perfection, translucent, flaking, moist.

Greedy Girl oped for fillet of bison with ‘linda potato’ (a German variety and the subject of a ‘save linda’ campaign from local foodies), selim pepper (an African chilli) and a barbecue jus. The bison was seared and very rare. It was soft, salted, stunning. It got mopped within an inch of its life and was accompanied by a full-bodied, but not heavy red – an aglianico, a black grape from the Campania region of Italy.

To round out the evening, gluttonous husband enjoyed a strawberry, rhubarb and vanilla dessert. Lightly poached fruit, some pistachio crumbs – it was refreshing. Greedy Girl demurred, and just as well, for out with the espresso coffee came petits fours.

On the first plate were a mix of chocolate/coffee and raspberry tartlets. The next dish housed three different types of chocolates – a salted caramel covered in gold-flecked dark chocolate. A white chocolate and mango mousse and finally a lemon cream so tart it sucked in the old cheeks. Finally (and bliss that there was an end to this gorging) was a bowl of chocolate covered almonds.

Greedy Girl had determined at the outset of the evening to ‘eat light’ and only ordering two courses thought she was home and hosed. However, the addition of the amuse bouche times 3 and the petits fours brought all her good intentions undone. Waddled she did out of the cube and into the night.

It was an excellent experience – more so for Greedy Girl with her choices, while gluttonous husband was a little underwhelmed by his two starters. The restaurant apparently has held a Michelin star for eight years – a precocious feat for a chef who, according to our wait staff, has just turned 34.
Facil means easy. If there was a more idiomatic German translation it should mean ‘eclectic’. The style, although French in its outlook is very individual. It was an interesting stop on this gastronomic tour.


Potsdamer Strasse 3, Berlin

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