Saturday, 29 October 2011
Review: Napoljonska, Mitte
Do you sometimes get stuck in a rut afternoon tea-wise? No? Well maybe it's just me. Really good tea and cake experiences are just not that thick on the ground, so when I have the chance to indulge I find it very difficult to pass up on one of my old favourites where I know I'm going to get exactly what I want. But sometimes you have to branch out and try something new.
The other day was one of those days: it was sunny but cold and a little bike ride before settling down for an afternoon read seemed like a good idea. Unusually CB and I decided to have a mooch up Kastanienallee - a supposedly very hip street in Berlin for those that don't know; I'm always reading it's known as Casting Alley as it's so full of models, photographers and other hipsters but I've never actually heard it called that by anyone other than a guidebook writer. Anyway, I digress. We spotted a cute looking little place called Napoljonska which seemed fairly quiet and decided to give it a whirl.
On entering I was struck by just how un-Berlin the cafe was. A riot of pink and pale grey with matching chairs and tablecloths it just didn't fit the identikit bare concrete and secondhand furniture mould I've come to love and expect in the Hauptstadt. No, this looked like some serious time and effort had been put into achieving an actual coordinated look. Normally that might put me off but in this instance I rather liked what I saw. Something about being in there made me feel like I was inside one of the huge old-fashioned sweetie jars behind the counter: pink walls, pink gingham tablecloths, cute sweetie-style lampshades - I know it all sounds a bit much but it was actually perfectly balanced with grey chairs, a couple of grey walls and a grey floor.
The specialities of the place are homemade waffles and crepes with a huge choice of fillings. They looked great but given that we had dinner plans later that night they seemed a bit excessive. We decided instead to go for the intriguingly - and not altogether pleasantly - monikered Kalter Hund, or Cold Dog. Despite conjuring up images of an old limp frankfurter in a soggy bun this was actually a rather delicious chocolate and biscuit layered fridge cake. I have since found out that it's a staple of celebration tables in Germany. Who knew?
Anyway, to accompany our sweet but delicious Kalter Hund we were fairly spoilt for choice. There were a good selection of teas - both green and black, and the usual collection of coffees. I went for a vanilla rooibos as I had already had about 8 cups of tea that morning and CB went for a flat white, because he likes to think he can blend in with the hipsters. Both were fab. My rooibos came in a really lovely little teapot and consisted of leaves rather than a bag. But the star of the drink-show was the flat white - wow, it was fantastic: strong and full of flavour without being bitter. Despite my quality tea I actually had just a little bit of envy for the coffee.
Although the place was pretty quiet when we arrived it soon filled up. Unsurprisingly, given the whole look and vibe of the place, it filled up with parents and young kids. In and of itself that wouldn't be a problem but many of the Prenzlauer Berg mums and dads fall into the "let your kids screech at the top of their voices otherwise you are an authoritarian tyrant" category. Honestly whenever I spend half an hour in a place in P'berg that's full of little ones I understand why the staff are so grumpy! But the symphony of screeching didn't reach its crescendo until we were about ready to leave anyway so it didn't spoil our enjoyment too much.
Napoljonska really is a nice place: the cakes and waffles look great - and if the Kalter Hund is anything to go by they taste great too; the drinks are of a really good quality; and it looks super-cute. There was something amazingly refreshing about being in a place that had totally gone to town with the decor - right down to the fifties-style font on the sign for the toilets. It may be a little too styled for many Berliners' tastes but in truth the bare walls and concrete floors thing is a carefully-studied style too. I for one applaud Napoljonska for trying something a bit different - and succeeding.
(p.s. Sorry for the recent lack of posts - difficult times in the ATT house have pushed blogging to one side. I'll try my best to do better!)