Berlin is a city that is constantly changing. From the squat bars that I so loved in the early nineties to the coffee bars of today, it's the kind of place where you can never be sure that that little restaurant/bar/café that you loved visiting on your last trip is still going to be there on your next. Although that can be sad it's also what makes the city vibrant and exciting.
One of the things I could do without though is the glut of places that seem to open up nowadays with English names. I know it shouldn't make any difference as it's the place not the name that counts, but I can't help it: it just puts me off. An English name makes me think that it's either an ex-pat hangout (that probably wouldn't be a problem if I lived here full-time but as a part-timer I like to have some German in my Berlin time), or a place aimed squarely at tourists. Either way I tend to avoid the English-monikered joints. But recently I decided to make an exception. I say "I" but actually this was a Coffee Boy inspired visit. He put aside his even-more-vehement-than-me dislike of English café names and demanded that we visit Princess Cheesecake. I would say I was surprised but I have long-known that the word cheesecake is enough to make him go miles out of his way whatever country we are in. In fact, I still hear (on at least a monthly basis) about the time we were in Memphis and spotted a place called Cheesecake Corner and vowed to return the next day, when it reopened, to partake. Despite the fact we were heading down into the Mississippi delta that morning we took our planned detour only to discover that it was shut for the day. He still dreams of the thousands (that might be an exaggeration) of varieties he would have been able to choose from and the taste-sensation that could have been his.
Anyhoo, so Princess Cheesecake: we decided to go. Situated just off art-filled August Straße we checked out a few galleries on our way - just to make it seem like we had other interests than cake - and when we arrived picked a spot by the window. It's a fairly small place with only about five tables inside and a few more out on the pavement. Everything is painted the most beautiful shade of grey (my favourite) and the place is very much just-so. Not your typical Berlin hang-out at all. The counter is one long vitrine full of the most delicious looking cakes - and not just cheesecakes but everything from fruit baiser to chocolate gateaux. CB decided to try Zupfkuchen - a heady mixture of cheesecake and chocolate cake - and I had the most amazing salted caramel tart. My goodness it was gorgeous. In fact it was so good I completely forgot to take any pictures on that visit. I was so busy enjoying the cake I totally forgot I had a blog about afternoon tea at all.
So, there was nothing for it but a return visit. This time CB had a rhubarb baiser (a fruit tart with a light meringue topping) and I tried a pear and chocolate mousse cake. Wow, all four cakes we tried over our two visits were delicious. The fact that they're all hand made from natural ingredients without colours and preservatives just makes them all the better. Added to this direct-trade coffee and a truly fantastic selection of teas from Hamburg-based Samova and this place is definitely a winner.
I guess I should really learn from this experience and stop being so negative about places with English names. Certainly if Princess Cheesecake is anything to go by I really could be missing out. But I am still left wondering why places pick English names. Is it to appeal to tourists? I'd have thought most people who make the journey to Berlin want to experience something German. Is it to attract ex-pats? Surely there's not enough of them to sustain a business. Or is it just that people think that it sounds exotic, the way that places back home sometimes take a French or Italian name? (Hard to believe I know!) I'm not sure of the reason but after this experience I'm certainly going to do my best to put my prejudices aside. And if you share them I suggest you do the same. The cake here is just too good to be missed.