Saturday, 19 September 2015

My food haunts in Berlin and Paris

My habitude
The creature of habit that I am means I have a tendency to do visit the same places, watch the same series or similar genre, eat the same cuisine and repeat some things without tiring of the experience.
It is like I am comfortable, fulfilled and happy when I find something I like and cannot be persuaded to consider something else.
On my recent visit to Berlin, having stayed in hotels all around the city, I have more recently gravitated to staying right in the centre, Schöneberg, in fact, it would most likely be bordered by the Wittenbergplatz and Kurfürstenstraße metro stations.
Apart from the ease of getting around Berlin from this central location, most of the places I will frequent will normally be within walking distance.
Ebe Ano, again and again
On such place I cannot miss when in Berlin is Ebe Ano at Pohlstraße 52, a Nigerian soul food restaurant that I must say is second to none in all the Nigerian cuisine outfits I have visited in Western Europe.
What it does not have in variety is full catered for in service and passion with what is on offer. The proprietors are a multi-racial couple, the man being the chef majoring in the exquisite stews from the eastern part of Nigeria.
I do the deep dive with a starter of pepper soup or suya and follow that with one of the many vegetable stews that includes any of Bitterleaf, Oha, Ukazi, Utazi, Egusi, Ogbono, Ugba, Okro vegetables with pounded yam, semolina, garri, amala, ground rice or wheat puddings.
Hands and more
The stews are not heavily spiced or too hot for the Western palate, though you are provided a side ramekin of red hot chilli paste, if you want to up the ante.
We go the traditional way and eat with our fingers rather than with cumbersome cutlery, and you will probably see many non-Africans digging in with just as much pleasure beyond the unadventurous rice or jollof rice with plantains and moin-moin into the amazingly exotic.
My understanding is that they have a growing non-African patronage and it is always a pleasure to meet up with friends there. For the taste of something original, different, exquisite, ethnic, inexpensive and delicious, you cannot afford to walk past Ebe Ano without looking in and having a go. I always do.
CDG is an impossible airport
Then, if I do stopover in Paris and have time on my hands, navigating Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is hellish at the best of times and whoever designed that airport should get invited for tea with Madame Guillotine at the Bastille.
The staff at CDG are well aware of the absolute inscrutability of this airport, my only advice to anyone transiting through CDG is to never be pressed for time navigating this place or you’ll miss your flight. Let me introduce the EasyCDG website which is not affiliated to CDG but is the labour of love of some who knows the CDG is anything but easy.
Getting into Paris
I finally found my way to the RER B trains to Paris with a long wait at the counter-intuitively impossible self-service ticket dispensing machines that up to 70% of the users operated with great difficulty before I boarded the 45-minute train journey to Châtelet – Les Halles in the very heart of Paris.
The station sits beneath a sprawling shopping centre that is being reconstructed, it does have the feel of a construction site with directions a bit messed up apart from the fact that escalators and lifts could be out of order.
Generally, I want to make it out of the Rambuteau exit towards the Georges Pompidou Centre that I have viewed for as long as I have visited Paris but never entered.
Just Café Beaubourg
My rendezvous is the Café Beaubourg [Not a flattering review, but hey!] which is to the left of the centre if you are stood with your back to the centre. This is where I meet with friends in Paris and where I take anyone I meet in Paris for brunch.
The brunch does not come cheap, but the view from a first floor window towards the centre and the square in front of it is one where you can watch the world go by without being disturbed by the charade outside.
It is also a place to reminisce for there I have been with friends some gone away and some long gone leaving me with just the memories and the realisation of how the passage of time brings people through your life like a river flows under a bridge. Sometimes an eddy is created that lasts long enough for one to behold with wonder leaving more than an impression.
These are things creatures of habit are born to suffer, the living and the memory and then a smile and a tear. The moment is replayed in the mind like a film and then we move on from that encounter with the past to be tried again at another opportune time.


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