Friday 18 June 2010

Berlin: Home-cooking at Roots

Continental African Restaurants
One of the things that excited me about visiting Berlin was last year I found a Nigerian restaurant called Fifty-Fifty which in Nigeria parlance is a euphemism for equal share of halves.
Living in the Netherlands, we have been regaled with the dastardly service of African Kitchen in Amsterdam, the illegal restaurant of Obalade and travelled over 50 kilometres to The Hague for fare that left us shocked at the service at Swingin’ Safari, which last time we were there.
WaZoBia in Antwerp has disappeared and the only seemingly classy restaurants are in London, but to London for a taste of home-cooking? I had better get my pans in line and turn the heat up.
Just up my straβe
As I got to Berlin, I asked Loomnie, a fellow blogger and Berliner but not a jam doughnut if Fifty-Fifty was still open because I was going to make a journey right across town to have some Nigerian fare.
On hearing of where my hotel was he said there was a restaurant just down the road from my place and that was the truth.
The Roots Afro-Caribbean Bar is in the centre of commercial and shopping street Berlin, not too far from Europacenter. You will be forgiven for thinking the prefix Afro- is a qualifier for Caribbean when in fact it does mean catering for African as well as Caribbean tastes.
The word is silence
It is unfortunate that many of these African restaurants seem to rely on the African advertisement culture of word-of-mouth when essentially a pervasive web presence is required.
A search of African restaurants in Berlin does not yield a list representative of the fact that there might be many more gems of exotic cuisine hidden in some back street almost content that they already have the clientele they require and the odd visitor is a bonus of sorts.
So, I walked up the road, crossed Kurfurstendamm and within a few blocks I was at bar which was half-bar half-restaurant seating and asked if I could have some African food, Nigerian in particular and I was given a few choices.
Menus in the head
I did not get to choose off a menu and since it was just soon after a Nigerian World Cup match there was the possibility what I really wanted might be out.
I had catfish pepper-soup, I still prefer the meat variety but that was out and then pounded-yam with egusi soup and assorted pieces of beef, all washed down with a malt drink.
The atmosphere was vibrant as it was showing the France-Mexico game and it did have quite a large proportion of German clientele which I do not find for many other ethnic restaurants I have been to.
The manager was friendly, welcoming and engaging; it was nice to be there even though I was eating alone.
Get the word out and book ahead
To think this restaurant had been there for 11 years and I have been visiting Berlin for 15 years, even Loomnie only discovered this haunt recently – I had a few words with the manager about the lack of marketing, the poor website and a few other things.
I will return to the restaurant but under advice that it is best to phone ahead so that preparations can be made to fulfil your preferences, even in this upmarket setting, the prices are reasonable, the service friendly and the rapport engaging – the food is delicious and really, what else can one wish for?
The Roots Afro-Caribbean Bar
Nürnbergerstraβe 17
Am Europacenter
10789 Berlin

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