La Soupe Populaire

Eat like Obama

Oct 31st, 2013

UPDATE: La Soupe Populaire is currently closed for renovation

Having opened up it’s doors in 2013 in the venue of the former Bötzow Brewery on Prenzlauer Allee, Tim Raue’s La Soupe Populaire is already one of Berlin’s most exiting food projects. Fantastic architecture, world class art and the best modern take on classic Berlin food make this one of my favourite new food experiences.

When Hans Georg Näder called up Tim Raue with the request to start a restaurant in his newly acquired estate, the famous Bötzow Brewery in Prenzlauer Berg, he thought he had plenty of time to execute the owner’s vision of a restaurant. What he didn’t know, was that the billionaire owner of the Otto Bock empire wanted the doors of this new restaurant to open just three weeks later. But after he had realized the sincerity of this request he wasted no time and assembled his team to make it happen. Tim Raue is on a roll and the results of his work are quite remarkable. Not only is he running the city’s best fine dining restaurant, he may also just have created the city’s next culinary destination.

Truly stunning, it kind of feels like you’re dining in a smaller version of the Berghain

The Bötzow Brauerei on Prenzlauer Berg’s Prenzlauer Allee was in it’s glory days home to North Germany’s largest brewery and Biergarten. Hard to understand for modern day Berliners, if you’ve ever been to the brewery for an event you know how desolated and run down this amazing location is. Professor Näder is here to save the day though and with his acquisition of the brewery in 2010 he laid down the foundation for restoring this historic Berlin location. One of the first steps was opening up the cocktail bar Le Croco Bleu and restaurant La Soup Populaire in the studio house space of the brewery, the only part that has been fully renovated. And boy is this a spectacular venue for a restaurant. Upon finding your way into the building (straight ahead btw) you suddenly enter into a massive hall with a 10 meter ceiling and an elevated dining area overseeing the temporary art exhibition in the lower area. Truly stunning, it kind of feels like you’re dining in a smaller version of the Berghain. The industrial feel of the location is broken off in a cool way by the old school, random pieces of furniture and silver cutlery that were purchased from flee markets all over town.

The menu was originally planned to solely evolve around the temporary art exhibition in the studio house but then the first menu, a reinvention of Berlin classics, was super popular and it was decided to keep it as a standard menu. So now there are two menus, the standard Berlin food and the temporary art menu. Right now the temporary art menu is Thai inspired based on the exhibition of famous photographer Andreas Gursky’s pictures of the Bangkok river. Which means that you right now can order Berliner Mustard Eggs as a starter and lobster tom kha khiau as a main – a pretty funky combo, but never the less a spectacular one.

The traditional Prussian meatball dish is here served with a superb potato mash, lightly pickled red beet, gravy and Berlin’s fluffiest meatballs

The standard menu, which evolves around classic Berlin dishes, is for me clearly the star of the show though. I’m very exited that someone took on the challenge to create modern versions of dishes like Königsberger Klopse, Liver, Mustard Eggs and Bienenstich, dishes that are extremely hard to find in good versions. And boy are they good at La Soup Populaire. The Mustard Eggs for example, the famous Senfeier, a dish which pretty much only can be eaten at University Mensas and Kantinen and which usually consists out of two rock-hard boiled eggs in a horrendous mustard sauce. At La Soup Populaire you can have a light version with a lightly pickled red beet and a perfectly boiled egg with roe. And it’s crazy delicious! And not to forget my favourite, the dish I dream about, a technical masterpiece in making something simple perfect: Königsberger Klopse. The traditional Prussian meatball dish is here served with a superb potato mash, lightly pickled red beet, gravy and Berlin’s fluffiest meatballs. The quality and execution of this dish are both outstanding and at a price of 18€ crazy value for money, a ridiculous price for a Michelin star quality dish. But that’s the thing about La Soup Populaire, Prof. Näder was very clear about what he expected: Fantastic food and service at an affordable price. The result is one of the best value-for-money deals you can get in Berlin right now. Most of the staff, both kitchen and front of the house, were taken directly from two star restaurant Tim Raue and they simply don’t know how to deliver a mediocre dining experience. They only know how to deliver at a top notch level with zero tolerance for mistakes.

This quality thinking also applies to the wine list, it’s pretty much copied from Tim Raue and this means exceptional quality. I strongly recommend the exclusive wines Tim Raue gets from Dreissigacker called “Lotusblüte” and “Kolibri”, especially the first one is very good and priced exceptionally well here at 3.50€ a glass.

The Berlin menu received a lot of attention when Tim Raue served it to Obama during his visit to Germany in the summer of 2013 and I think it’s truly outstanding. The Asian Thai menu, which will be on the menu until the end of the year, is also great but just a bit bleak in comparison. Not because it’s bad, but because it stands out so much due to its flavour profile. It borrows a lot of inspiration from the food served at Tim Raue and the cooks know what they are doing. One fantastic dish I had from this menu was the pork belly, an XL-version of my favourite Tim Raue amuse bouche: Paper thin slivers of chili glazed pork belly with a papaya salad. Amazing (and especially a dream come since I’m always sad when the small portion at Tim Raue is gone). The lobster soup was also very good, but then also a really strong contrast to the German Berlin food and that’s where I started questioning the experience. I mixed dishes from both menus, but that was a mistake, the flavour profiles are just too different. And this leads me to my only negative point about this restaurant, I’m not sure that serving an additional menu makes sense. Sure, it can create diversity for returning customers, but for me the reinvention of classic Berlin and German dishes is so brilliant so successfully executed and especially with so much potential that I’d much rather see more work on that food. I believe that the kind of work that is being done on German classics in this kitchen has the potential to echo across the whole country. It’s a fantastic way of getting in touch with the roots of German cooking and changing the general (non-German) opinion on German food.

La Soupe is one of the most interesting restaurant openings of the year and has the potential to become one of THE culinary destinations of the city. The place has it all, a fantastic location, solid financial support and great minds to execute the concept. Head Chef Michael Jäger is a cool cat and a true professional. What else do you need? La Soupe Populaire is righteously one of the hardest reservations in Berlin and in my opinion the best take on classic, Berlin food you can get in the city.