In a surprising turn of events, ernst, one of Berlin's most internationally acclaimed restaurants, just released a statement announcing the restaurant will close its doors by the end of 2024, concluding a remarkable chapter in the city's fine dining scene. Their culinary odyssey began in 2013 as secret apartment restaurant "Jung, Grün & Blau" in Moabit, then made its way to a Wedding apartment in 2014 under the name of "ernst", and ultimately finding its home as an esteemed 12-seat (and later 8-seat) restaurant on Nettelbeckplatz in 2017. Ernst currently stands at No. 55 on the illustrious World's 50 Best Restaurants List, holds one Michelin Star, and chef ower Dylan Watson-Brawn was voted Gault Millau "Chef of the Year" in 2022.
In a candid email addressed to their regulars, Watson-Brawn and ernst partner Spencer Christenson shed light on the primary reasons behind this unexpected closure. Private matters have taken precedence, and they mention a need to delve into other projects and dimensions of life after investing seven years of unrelentless effort and attention into their flagship, ernst. Echoing and re-iterating the immense struggles of fine dining establishments in Berlin during this challenging year, it is also safe to say that ernst has grappled with the lethal combination of declining guest numbers, rising operating costs, and shortage of qualified labor that's currently holding Berlin fine dining in a chokehold.
The closing of ernst adds fuel to the growing discussion surrounding the current state of the Berlin fine dining scene, and our own Berlin Food Stories founder Per Meurling is one of the many concerned voices:
"I'm not sure people realize how bad the situation really is: the reports I'm hearing from restaurant owners are gravely concerning and it's safe to say that pretty much everyone (with Tim Raue being the possible exception) is massively struggling. You can book a table at pretty much any restaurant in the city next week -- that truly says everything. After the lively discussions about restaurants struggling during the COVID years, most restaurant owners are just tired of complaining about their problems. But mostly, everyone is just generally exhausted and running on fumes; it's like the whole food scene is experiencing a burnout at the same time I feel a real risk of it all just imploding."
When it comes to the closing of ernst, Meurling adds;
"ernst will always be known as one of the most important restaurants of the 2000s in Berlin. For the opening I wrote how ernst was Berlin's first true destination restaurant, making diners fly in for just one meal from across the world. The fact that we're set to lose this lighthouse project is an immense loss for the city as a gastronimical destination and at this point I'm highly skeptical of anyone taking their place any time soon."
It still remains undecided what will happen in the current ernst space, however, Julius, ernst's casual sister restaurant across the street, is set to remain open after 2024, both for daytime and evening service. Watson-Brawn and Christenson will be redirecting their energies towards Julius while also opening a neighboring wine bar (code name: “ernst Cave”) where, on occasion, they will offer private, ernst-style dinners.