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Berlin Photo Diary

Oh, Berlin. Coolest of cities. I couldn't help but be charmed by the Bundeshauptstadt even on a flying visit five years ago. This summer, armed with a veritable artillery of creative recommendations from wonderful Lulu of Beside the Danube and B, I let myself fall completely in love. Unsurprising, really - I can't think of a pair better equipped to advise me on what to do. Thank you, guys. You're the best.

Berlin is like nowhere else I've ever visited. I was struck by its scale - what deceptively appears to be a single street on Google Maps takes a good half an hour to traverse, while gargantuan Neoclassical monuments and Communist blocks dwarf the visitor who stands helplessly agape. Despite its sheer size, I think the whole place resonates with a very chilled-out vibe. Conservatoire string players weave in and out of the shrapnel-pitted loggias on the Museumsinsel, busking at an incredibly high level. Bakeries sprout from every corner, boasting delicious pastries and coffee. Lovers wander along the Spree hand in hand and  joyful toddlers and dogs have free reign of the vast parks. It's fair to say that I'm infatuated. Yes, I want to be ein Berliner. I admit it.

The perils of leaving Amsterdam before the sun is up: having to wear glasses for the rest of the trip because you've left your entire stash of contact lenses in your Airbnb...

The Holocaust Memorial.

Currywurst #1. Mediocre but vital - we were all famished from a day of walking, my shoes literally falling to bits on my feet.

A prelude to Pride at the Potsdamer Platz.

My inner art historian couldn't help but scrutinise the propagandic sculpture outside the Alte Nationalgalerie. I found this female archer's body particularly fascinating: robust yet blessed with child-bearing hips and breasts, the epitome of the Nazi feminine ideal. 

Berlin's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Rausch Schokoladenhaus (Charlottenstraße 60): a Willy Wonka's paradise of chocolate creations.

One of the most interesting places we visited: the Jewish Museum (Lindenstraße 9-14). We managed to spend three or four hours in here, and I could easily have stayed for longer. The museum doesn't just cover the Holocaust but details the entire history of the Jews in Europe and Germany, although the sections on World War II are, of course, probably the most in-depth and moving. I found the Holocaust Tower particularly astonishing, and was equally fixated by the clips of the Nuremberg Trials and interviews with members of the public mere years after the events of the war. If you're passing through Berlin, I would wholeheartedly encourage factoring this into your plans. 

Berlin Pride, stretching all the way from the Brandenburg Gate deep into the Tiergarten.

The Kulturbrauerei: cool arts hub by day, home to a slightly mad club (Soda) by night. That said, it's not one of the most insane clubs out there, as I found out when researching Berlin's nightlife scene...

Brunch at Engelberg (Oderberger Straße 21) in Prenzlauer Berg ('Prenzelberg', if you're a Berliner), our  neighbourhood. This was at 5pm, by the way - the day after we visited said slightly mad club. I loved my Wurstsuppe - not the most photogenic of dishes, but comforting at the same time as being quite light: exactly what I needed after a big night.

The product of one of the sweet retro black and white photobooths on Warschauerstraße. Recommended by Lulu, this was one of the things I was keenest to do (I'd take one of these babies over Instagram any day!) and although the cabin was a little bit too teeny for three people, it's so much fun - and cheap. I'm definitely going to try and do one of these every time I visit from now on.

The East Side Gallery, an open-air promenade where artists use pieces of the old Wall as their canvas. Home to that notorious painting of the Socialist Fraternal Kiss.

Classic P.

Tempelhofer Feld, the site of Berlin-Tempelhof airport, which operated from 1927-2008. Now used as a park, with cyclists whizzing frenziedly around the old runways, it's stunning in scale and seems to be a favourite place for Berliners to hang out and have barbecues in the summer. We arrived and looked fruitlessly for the entrance. After seeing people darting in and out of the building, we were confused but determined to get in. After walking around the ticket office area and periphery for about half an hour, we realised that something was off. It quickly became apparent that Tempelhof is currently being used as a Syrian refugee camp - the biggest in Germany. We still had an interesting time walking around the grounds, though, and I'd love to see the interior if reopens to tourists at some point in the future. 

Post-Tempelhof: Currywurst #2, at Curry 36 (Mehringdamm 36). Cheap and completely delicious, this was a very different dish to the one I'd had a few days earlier in Potsdamer Platz, the long queue of Berliners outside a testament to its superiority.

Restorative glasses of Berliner Weisse flavoured with woodruff, drunk under the stars at the magical PraterGarten (Kastanienallee 7-9), back in Prenzlauer Berg.

Victory sculptures, winged and evangelical, in the Deutsches Historisches Museum (Unter den Linden 2). 

Our last afternoon, whiled away in the charming Volkspark Friedrichshain, sleeping in the sun and watching the ducks. (And getting kind of freaked out by this man-tortoise).

Berlin, ich komme wieder! And not in an Schwarzenegger way, either...probably. I'm particularly keen to visit during the Christmas market season, or maybe again next summer. I'm sure you've all discovered the joys of Berlin years ago, so if you've been and loved it too, please share your Berlin recommendations with me!

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Over the past year I have become somewhat of a Yotam Ottolenghi obsessive. By day I pore over his Guardian columns and cookbooks in lieu of legal journals and judgments; by night I (occasionally) attempt his recipes. Personally, I blame B. We've both been raised to be big Yotam fans: I've frequented his Westbourne Grove deli since childhood; meanwhile, at B's home, the well-thumbed Ottolenghi tomes take pride of place on the kitchen shelves. Since we've been together, our predilection for his cooking has only intensified, and six months in, I thought it would make perfect sense to visit NOPI. And I knew I'd made the right move when we walked in and I glanced over at B. A priceless face.

Walking in, you're greeted by a familiar sight (if you've visited any of the Ottolenghi delis): mountainous salads piled high, with jewel-like cakes glinting temptingly at their foothills. However, a quick glance into the belly of the restaurant makes it clear that this is a much more formal affair than Ottolenghi's other outposts. The space is characterised by elegant simplicity, boasting a streamlined palette of minimal whites and golds which provides a tranquil backdrop for the exuberant colours and flavours of the cooking, which takes centre stage here - naturally.

Vibrant tonics to revive us after the initial fangirl/fanboy moment: carrot, ginger and apple juice for him; a lychee and grapefruit cooler for me.

This pretty much sums up our facial expressions for the entire meal (right from the moment we walked in, as I said above) - fixed in a state of dazed joy, thrilled to be in the restaurant of the great man himself. Oh dear.

I'm always helplessly drawn to okra when I see it on a menu and I was pleased with this rendition: retaining a fresh crunch, bathed in a very Asian-tasting sauce predominantly flavoured with chilli and lime.

Smoky beef sirloin strips with black garlic and mustard seeds. I was charmed by the presentation here and loved that there wasn't a great deal of meat on the plate, reminiscent of Bruno Loubet's Grain Store. For me, the real star here was the salt-baked avocado mousse which managed to hit almost meaty notes itself in its brackish, creamy flavour, managing to both cohere perfectly and provide a seasoning for the other elements on the plate. 

Rainbow trout with yuzu kosho labneh. When it came to the table I couldn't help smiling as I could immediately imagine us making this at home. There was a real sense of delicacy with the choice of ingredients here - samphire, peas, smoked bacon - lots of different elements, each working to deliver a flavour boost to the dish rather than lapsing into an unformed morass. The actual fish was cooked to perfection, with the labneh on top delivering an extra note of fascination, creamy with a citrusy kick imparted by the yuzu. I usually pass on trout in favour of salmon when shopping for fish, but I'll be sure to try cooking with it more often from now on. Consider me a convert. Trout and proud. Yes, I said it.

Courgette fritters. I was expecting something akin to Byron's tempura strips but was pleasantly surprised with these little ovoid babes: crispy on the outside and perfectly smooth on the inside, the courgette filling given a little lift with chunks of Manouri cheese and squeezed lime. The cardamom-infused yoghurt dip on the side was a thing of beauty. These were wonderfully comforting and strangely didn't feel too sinful - the rationale for my love for Ottolenghi in one sentence.

Tempted by twists on the classic Eton Mess such as sumac and rosewater, we chose strawberry mess for dessert. This was undeniably beautiful, and refreshing on such a warm September day. However, it was probably the dish that left the weakest impression on both of us. The sumac was hard to trace until we mined to the depths of the glass and found it in the dregs; it didn't bring much to the pudding overall except a slightly granular bitterness. Next time I think I'll be a little braver and try Yotam's take on tau fu fa, a Malaysian pasar malam (night market) staple.

An inadvertently yet happily colour co-ordinated B. 

We left NOPI feeling satisfied in the knowledge that we could continue to worship at the Ottolenghi altar with a clear conscience. However, I'd warn other would-be diners that this is by no means a cheap eats joint (as you'll know if you've ever visited Ottolenghi's delis, you pay handsomely for the quality of the food). In fact I'd say some of the prices felt a little high for a restaurant touted as a brasserie; B and I felt this was reflected in the restaurant's patrons, the majority of whom seemed to have at least two decades in age - and affluence - on both of us. For two die-hard Yotam fans, though, it was completely worth it, and I know we'd both go back in a shot. For now, we'll have to content ourselves (and our bank accounts) with the Guardian food columns. This week's tagliatelle with mussels, clams, tomato and arak looks particularly enticing. Time to persuade B to cook it for me...

21-22 Warwick Street
London W1B 5NE

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