Well, Pret a Diner was a big thing in the culinary and jet-set-ty scene of Berlin. This city loves new and exciting concepts and Pret a Diner is surely a cool concept. We have heard and seen pop-up restaurants before: usually small-scale organisations that come to some of the most fashionable and fabulous cities of the world to build a restaurant for a couple of weeks. With some guerrilla marketing, eclectic déco and special exciting menus, the pop-up places always know how to lure some of the city’s supposedly hip posse to the table. And Pret a Diner was one of these initiatives, but a bit bigger and more professional. Weeks, if not months, in advance we heard the city buzzing. And just in order to have a chance at getting a table, you would need to sign up to get an access code. Not even the menu was publicly available. And since Berlin loves her hush-hush culture of exclusivity, it is no wonder that Pret a Diner was already a success before it took off.
Pret a Diner in Berlin
In the middle of January the restaurant opened its doors, temporarily hosted in an old factory building in Berlin Mitte, looking out on the Spree and in the middle of many of the cities embassy locations. Every week in the kitchen of Pret a Diner, a different Michelin star cook cooks a different menu. We popped in on the second week, during which the theme of the evening was Asian-style cuisine. Since we absolutely love and adore the Asian kitchen, we were trembling with excitement. Upon entering the huge building, and walking down the dark corridors that show off the ex-factory purpose very clearly, and only guided by hundreds of candles, you already feel like you are on your way to some place special. The decoration and style of the place was absolutely mind-blowing. The bar that you sip on a glass of champagne before entering the restaurant reminded us of a starry night in a fairytale forest – it was beautiful – yet in synch with the rugged factory stones on the wall. After drinks, the doors to Pret a Diner would open and everyone gets seated at a larger table, where you eat together with other people. The decorations in the large main space was also fantastic. Stairs went up to the first floor, which enabled its visitors to look over the railing and into the main space of the restaurant. In the main space, a large kitchen and dozens and dozens of tables, all different in their style and decoration, seated hundreds of nimble eaters.
Eating Food at Pret a Diner
The tone was set, and the expectations were high. As soon as we were seated we received the menu. That night our culinary journey would include summer rolls (the ones we adore so much and eat at most sushi restaurants on the side), a flavoursome soup with mushrooms and pomelo and a main dish either of a ox shoulder or vegetarian exploration of tofu, sweet potatoes & co. We started off the evening with a nice bottle of red wine (which was delicious) and as a pre-appetizer we got served a large stone in which slices of fried Blätterteig with wasabi mayonnaise and a mini portion of kim chi salad. The mayonnaise was actually on the stone and had to be scraped off with the pieces of puff pastry, which was a nice touch. The pre-nibbles were also accompanied by four little bits of bread, served in a paper bag, fresh from the oven. The bread was crazily delicious, the nibbles were flavoursome and we were happy with the yummy food.
Next up came our summer rolls. Maybe it is because we eat Asian so often, but the rolls were not particularly exciting. They were nice, they were okay, but not delicious. We were a bit disappointed, but sipped away on the fabulous wine. The second round was the soup, which was delivered to the table in a little bowl, on a wooden plate with a spoon leaning into an opening added to the wooden plate. A typically Japanese teapot came along with the dish and supplied the bowl with its broth. A nice and cute touch which made the serving look like fun. But the soup was not too fabulous. It reminded of one of the many Asian eateries in Berlin, but not in a favourable way. Yes, the soup tasted okay and it was not bad – but for a so-called dining experience at Pret a Diner, one would expect more. And thirdly, our main dish. We went for the vegetarian version, as I read on the menu that one of the main ingredients was sweet potatoes – and I absolutely love sweet potatoes. The main course, with its tofu and subtly flavoured vegetables was something I enjoyed. The sweet potato ‚crisps‘ however were not very present and made me pout a little. All in all, the main course was not anything mind-blowing either.
Maybe we just a had a bit of bad luck with our week, and maybe we should have chosen the meat main dish. Do not take this review wrong: the food was good and it was great fun and beautifully gorgeous to spend time here. But the food has disappointed us. For a Michelin star cook and an exclusive dining experience, I was expecting food that was going to blow my mind. And frankly, it just did not. But Pret a Diner is a great place if you want a special dining location – or even if you just want drinks. The bread, wines and appetizers are fabulous and this week they have started a completely different menu. Maybe I will be tempted to go again and give it a second chance.
Budget-wise: bring 60 euros a person. Three-course meal is 39 euros and the wine robs you of at least another 12,50 (a bottle). A bit more pricey, but also a bit more fab.
Want to go to Pret a Diner?
Check out the website and/or their facebook page to get in touch for a reservation. Places are not at all booked out, so can surely get yourself a nice spot. It is a fabulous evening of great atmosphere. 20 days left!