Pret a Diner: Berlin’s Premium Pop-up Restaurant

Feb 1st, 2011 | By | Category: various

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!

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5 Comments to “Pret a Diner: Berlin’s Premium Pop-up Restaurant”

  1. Didier Laget sagt:

    To summarize, 60€ for a not so great summer roll, a not so great soup and a not so great main course, cooked by a Michelin star chef…
    “Pret a Diner is a great place if you want a special dining location” where one eats boring food ?
    Do you remember who the chef was, meanwhile I’ll stick to Hoai Nam or Hamy
    :-)

  2. Good Food Rosa sagt:

    Well, yes. Some people will still enjoy this place, moreso because of the location and the atmosphere than the food. And since a different chef cooks a different menu every week, maybe our review would have been more positive if it would have dealt with the current week menu.

    Chef during our week was Bernard Munding.

  3. Went there yesterday, 19.30 sharp.
    Tons of people at the bar, asked the seating lady, who tells us we need to wait a bit.
    Go to the bar, ask for Pinot Grigio or something alike, bartender is like ‘no, we don’t have this anymore’. Doesn’t bother looking further. Another bartender comes 3 seconds and pulls out the wine we asked for.
    Bartender looks at us and goes ‘oh well’. Pours something else, has no idea what it is. 7.50 euros for a glass of wine I have no idea of. Nice.

    And then we wait. And we wait. And we wait.
    3 ladies supposed to figure out the seating.

    After nearly an hour of waiting – the glass was empty by that time but at that price, hell not another one – we got up and left. Yay, never had to experience such a terrible reservation management…!

    (Apart from that, LOVE your blog!)

  4. Blume sagt:

    We went to Pret-a-Diner last week and were similarly excited at the prospect of Michelin-star cooks in an industrial building for a short window of time. My companion and I are both foodies. I have a background in gastronomy in San Francisco, where people dine as sport, and in art – both professions have allowed me to experience fantastic restaurants in a number of international cities. I also have a soft heart for service staff and for well-meaning attempts at creating something extraordinary, even if they miss their mark.
    Rest assured that Pret-a-Diner misses in both of these areas, and not just by a hair. The wait at the bar engendered anger in my companion. The barkeepers – lovely ladies the lot of them – are blithely uninformed and do not speak a word of German. There was a lot of shrugging going on behind the bar a la “Whatever.” You had the sneaking feeling that you were just passing through on a conveyer belt – here now, gone in 10 minutes later after leaving 22 euros for 2 drinks at the bar. When we left, there was tumbleweed a-blowin’ through the bar. Apparently it’s not a place people visit without necessity.
    But onto the the main course of the evening – the restaurant. It was supposed to be Wahabi Nouri in the kitchen and the greetings came in the form of flatbread and hummous. The hummous was bland, the flatbread good but greasy. Yes, it too was wedged between a slice in a stone and a button of hummous was squirted onto the self-same stone. Gadgety. The bread was delicious, the weizenkeimöl with salt was an awakening.
    The appetizer was so run-of-the-mill that I thought there must be another layer to it – some surprise – but no. It was a bit of dry arugula with goat-cheese stuffed mini-artichokes and blanched cherry tomatoes. The arugula in its arrangement and taste reminded me of a roll in the hay (literally). Ever heard of dressing? Maybe the kitchen was in a rush and just forgot it? The cherry tomato could have been out of a can; I found the skinned, watery tomato a bit gross, to be honest. So, first course, on a scale of 1 to 5, was a 2. Only reason it wasn’t a one was that the ingredients were fresh.
    Second course was a curry soup – a foamy creation on the said wooden plank with the erect spoon you’ve already read about. It was a good creamy curry cream soup. Very creamy. Lots of curry. That sums it up.
    My companion had perhaps the most offensive food experience of his adult life, at least that’s the impression I had. It was blandly cooked salmon (probably in a water bath) with a lacing of chili foam and small buttons of essence of coffee. The flavors did not blend – the chili foam (a sickly yellow) was too spicy, the squeezed out piles of coffee essence to strong, and the soft, wet slab of salmon bland.
    For the main course I chose the vegetarian option because I thought – hey, where can I get such high quality vegetarian food in Berlin – besides from Stephan Hentschel’s kitchen at cookies cream, one of my favorite restaurants. It was a vegetable sweet-and-sour couscous melange. The couscous had a perfect texture. The vegetable melange was just plain boring. Honestly, it was okay but you don’t earn a star for this kind of flavor combination. There was nothing special about it at all. And so Stephan Hentschel remains the Meister of complex vegetarian dishes.
    My companion had the meat alternative, which was ox shoulder with a purée of parsley root and a fab-looking striped terrine of veggies. His dish was much better – the flavors more spectacular, the textures done to perfection.
    The waiter was accommodating and friendly, although there was more shrugging about the no longer available accompanying flight of wine. (Alcohol = Apathy?) Guess pop-up restaurants don’t bother to reprint their menues when things fall out of favor.
    I have to admit that it was fun to be there because there was a special buzz about it. But the level of quality is inconsistent and doesn’t jive with the cost of the experience. And the Rahaus-aesthetic isn’t anywhere nearly as charming as the do-it-themselves pop-up restaurant The Pale Blue Door, which visited Berlin this past rainy August.
    In summary – well-intended but mostly mediocre.

  5. Good Food Rosa sagt:

    Posting Adam’s review posted on our Facebook Page:

    Ok, I’m back. I loved the setting; it made me wonder what the space was before the restaurant but after the Mint, and what it will become afterwards. And I really wanted to go exploring behind all of the closed doors of the old building. I …found it funny that the waitress (who was very attentive and friendly) was describing the place as a “pop-up restaurant” as she held a large menu (which she couldn’t see from her perspective) upon which it was written “this is not a pop-up restaurant.” They did quite a good job setting the place up; you’d never guess it is temporary, and the restaurant fits perfectly in the space, so well that it looks designed that way specifically for that purpose. The décor appeared to have had more thought put into it than most places I’ve seen in Berlin. I did not like the fact that they let people smoke in the bar (with overpriced cocktails) that customers have to wait in before entering, nor the Range Rover advertisements there, nor the generic wallpaper obligatory electronic music, but the latter improved in quality once inside (Gonzales’ “solo piano” album). I ordered the vegetarian menu, since I don’t eat meat. It is Moroccan week. My starter was a sort of salad with stuffed artichokes; which is fine, it was good, but I found it odd that the non-vegetarians (everyone else at the table) got some more interesting, rarer vegetables with argan oil (rarely seen on European menus) and beautiful mushrooms with their menu while the vegetarian got a salad. A good salad, but still, a salad. There was nothing terribly special about the main course, a rather rich couscous. I didn’t try the dessert since I knew that with wine, my bill was just about reaching Mano Verde or Cookies Cream (both of which I love and represent an improvement in that sort of food in Berlin) amounts. Everything else food-wise was as you describe it, so no need to repeat that here. It’s definitely expensive for Berlin, but was worth the experience, and in fact, I wondered how they managed to pull the whole thing off (the space, the staff, the décor, the design) without charging more. I guess the five euros for “flat-rate,” Denglish for “all-you-can-drink,” (tap?) water may have helped.

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