Sonntag, 13. Juli 2014

Afternoon tea in Berlin at TeeTeaThé

Although in the last months I focused exclusively on luxury afternoon tea options, in Berlin and not only, I decided a couple of weeks ago to find out an affordable high tea menu in the city. After some enquiries among my tea lover friends and some personal research, I headed to TeeTeaThé for spending some time outdoors in the sun. It is situated relatively close to the U-Bahn Eisenacherstrasse, on a street with many interesting coffees, small restaurants and bookstores. 
Although the indoors space looks quite well maintained, the outside tables - around 3 - are a bit worned out. As the good weather lasts only a few days the year, the outdoors furniture was not considered a great investment. For the beginning, I ordered a Mangosonne black tea, a Ronnefeld tea rich in fruity juicy aromas with a predominant mango flavour that makes you forget the strong influence of the black tea. It was brought with a small blue hourglass that helped me calculate when it is the right time to drink the tea. The difference between the cold and warm tea was pretty big, and I did regret for not drinking my tea faster.  
 In addition to the coffee space, there is also a big room distributing various teas as well as colourful cups.
With so many colourful options, it is difficult to make a right choice of the best cup. For the long waiting time, the guests are offered the possibility to read some of the latest publications in English, many of them with topics related to food and expat life in Berlin. 
The classical tiered plates were brought a big late, after the tea was already cold. Although the overall composition respected the classical formula of afternoon tea, everything was prepared without the smallest care for the little details. Slices of apple, not very fresh, some veggies threw up around the plate, salmon sandwiches prepared in the haste. The quiche with corn, eggs and peas was fresh, but without a special taste. The scones were fresh too, most probably the best element of the afternoon tea, and so was the jam.
If the meal as such was more or less edible and the tea was unique, the service was very unfriendly, with long time of waiting between the tea and the afternoon tea and some out of order remarks and attitudes. Maybe I should give a new try a next time, probably during the winter, at least for trying a new tea sort. 

Donnerstag, 10. Juli 2014

Foodie Berlin: Sawwadi Thai

Kantstrasse has so many Thai and Asian-inspired restaurants, that it is a big challenge to find the proper time for tasting it. The diversity allows choices, meaning that one can ponder the reasons for spending - or not - time in a specific place. As the next days were very warm, either the air conditioning - don't expect too many findings in this respect - or a discrete outdoor space were important in convincing me to order my meal there. In addition, as I am before long weeks of travel, I preferred a moderate to low-cost menus. Let it be Sawwadi then. It is situated in the middle of Kantstrasse, close to Savigny platz, at no. 134. The decorations are at the limit of kitsch - the 3D Chinese landscapes, that you can purchase in industrial quantities from the Vietnamese market, for instance -, with minimal investment in the furniture and other interior design details. 

As one of my secret plans for the year is to improve my knowledge on cocktails - especially non-alcoholic ones - I hurried up to order Bongo - pineapple, orange juice, coconut, lemon and a lot of ice, plus a slice cantaloupe hanging up as an acrobat on the side. First quality: a lot of ice. The mixture was good too, with the coconut balancing the otherwise high concentration of sugar.  
The service was really fast and welcoming, although taking a final decision about my order took me some time. The restaurant is offering a variety of fish-based products - Thai and Vietnamese kitchen - , but, as usual, I wanted rather to try something more veggie. My Kat Pat Riu with tofu was generous, but unfortunately the taste of fried oil was predominant. Out of the three types of sauce I was brought - chilli, sour-sweet and soy - I chose the second one, which was enough spicy to request another icy cocktail. The tofu and veggies added - pepper, scallion, corn - to the rice did bring some specific taste, but not strong enough to balance the overwhelming oil. 
As a one time experience, it was not that bad, but most probably, the next time I am around, I would rather go taste some other dishes.  

Mittwoch, 9. Juli 2014

At Sultan Hamam

As Berlin has the biggest Turkish community outside Turkey, expect a lot of interesting hamam offers in the most unexpected places. However, it seems that some of the best are well hidden waiting to be discovered. Sultan Hamam was opened in 1999 and is situated in a building hosting various companies and offices on Bülowstraße, close to the U7 Yorkstrasse metro station. At the first sight, the entrance into the building doesn't look very inviting, but dare to go further on. 
The hamam was created in the space of the apartments, adapted to the various facilities of the steam bath, sauna and other wellness services offered. Upon arrival, the visitor is invited to rest and take his or her time. The decorations and design are minimal, simple. The space combines the relaxation features with the cleanliness/bathing and various modern wellness services. 
Although the steam bath and bath are the main purposes, additional services, some of them included in the price of the ticket are offered too: a little hairdressing parlour, peeling, massage, various cosmetic services. There are different promotional packages offered and the prices are affordable
The daily program is separated for genders. The men are allowed only on Mondays, from 12pm to 11pm. From Tuesday to Saturday, the hamam is the meeting place of the women. Family programs are available on Sundays, days when wearing the swimsuit is requested. 
The visitor is given upon arrival a brass shell ornated with Oriental motives, and an olive soap. With the shell, one will pour the water on the body. It is a slowly ancient ritual, that require time and patience, and might bring a lot of relaxation. Think about the time running as water and the patience you need to fill the little shell again and again.
The Finnish sauna could be a good additional service especially during the cold days of the long winter in Berlin. From autumn till late spring, the hamam is very busy, trying to bring a ray of light - although artificial light - into the dark life of the citizens of Berlin. During the summer, reservations 2-3 days in advance are possible, while for the winter/autumn, at least one week is advance is recommended. 

Comfy chairs are provided for those looking for relaxation after or in between various wellness services. Some of the chairs are placed outside, on a small balcony decorated in warm colours. After visiting each of the rooms and facilities, I might be tempted to come back in one of the days provided for women. Especially when you can offer so many additional services and facilities that can give a full feeling of relaxation and wellness. With affordable prices and many tempting packages, the Sultan Hamam can be a good opportunity for doing something special for yourself, at least once in a while.

Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary tour of the Sultan Hamam but the opinions are, as always, my own