October 12, 2011

Things to Do With the Last Rays of Sun When Sarah Palin's Already Out of the Presidential Race

Freischwimmer - Kreuzberg

You might not remember it anymore, but last week actually started out as a gloriously balmy one. It showed Berlin at its best: sapphire-blue sky, massive trees shedding their summer green for the sake of yellows and reds, pesky little bees buzzing for the last time. Yes, you heard me, the last time. You can kiss all that goodbye for a few months.

But before we sink into the usual winter depression (there will be enough time for that, I an assure you that much), let’s take a closer look at the last days of autumn. Actually, I like autumn in Berlin. July and August tend to be wet and horrid, whereas September and October always offer a glimmer of joy.

And as this might have been the last streak of good weather for many months to come, I just decided to make the most of it. First of all, I suppressed the fear of a Eurozone collapse, of a dwindling economy, festering conflicts and few more years with the Tories in power. I tried to ignore my disappointment as the dream of seeing a Palin-Bachmann debate was savagely crushed (OK, there might be a positive spin here, with Palin actually opting OUT of the presidential race). I did all that and just went to the Freischwimmer to enjoy the weather.

The thing about the Freischwimmer is that I don’t usually think of it as your local restaurant. Up to last week I had been there a countless number of times, but not once had I actually eaten there. I have always thought of the place of just a perfect place for either a coffee or a beer.

On the other side of the canal from the notorious Klub der Visionäre, the Freischwimmer is probably everything the festering lair of wannabe techno-coolness is not: pleasant, laid back and idyllic (albeit with a bit of techno bits invading the calmness from across the canal). The place makes the most out of its waterside location, offering an inherently urban sensation, which nevertheless manages to ooze a sense of luxurious calmness. It is a bit like what opening a bar on a small side branch of London’s Regent’s Canal would be like, just without the incessant stream of tourists and cyclists. Going back to my political dismay from last week, it is a place Sarah Palin would refudiate as genuinely “un-American” – just like New York, Delaware or Portland (OK, Freischwimmer shouldn’t even be American, being in Germany and all. I just wanted to say refudiate. And maybe also point to the obvious fact it should probably expand and open a branch in Portland).

But enough with that useless praise! We are here to talk about food. And food is what we went for this time. And the bottom line? Meh. But here I am, jumping ahead of myself. So let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The menu was, well, meh. It had a very limited choice of dishes (not a bad thing in itself), but they were all strangely presented. There were no starters, but rather “small things” that included a soup, olives and chips. We skipped that (deciding that it should probably be ordered just with a beer instead of to open one’s appetite for a real meal) and opted directly for the main courses. This part of the menu offered a small variety of classically German bar-food, from Currywurst to Schweinebraten. Simple dishes that could be either a glowing success or what Grizzly moms would call a shot way missing its target.


We opted for the Szegediner Goulasch (the “Hungarian” variation on German goulash. The Szegediner is always made of pork and sauerkraut. It’s a personal favourite of mine, here for 9.80 €) and the Schweinebraten (pork roast, another German favourite for 10.80 €). The result? Not bad. Just to start with a first gush of criticism, the goulash was fairly small, which ruined the entire “simple and hearty” vibe. It was nonetheless very good. The meat was simple, yet as tender as chunks of cheap pork can get. The sauce was very pleasing in itself with just the right touch of sauerkraut. The pork roast was a tad less convincing. Yes, the sauce was nice and the meat was tender, but it was also too fat. The size of the portion was quite pleasing, making it quite a nice choice of weapons, but still, nothing like anything you’d get down in Bavaria.

The cake you should avoid
We then exasperated the unfriendly waitress by ordering a dessert. It was their chocolate cake de la maison in strawberry sauce and cream (3.70 €, also available without the sauce for 2.20 €). And the result? Yikes on bikes! If the food before had actually managed to convince me that Freischwimmer might have been a fair address for a nice meal out despite the menu’s disarray and the waitress’s attitude, now this was just embarrassingly disappointing. There came a large chunk of chocolate cake which was nice and rich inside and not all too edible on the outside (is the idea of an unchewable crust the new parent-friendly fad so that children will not be able to get to the yummy part inside and give up on chocolate cakes altogether?). In a cake-metropolis like Berlin, is it really that difficult to bake a pleasing chocolate cake?

Bottom line? No matter how good or bad the food is, Freischwimmer still is a fabulous location. If October is benevolent enough to send us a few more rays of sunlight, take your friends, parents, lovers or tourist-friends and lurk around at Freischwimmer. The food is quite alright at the end of the day as well and if you are hungry, go for it. Just know that for less money, you’ll get the same quality out of a burger at the Burgermeister just around the corner.

Overall Mark:

Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 2a, 10997 Berlin

Größere Kartenansicht

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