January 13, 2012

The Joy of Being Posh

Le Cochon Bourgeois - Kreuzberg

My favourite pastime in my first year in Berlin was to correct people who told me I was living in Germany. “I’m in Berlin, you fuckers. Berlin is NOT Germany.” Or so goes the line? Alas, I’ve been disillusioned since. I am now a proud protagonist of the “Berlin is very much in Germany” theory. No need to repeat all of that. I’ve ranted about Germans in so many posts that it would be getting tedious if I started this one doing the same. So no. What I did want to say about Berlin and Germany was (hopefully) a bit more intriguing than just that. It’s the age discrepancy between Berlin and the rest of Germany.

Do you see what I’m trying to say? Probably not. So here goes nothing. Think of the most ubiquitously German attractions: Neuschwanstein, half-timbered houses, the Black Forest. They all conjure up an image of beauty and greatness of yore. But then take a look at Berlin, the capital, the icing on that Black Forest Gateau,  and it seems to reject all of the aforementioned romantic paraphernalia. Not only is Berlin younger than your average German town, but the 20th century left such a mark of the city’s landscape, somehow marginalising the influence of all that had preceded it.

There is no need to retell the story of Berlin’s topsy-turvy history during the 20th century. You Know Who between 1933 and 1945 and that wall between 1961 and 1989 are reasons enough for any place to change its appearance and identity. But what it also means – especially in comparison to other places in Germany – is that the 20th century also made it impossible for Berlin to have old institutions.

At the end of the day, the effects of the war are still visible just about everywhere in Germany. But still, in most German towns one will still stumble upon old culinary institutions that have been around since the time eccentric kings still ruled the land. Lübeck’s 1960’s concrete market square has a Niederegger café and Munich’s got its Hofbräuhaus, both founded a very long time ago. Berlin, however, is a bit weaker on institutions. Things that have been around for a while. There are exceptions, of course, like the old and endearing  Baumkuchenlieferant (the official Baumkuchen supplier for the Kaiser) in Moabit, but they are few and far between. Berlin is often about the modern and the edgy.

Which is why I sometimes enjoy walking around West Berlin, finding things that have been around for longer than just a few years. Restaurants that assert themselves as small, local institutions (needless to say, due to a couple of historical interferences, it remains largely a West-Berlin phenomenon). Fichtestraße in Kreuzberg is the proud home of a few such venues, established places that have been around for a long time. Somehow the entire street manages to exude something dignified and appealing, which means most restaurants are priced accordingly.

One of these places is Le Cochon Bourgeois – a poshly French restaurant. The space inside looks like a flat converted into a public house and then decorated to produce an image of austere luxury. A bit like a pearl necklace dangling from a rich lady’s neck, Le Cochon Bourgeois does not go past the bare essentials, but it does it extremely well. No posters on the walls, no fancy decorations hanging from the ceiling, no loud music to distract you from a bad date (if this is what you happened to need). But after a second thought: why would anyone in their right mind bring a bad date to Le Cochon Bourgeois?


First of all, it’s pricey. Secondly, it’s too good for a bad date. We started with the two most different starters one could think of: a boudin (the French equivalent of black pudding, served with celery puree and apples for 8.00 €) and a goat cheese mousse (served with various green stuff for 7.00 €). They were both splendid. The boudin was perfect: the right consistency creating a refined mass where no one on earth would be able to imagine this was just a blood sausage. The sauce, the puree and the apples all seemed to dance along to the same music. It was like a whole party – but just in your mouth. The mousse was perfect as well, with just the right smoothness combined with a fantastically rich taste.

We continued to the mains, which were even pricier. We opted for the confit the canard (duck confit, maybe my favourite dish in the world, 26.00€) and veal medallions (fairly expensive, but what the heck: 32.50 €). I wish I could rant about the fact posh restaurants are just not worth the money and all that jazz. But I really can’t. It was all fairly perfect. The confit was brilliant, with the taste of something that had been marinated in fat for ages, just without the actual fat dripping from it. The medallions were tender and quite incredible, with a perfect match between the meat quality, degree of cooking, consistency, and yes, the sauce. All good. 

Wonderfully weird

We were not sure whether we wanted to have dessert, but after one stern look from the wonderfully chatty waitress we decided it really was now or never. We opted for the boringly solid option (crème brulée, 7.00 €) and for the strangely unappealing one, which was nonetheless highly recommended by that same waitress (red cabbage in passion fruit marinade, nougat mousse and white coffee mousse for 13.50 €). The crème brulée was solidly wonderful: Just right, perfectly by the book. Yet the real surprise was that other thing. “The world belongs to the brave” was what the waitress said once we’d ordered the cabbage thingy. And she was right. Think of something that tastes of passion fruit with a cabbagy texture with two fantastic mousses on top and a piece of caramelised joy on top of that. Well, it was an experience, and quite a brilliant one of that.

The damage aounted to 130.00 € for a three-course-meal for two with one wonderful bottle of wine and another bottle of water. I forgot to mention we got small surprises from the kitchen between the dishes (a small soup and a sorbet, also excellent). It’s far from being cheap, but it was worth every cent. Go to the Cochon Bourgeois. It’s not cool, it’s not edgy, but it’s wonderful nonetheless. 

Overall Mark:

Le Cochon Bourgeois
Fichtestraße 24, 10967 Berlin

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