Breakfast in Berlin
Soccer may be the more high-profile sport, but breakfast is also a national pastime in Germany. Recently, I went to Café Bilderbuch in Berlin’s Schöneberg neighborhood, a place dedicated to the art of substantial German breakfasts.
I arrived with a friend sometime after one in the afternoon. This might be a problem at some restaurants, but Café Bilderbuch serves breakfast until 11 p.m. Our waiter seemed to be in a hurry. The breakfast I ordered was called “Der kleine Muck”—named after William Hauff’s fairytale about a young boy who wanders into the desert in search of a merchant selling good fortune. (I ordered it mostly because I liked the word “Muck.”) Our waiter hurried off, and we paused to take in the surroundings.
The main dining room in Café Bilderbuch is down a narrow hallway past the kitchen. It’s like walking into your grandparents’ living room. There are low coffee tables surrounded by decadently-upholstered armchairs. There are books everywhere (“Bilderbuch” is a German expression for a children’s book, or picture book). The atmosphere was generally one of post-holiday and weekend mirth.
Finally my “kleine Muck” arrived. There was salami, sliced cheese, arugula, a flowered radish, apricot jam, and mixed greens.
But the real star of the meal was the bread. Ten minutes in Germany makes you realize that we’ve forgotten what good bread is in the States. Not only have we forgotten what good bread is, we’ve forgotten what bread is. The bread at Bilderbuch was covered with poppy seeds and sesame seeds and sunflower seeds big enough to choke a ferret. Some of the bread was dark, the color of coal, and obviously hand-kneaded. What more could one want other than this fresh bread with this fresh butter, this jam, this flowered radish?
Eventually, after a few hours of chatting, we left. Couples and groups streamed in to take our place, with the grim faces of determination that precede strenuous physical activity. Our waiter didn’t even look at us as we left, so immersed was he in the task of serving breakfast.