Berlin: Bashful dining with the Shy Chef
An email conversation with Aoife at I Can Has Cook about her forthcoming trip to Berlin reminded me of the time I spent there with a six-month-old Little Missy while the Husband did his brewing course at VLB Berlin.
The undoubted highlight was the night that the Sister and I spent at a Shy Chef dinner party. It’s a must for anyone heading to Berlin who likes unusual dining experiences – and there’s an Irish connection! Here’s a piece that I wrote about the night that nearly got lost in my drafts folder.
A scattering of emails to confirm dates, each signed with a nom de plume; a wander, two maps and a set of directions in hand, through the dark streets of Kreuzberg; then arrival in a gated courtyard, up three flights of narrow stairs and into a colourful room centred on a large table. An invitation to dinner with the Shy Chef is half nervous anticipation, half anxious orientation – and an intriguing glimpse into a Berlin not normally on display to visitors.
So who is the Shy Chef? It’s more of a what than a who, being a private dining club that runs thrice weekly. You make contact with the host through a website and await an invitation. The night we went for dinner last October, a former squat, now an artist’s city residence, made the perfect backdrop to a memorable meal.
After the excitement of actually finding our destination, the scent of the food was immediately reassuring, as was the sight of our host, coming forward with an aperitif. We were eleven: the sister and I, with a group of Berliners and three girls from London, Jordan and Greece. It’s not often that you get to sit down for dinner with a group of complete strangers, with the only thing in common our interest in trying a new dining experience – and our hunger.
Prosecco in an old-fashioned champagne glass, teamed with a shot of silky Potato and Shallot Vichychoisse, kicked off the meal in festive style as we all, with relief, realised that the food wasn’t going to be a weak point. Five beautifully cooked courses, expertly matched with wine, were followed by espresso, chocolates and schnapps. Conversation, helped by the accompanying wines, flowed easily as we got tips on local food haunts, secret restaurants in other countries, and the best beers to try in Berlin.
The night flew, with the anticipation, the setting, the company and the superb food combining to create a magical event. And the price? At the time, a suggested “donation” of €50 – and worth every cent. Certainly a dinner party with a difference.