Berlin on Main opened its doors in December 2020 in Nelson Mandela Bay, coinciding with the metro being named the epicentre of the country’s second wave of Covid-19.
Then — bang — it faced a national alcohol ban just as the festive season was reaching its peak.
One, or both, could have been the death knell for any new eatery in Walmer’s Main Road, even for seasoned industry professionals. With a background in construction not cuisine, however, it is fortunate that owners Peter O’Kennedy and Angela Ford are brave souls.
They’ve built the restaurant from the ground up — literally, as structural engineer O’Kennedy flattened his home to make Berlin just months before the pandemic saw restaurants drop like dominoes.
The good news is that Berlin looks as if it may — against the odds — make it, thanks to stylish nouvelle cuisine, a talented head chef and extras that include a New York-style bar, in-house coffee roastery, and a spacious deck for al fresco dining or after-work drinks.
And despite her former career, Ford’s grandfather had one of Port Elizabeth’s first delis: Hustler Butcher and Deli Co, and she is undaunted.
“I’ve been eating fine-food since I was a child and our aim is to offer beautiful, fresh, seasonal food. We wanted to open in April or May, but Peter and I have the same outlook, so we knew we had to move forward with our lives regardless of what was happening. Everything happens for a reason and Berlin is going to evolve.”
Chef Darren Block’s eight years in Bangkok is reflected in the sparse but elegant menu. His appetizer of laab moo — a spicy mix of ground pork, lime, mint, cooled down with raw cabbage and green beans — has a nutty crunch (ground rice, it turns out). It has quite a kick.
Other opening choices on the chalk board were salt-baked beets, crispy kale, chickpea, ricotta and pumpkin seeds; and torched gurnard, coconut, avocado and cucumber.
Mains have been similarly pared back, with four options: grilled cauliflower; grilled chicken breast; grilled linefish, served with sugar-snap peas, tomatoes, croquettes and a beurre blanc sauce; and beef rib-eye or fillet with carrots, spinach, potato, radish and jus.
Since opening, Berlin has switched up its menu to adjust for the seasons and visitors can now expect dishes such as torched tuna, mango, tomato dressing and fennel; duck, cabbage, blackberries and butternut; or a meaty main served with long-stemmed broccoli, naan, makhani and yoghurt.
“Berlin offers a unique, artisanal, fine-dining experience, sourcing only the best quality produce,” says Ford, with a careful selection of wines and a few desserts to round things off.
Breakfast offerings are similarly light and fresh, with coffee made from beans imported from various parts of the world and blended in-house.
• Berlin is open from Tuesday to Sunday. Call 082-744-4118, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org