Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
A self-consciously creative city such as Berlin was never going to ignore the urban trend of innovative dining concepts, especially given its burgeoning restaurant scene and associated foodie culture. On the contrary, it’s been difficult to move sometimes for clandestine supper clubs, pop up bakeries and revitalised market halls.
But none of the city’s innovative concepts quite match the grandiose ambitions of Pret-a-Diner, a dining experience that brings together Michelin-quality food with high-end contemporary art and live entertainment in unique locations.
The concept was formed in 2011 by Berlin-based catering company Kofler & Kompanie; and though it has bounced around Europe a bit since then – making appearances in Frankfurt, London, Munich and Monaco – its real home is Berlin, where it comes home to roost regularly, occupying abandoned coin mints, roller-skating rinks or secret riverside locations.
Pret-a-Diner’s current incarnation, which has just been extended until 9 March, is based in the Opernwerkstätten, an abandoned props factory whose Berghain-esque dimensions lend it a quintessentially Berlin air. In one vast room, contemporary artworks by former street artists including Iceland’s Katrin Fridriks and local legend XOOOOX are hung on the venue’s distressed concrete walls, while the live entertainment ranges from electronic and beat box DJs to jazz orchestras.
But the real stars of the show are the chefs Michael Kempf, of Facil restaurant fame, and Matthias Schmidt, who just received his second Michelin star at Frankfurt’s Villa Merton Restaurant. Their specially concocted menu, named Backstage, is served in the main room, where the centrepiece is a bar piled high with scaffolding that serves cocktails in sealed bags with rubber ducks floating inside.
Pretension aside, the food is delicious and often novel – then again, for around 60 euros, it should be. The three-course menu features one regular dish, a 20oz fillet steak, in addition to such changing concoctions as ox-cheek paired with cod. While not perhaps the kind of evening you’d do regularly, Pret-a-Diner works hard to impress its guests and, for the most part, manages to achieve that goal.
Paul Sullivan is the Berlin Localite for BBC Travel. He also runs/writes slowtravelberlin.com