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Berlin’s best pastries: Austrian apple strudel, tried and tested

Love a good Apfelstrudel? You don’t need a 10-hour train trip to Vienna. We checked out five places that serve up Empress Sissi’s favourite dessert!

Mmm, apple strudel. Photo: IMAGO / agefotostock

First, our criteria

What makes a good strudel? We asked Vienna’s Café Central, one of the key places to go for strudel and a true institution among the city’s traditional Kaffeehäuser. Firstly, the dough must be so thin that you can read a newspaper through it. Tricky, because the dough should also not tear. Any sign of puff pastry (Blätterteig) is a deal breaker.

You need the right type of apple – slightly sour is best – to blend with the sugar. The perfect balance of raisins, cinnamon, sugar and breadcrumbs (Brösel) is vital. Raisins are soaked in rum and the dessert is usually served with whipped cream (Schlagsahne in German; Schlagobers in Austrian parlance) or vanilla sauce, ice cream or custard.

To top it off, the apple strudel may be delicately dusted with icing sugar, garnished with flaky almonds or complemented with plum compote (Zwetschgenröster).

Here’s our lowdown on five of Berlin’s leading strudel offerings.

Café im Literaturhaus

Café im Literaturhaus. Photo: Alina Shynkarova

Our stroll starts with a melody. The modulated tinkle of a piano ushers guests into this 19th-century villa, an Italianate oasis of tranquillity. From the spacious courtyard, black bannisters curl up to the Wintergarten and the stucco-decorated café. A mix of tourists and typically elder regulars are sipping and spilling tea. The apple strudel here is said to be a hot candidate for being the best in town. Though the menu promises 10, it’s not until 20 minutes later that the strudel finally arrives at our table. Not very service oriented, but hey, it’s Berlin.

Let the spices blend on your tongue as you sit back and take in the artful selection of Italian photographs on the wall.

The powdered strudel pastry looks razor-thin and appropriately fractures with a distinct crunch. The light vanilla sauce weighs in with a strong bourbon core. A crushed almond aroma mingles with soft and sour apple slices, enhanced with hints of berry and pistachio – both functional garnishes. The raisins are not specifically rummy, cinnamon is merely present. Let the spices blend on your tongue as you sit back and take in the artful selection of Italian photographs on the wall. The place and pastry blend is nothing short of a Gesamtkunstwerk. Just imagine what this experience feels like when winter sweeps across the yard.

  • €8 with berry-garnished vanilla sauce
  • Fasanenstr. 23, Charlottenburg, website

Café Einstein Stammhaus

Café Einstein Stammhaus. Photo: Alina Shynkarova

Asking around makes it clear: the Einstein strudel matters. The old-school coffee house – easily mistaken for the Einstein coffee chain – has two locations in Berlin and is a classic go-to for a fine coffee roast and Viennese delicacies. For our strudel slice, we choose the Stammhaus in Kurfürstenstraße, but the Unter den Linden location is just as special. Both are city institutions, popular with big names and famous faces. We once saw music legend Herbert Grönemeyer tucking into something substantial in the Kurfürstenstraße branch. Now, it is a Berlin staple for business meetings, romantic trysts and family reunions as well as tourists looking for that special Berlin-Vienna vibe.

The neo-renaissance mansion is reminiscent of the café in Before Sunrise (1995), shot in Vienna, complete with curly coat racks, parquet flooring and brass-rimmed marble tables. It’s a place you’d take someone you want to impress. Aproned waitresses run swiftly up and down the stairs while old friends nibble canapés from fancy etageres. Outside is a garden with a similar but more relaxed ambiance. But what of the strudel? It’s an attractive slice, neatly cut and big enough to share. It’s bathed in vanilla cream, whose consistency is on the thick side. The scoop of ice cream is much better – deliciously, utterly vanilla. The apples are finely sliced and the flavour is very hale and hearty. Cinnamon and rum are evidently present. Chunks of almonds need some extra chewing. The dough is floury, the bottom undercooked, but the real let-down is the lack of surface crispiness. Shame.

  • €8 in vanilla sauce/vanilla ice cream/whipped cream
  • Kurfürstenstr. 58, Schöneberg, website

Sissi Berlin

Sissi Berlin. Photo: Alina Shynkarova

With its pink and green signboard, red ornamental wallpaper and cosy tableware, Austrian restaurant Sissi Berlin would seem like an obvious strudel hearth. Truth is, people don’t come here for the apple pastry but for the atmosphere. Pictures of owner Martin’s grandfather making Schnapps prove origin creds. This could be your grandmother’s house, with sturdy oak wood and floral porcelain chandeliers, “handpicked from Vienna” as Martin ensures us. Grazing cows and a real fireplace add to the Alpine flair. Only the erotic painting of two naked men kissing in the mountains reminds the visitor that this is still Berlin.

This is the first strudel with convincing cinnamon spice… and the icing sugar encourages daydreams of skiing the Austrian mountains.

It takes less than five minutes for the strudel to arrive in the Esszimmer, and frankly, it’s a bit of a disappointment: cut almost like a cinnamon roll, the rich brown dough is sticky and doesn’t make the requisite crunchy sound. And is the vanilla ice cream really homemade? However, this is the first strudel with convincing cinnamon spice and the surface sprinkling of icing sugar encourages daydreams of skiing the Austrian mountains. The alcohol is strong and permeates the whole pastry, not just the raisins. The apples lack sourness: though it’s easy on the tongue, it’s not for a sophisticated palate. Components are packed together with simple heft – maybe not a bad thing when the temperatures eventually drop.

  • €5.50 with vanilla ice cream
  • Motzstr. 34, Schöneberg, website


Meirerei. Photo: Alina Shynkarova

A decent-sized strudel is my first impression when I catch a glimpse of one through the window of this small Prenzlauer Berg café, patronised by neighbourhood families of south Germans yearning to brunch on a quality authentic plate of Weißwurst or Leberkäse. Meierei closes at 4pm, which turns the pastry into breakfast or a coffee snack. Strudels are served cold because according to the Austrian owner, Herbert Roth, that is how they do it in Austria (additional custard or whipped cream available on request).

Though a certain disappointment is inevitable, Meierei doesn’t let strudel fans down. The top layer is tough but thin enough, with Boskoop apples inside, buttery soft and sour. Nuts are chopped into the finest granules. The breadcrumbs are juicy, and “they suck up the aromas released by the cooked apples,” says chef Karina Garrido from the kitchen. The result is delightfully cinnamon-y but on the sugary side and raisins have been left out completely. In a way, this strudel resembles the streets of P-Berg: not necessarily traditional. But it is an honest, quality and totally pleasant offering.

  • €5.50 without additions
  • Kollwitzstr. 42, Prenzlauer Berg, website

Café Restaurant Jolesch

Café Restaurant Jolesch. Photo: Alina Shynkarova

Through this paper-thin dough, you could read even a German newspaper. Tante Jolesch, the Viennese 1920s character the Michelin restaurant was named after, would most likely approve. A perfect strudel is served up to take its place between the classy, wealth-embodying greens and browns of the décor. A selection of high-end food magazines and a solid, centred meat slicer spell it out: this one is about quality food. The staff is totally relaxed. It doesn’t feel weird to drop in just for an apple strudel. Especially if you show some interest in the wine: Jolesch has a selection of 350, all Austrian.

Ultra-thin, fruity apples with a hint of lemon dance on your tongue, followed by a softly roasted almondy aftertaste and the texture of saturated raisins.

The fun part about this strudel is the DIY element. I self-pour vanilla from the jug on top of the golden pastry. The consistency is just right, and if you forgo the sauce, this strudel is 100% vegan. And alcohol-free: the chef decided to leave out the rum, “for the kids”. The vanilla triggers appreciative noises with its almost caramelly mouthfeel. Ultra-thin, fruity apples with a hint of lemon dance on your tongue, followed by a softly roasted almondy aftertaste and the texture of saturated raisins. What’s missing are the Brösel and defined tones of cinnamon, but I’ve ascended to another level anyway. The restaurant will open soon – I arrived before 5pm – so I might as well finish the jug. Besides, Berlin is the city where you can indulge yourself in public places, even the ones with a Michelin star.

  • €8.50 with a jug of vanilla sauce or whipped cream
  • Muskauer Str. 1, Kreuzberg, website

More food!

Looking for something a little more substantial? Try some hearty traditional German fare. Or maybe you’d rather try a different dessert. Whatever your taste, we’ve got suggestions for you here.