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Geist im Glas: A better Sunday supper

Every Sunday this expat bar in Neukölln puts a lid on its smoky, crowded and noisy side and lets its civilised side bubble gracefully to the surface. And it doesn't disappoint.

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A Sunday ‘supper club’ in a Neukölln expat bar? Couldn’t be worse than one of those ‘private’ dinner parties hosted in some foodie’s flat where you’re expected to ‘donate’ €60 for an inflexible set of usually complicated dishes shared with strangers you probably never wanted to meet and will probably end up wasting energy trying to never meet again.

This case was different. People had raved to us about the shepherd’s pie served at Geist im Glas’ recent ‘British’ dinner and we’d heard good things about their Tuesday tacos. But personally we had only experienced the former hair salon as a smoky Friday night maelstrom of young English speakers living their Neukölln dream.

The December Sunday night we choose to visit is a more civilised scene: smoking is banished to the pavement, 1920s jazz burbles in the background, conversation is possible. At the bar we sample two of Geist’s home-infused potions: garlic vodka (interesting but detrimental to one’s breath) and vodka with star anise and vanilla, which tastes like high-octane pastis.

From our stools, we watch the cooks – one of whom is co-owner Aishah Bennett – preparing the meal in the tiny kitchen. Tonight’s €25 supper is a German-inspired affair and beef roulade is the main act.

Finally, we are ushered into a candlelit, brick-lined back room with a sort of end-of-the-world, dinner-in-a-ruin charm. We sit at one of the two long communal tables. It’s easy to strike up conversation with our neighbours, some well-educated multi-national Easyjetters who spent Erasmus years here and are dying to live in Berlin again. 

Our Germanic-light first course, beetroot slices and fresh goat cheese smeared in yoghurt with a side of rocket and a few slices of rye toast, has the wholesome simplicity of a home-grown picnic on a Brandenburg meadow but is missing some spark. Maybe some walnut oil? A dash of fruit vinaigrette?

It’s a bit of a wait for the beef roulade – but we don’t really notice, deep into a conversation about our respective teaching experiences across Europe. The meat has been salted, peppered and rubbed with mustard and horseradish, rolled up and filled with a little Black Forest ham, cornichons and onions – delicious.

It is served with a light gravy and tasty sides: a couple of excellent soft-textured potato-celeriac dumplings and a generous pile of marinated shredded red cabbage with plenty of crunch. Gluten-free Klöße and raw-food Rotkohl? Noveau-expat German indeed.

To our delight, the friendly waitress lingers around with a jug of gravy and restocks our plates with more of everything at will.

We finish off with more yeast-free treats: a simple but toothsome oven-roasted apple served with a large scoop of marzipan ice cream.

The conversation at the table has remained refreshingly far from the loathsome foodster banter one must usually endure at such events, but a few couples have managed to protect the intimacy of a dinner for two away from our chitchat.

After a nightcap at the bar, we leave the cosy premises with the mental pledge to come back and one final thought: this is much better than a supper club. Why don’t they just rename it “Sunday Supper”?

Upcoming dinners: Jan 27 (Sunday Roast)