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Berlin

by Debra C. Argen
Swissotel exterior
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Berlin facadeBerlin is a wonderful, eclectic city filled with the new and the old, the traditional and the contemporary.

 

Berlin also has its share of luxury, from its five-star hotels, to its porcelain, cuisine, jazz, designer shops, and of course to their famous bears.

For this trip I wanted to explore both the contemporary, as well as the Grande Dame hotels, and I began by staying at the Swissôtel Berlin, located at Augsburger Strasse 44, 10789 Berlin, www.swissotel-berlin.com around the corner from the famous Kurfürstendamm. This contemporary 291-room, 25-suite beauty opened in September 2001, and was designed by the same architectural that designed the Tegel airport in Berlin. The luxurious contemporary theme is carried throughout the hotel, from the espresso makers in the guestrooms, to the largest collection of paintings, sculpture and prints by Markus Lupertz, one of today’s most important young German contemporary artists. He has designed over 300 pieces of art created especially for the Swissôtel Berlin, worth over $12 million Euro.

The hotel has chilled mineral water set in a large silver bowl in the lobby for its guests, and crisp apples at the reception desk. There are orchids on the tables in the lobby, as well as live piano music to create a welcoming atmosphere. Behind the Concierge Desk, the hotel has a Business Center with complimentary computer and Internet use for its guests, which was perfect since I since did not bring my laptop with me on this trip.Swissotel Palermo Bar

The hotel has given great thought to its guests’ needs and have thoughtfully provided an espresso/tea machine featuring Lavazza coffee and tea, along with china espresso and tea cups, an in-room safe large enough to hold a laptop with built-in power supply, an iron and ironing board, robes and slippers, and in addition to a well-stocked mini-bar, there was the corresponding glassware whether you wanted to enjoy a wine, a glass of champagne or a beer. Cigars were also part of the mini-bar set-up. To make sure that guests never miss a call, there were 3 phones in the room: on the desk, at bedside and in the bathroom.

The marble bath had a separate walk-in corner shower, a soaking tub with a hand-held shower, lighted make-up mirror, hairdryer, and JUVENA amenities from Switzerland. Another great idea that they had when building the hotel, was to put in 110/220 voltage. With a flip of the switch you can convert from 110 to 220 voltage which is a great convenience for foreign travelers.

Swissotel Restaurant 44Breakfast is served in their large and brightly lit restaurant, “44”, decorated with 4 of Markus Lupertz’s paintings. They offer an ample and tasty buffet breakfast with a large selection of juices, rolls, pastries, cheeses, fruits, cereals, sausages, bacon, meatballs, cold cuts, sliced cheeses, yogurts, curds, and you can also have eggs cooked to order or pancakes. The restaurant’s terrace features Markus Lupertz’s sculptures of Paris and the 3 Graces, which can be seen from Kurfürstendamm.

After a large breakfast, guests will be pleased to note that the hotel has an Amrita fitness center, with state-of-the-art exercise equipment, along with a sauna, solarium and steam-bath. The center is open 24 hours per day, and provides complimentary water, juice and fruit for its guests.

To make sure that guests look their best, there is also an automatic shoe polisher outside the fitness center, although guests can also receive a complimentary shoeshine by putting their shoes outside of their door in the evening.

Swissôtel Berlin
Augsburger Strasse 44
10789 Berlin, Germany
Telephone:  +49 (0) 30-220 100
Toll-Free:  1-800-637-9477   United States
Toll-Free:  00-800-637-94771   Europe
www.swissotel.com
www.raffles.com
berlin@swissotel.com

Always looking to experience what is new in the luxury market, my husband and I had dinner at the Brasserie Desbrosses at The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin, Potsdamer Platz 3, 10785 Berlin, www.ritzcarlton.com, berlin@ritzcarlton, which opened in January 2004.

Ritz Carlton Berlin Grand StaircaseAlthough newly built, the architectural firm of Hillmer and Sattler created this 302-room Potsdamer Platz hotel, in the Grande Dame style with lots of marble, 4,000 chandeliers, grand stairways, and elegant details like La Prairie amenities in their Spa. They have tried to bring a little bit of France to Brasserie Desbrosses, by creating a circa 1875 French Brasserie which was actually transported from the French village of Macôn, right down to wooden floors, French music and a French bicycle! The restaurant features an open kitchen, and has its own Boulangerie where they turn out fabulous French pastries, brioches, baguettes and flaky croissants. Although spring was in the air, it was still too early to eat outside, however, warmer weather will allow diners to eat on the terrace and watch the happenings of Potsdamer Platz.

The Brasserie menu had a wonderful mix of hot and cold selections, and we started our evening with Escargots with Garlic Herb Butter and the Salad Desbrosses with Apples,Ritz Carlton Berlin Brasserie Nuts and Blue Cheese. For our wine, we selected a Lucien Crocket 2002 Sancerre, which was fruity yet dry, with a nice bouquet with essences of vanilla and peaches.

The escargots were served out of their shell, so there was no “Pretty Woman” scene trying to remove the escargot from its shell! The garlic herb butter had just the right amount of garlic to flavor, but not overwhelm the escargot, and the large mixed green salad was nicely seasoned with enchanting vinaigrette and generous portions of crisp green apple, large pieces of creamy blue cheese and walnuts.

For our entrees, we selected the Grand Plateau de Mer and the Homard with Tarragon Mayonnaise. The Grand Plateau de Mer was a seafood lovers dream, and consisted of small shrimp, king prawns, cockles, mussels, oysters and lobster with a variety of dipping sauces. BoulangerieThe Homard with Tarragon Mayonnaise was a whole lobster, cut in half to make eating it easier, and it was fabulous with the tarragon mayonnaise. We also selected Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Spinach to complement our dinner. The potatoes were rich, smooth and creamy with the right mix of garlic, and the spinach was a great choice to accompany the seafood.

Since they have their own patisserie chef, we had to try the Chocolate Cake, which had a thin crisp crust on the bottom, and 3 fudge-like layers of cake topped with ganache. For chocolate lovers, it is almost worth a trip to Berlin just to eat the cake!

Please read Chefs' Recipes where Chef de Cuisine Peter Koenemann shares a few of his favorite recipes.

Brasserie Debrosses
The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin
Potsdamer Platz 3
10785 Berlin, Germany
Telephone:  +49 30-33 777 7
Toll Free:  800-241-3333 United States
Toll Free:  0800-234000    United Kingdom
Toll Free:  0120-853201  Japan
www.ritzcarlton.com
berlin@ritzcarlton

Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin ExteriorWe selected the Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin, Kurfürstendamm 27, 10719, Berlin, www.kempinskiberlin.de for our next hotel stay, which celebrated its 50th birthday in July 2002. This elegant, Grande Dame 249-room and 52-suite hotel is located in the heart of the most famous Berlin street for shopping – Kurfürstendamm, but more on the shopping later! This elegant hotel has had its share of celebrities and heads-of-state visit, and was once the home of actress Marlene Dietrich for 8 years!

After a quick check-in, we were escorted to our large suite. When we opened the door, there was a delightful fragrance in the air, which came from the marble bathroom off the foyer. The bathroom had a walk-in shower, lighted make-up mirror, hairdryer, Bulgari amenities, a stool, a yellow rose tucked into the face cloths, a telephone, and a bowl filled with potpourri responsible for the fragrance we smelled. Continuing into our suite, there was a living room with sofa, coffee table with a rose, chairs, desk with telephone, a television, bookshelf with books, a hidden well-stocked mini-bar complete with a Kempinski stuffed-toy bear, and a large closet, perfect for holding all your purchases from Kurfürstendamm.

Our large bedroom had a desk, two night tables with a cordless telephone, and a king-size bed. There was also a bookshelf with books to read, a bottle of Apollinais mineral water, and also a lovely live palm tree to create a comfortable, homey feel.

Off the bedroom there was dressing area with large closet, and another large marble bathroom, with large pedestal sink, a soaking tub with hand-held showerhead, as well as an overhead showerhead, a toilet and bidet, a lighted make-up mirror, hairdryer, telephone, stool, fabulous Bulgari amenities which included the Bulgari tea sachet which was perfect for a relaxing soak, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body lotion, glycerin soaps, more of the delightful potpourri in a porcelain bowl, and a beautiful yellow rose tucked into the face cloths. Guests are further pampered with robes, slippers, emery boards and other vanity items. There were dual outlets for 110 and 220 voltage.Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin pool

Although our suite was wonderful, we did want to explore more of the hotel. The hotel has a Hair Salon, upscale boutiques, an 18-meter indoor pool, massage rooms, a eucalyptus steam-room, as well as a sauna, solarium and fitness center, 3 restaurants (Grill Room, Gartensaal and the Kempinski ECK), Bristol Bar, an intimate cherry wood bar with black leather chairs and live piano music in the evening, and their lobby lounge, Gobelin-Halle. There is also a Business Center that is available 24 hours per day, at a fixed cost for computer and Internet access. They have wireless connectivity throughout the hotel, and sell access cards if you bring your own laptop.

We started by having a tea in the Gobelin-Halle, and although spring was in the air, we chose a table close to the large fireplace, more for the ambience, than the need for warmth. This cozy, charming room with tapestries on the walls, is perfect for partaking of Afternoon Tea, a Continental breakfast, or antipasti plates later in the evening. We decided to try a fruit-tea, and our waiter selected Granny’s Garden for us, which was a lovely mix of fruits and flowers. Our tea was accompanied by a delicate tea biscuit.

Refreshed, we were ready to partake of some shopping on Kurfürstendamm, the “Fifth Avenue” shopping of Berlin. World-class designers have shops here, as well as Berlin’s famous department store, KaDeWe. This enormous upscale department built in 1907, is the largest department store in Europe, and offers an international selection of fine china, porcelain and crystal, designer clothing, a top floor restaurant, and gourmet international food shopping on the 6th floor where I went in search of, and ended up purchasing, several bags of fruit-teas. You can also have a light lunch, or dessert there, since food shopping always seems to bring about an appetite. Laden down with KaDeWe bags, we were especially thankful to be close to our hotel.

However, on the way back to our hotel, we remembered that Edward’s brother, Stephen, had asked us to buy a teddy bear for his wife, Rosemary’s collection, so we went to STEIFF in BERLIN, Kurfürstendamm 220, 10719 Berlin, www.STEIFFinBERLIN.de. The world-renowned company, STEIFF, founded by Margarete Steiff, has been making high-quality stuffed toys since the late 1800’s, and has been making teddy bears since 1902. The shop is a toy-lover’s perfect dream with large-scale giraffes, gorillas, bears, horses, turtles, etc. along with smaller toys as well, just waiting for a child’s cuddle or a collector’s appreciation. Our only difficulty was in selecting from the large variety of teddy bears: classic with moveable joints, or plush bears. A quick international telephone call to Stephen and we had our answer – he wanted a plush bear for Rosemary. We selected the most perfect bear (at least we loved it), and hoped that Rosemary would, too. We went back to the hotel to put all our shopping bags in our ample closets, and then went back out to explore more of Berlin before it was time to leave for dinner.

Hotel Adlon Quarre RestaurantWanting a view with our dinner, we selected the Restaurant Quarré, at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, Unter den Linden 77/Am Pariser Platz, 10117 Berlin, www.hotel-adlon.de, with its incredible view of Brandenburg Gate. This 286 room, 50 suite hotel, was renovated and reopened in 1997, and is another Grande Dame of Berlin.

Our table at the Restaurant Quarré, had an enchanting view of Brandenburg Gate, creating a very special ambience for an incredible meal.

We began our evening by selecting a Himmelsberger mineral water from their menu of over 30 international waters, and then ordered the Monkfish-Salmon Carpaccio with Marinated Vegetables and Lime-Sour Cream and the Crayfish Salad with Coco Beans, Rocket and Tomatoes. Each of the dishes scored high marks not only in taste, but also for presentation. 

Since it seemed that it was crayfish time in Berlin, we selected the Nutmeg-Pumpkin Cream Soup with Crayfish Agnelotti and the Crayfish with Wood Garlic Royal for our next course. Both of these dishes were excellent, but I really enjoyed the soup with the crayfish agnelotti. 

For our main courses, we selected the Codfish Served on Sautéed Spinach with Pommery-Mustard Sauce and the Filet of Veal with Sweetbread on Coco Bean Tomato Ragout and Oxtail Ravioli. Again, both dishes were well turned out.

Since each course had been so superb, we had to sample the desserts, and selected the Composition of Valrhona Chocolate with Tangerine Salad, Rose Pepper and Mint-Yogurt Sauce and the Cappuccino Cake with Grape Ragout and Sour-Cream Ice Cream. The rose pepper gave a lively spice to the chocolate dessert, and the sour-cream ice cream had an intriguing flavor.

Barbara, our server provided attentive service, with great detail to properly space each course, and always magically appeared at just the right moment to refresh a glass, or bring the next course.

Please read Chefs' Recipes where Executive Chef Rainer Sigg, along with Restaurant Quarré Chef Steffen Gube and his team, share their Kempinski April Menu of the Month recipes. Congratulations to Executive Chef Sigg, “Selected as One of the Finest Chefs in the World” by The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences International Star Diamond Award 2004 on March 13, 2004.

Restaurant Quarré
Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin
Unter den Linden 77/Am Pariser Platz
10117 Berlin
Telephone:  030/22 61-0
Toll Free:  00-800-426-31355 Europe
Toll Free: 800-426-3135 United States
www.hotel-adlon.de

Back at our hotel, the Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin, we had very sweet dreams on our king-size Tempur bed with Tempur pillows, with white goose-down duvets. For those of you not familiar with Tempur products, they are the company that makes the pillows and beds that contour to your body. Although my husband who is addicted to his Tempur pillow, so much in fact, that he has a Tempur travel-size pillow that he always takes along on trips, it was the first time we had slept on one of the Tempur beds. Wow! No more rolling towards each other, and we woke up actually feeling rested, not always easy when traveling. The hotel has 60 of these beds, so we really were lucky to experience it.

After our restful sleep, we were ready to partake of the breakfast buffet in theKempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin Gartensaal Gartensaal. Attached to the Gartensaal’s large dining room is the Winter Garden, where we chose to enjoy our breakfast amidst the sunshine and the plants. In addition to the large assortment of buffet items, they also have a chef station where he is ready to cook eggs to order or pancakes, or even a special treat, as he did for me!

Another day of strolling and shopping, and of course a trip to pick up a few things at the internationally known Berlin porcelain company KPM (Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur which is the Royal Porcelain-Manufactory Berlin), Kurfürstendamm 27, 10719, Berlin www.KPM-Berlin.de, conveniently located at the Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin. KPM has been making quality porcelain since 1763, which bears the trademark of a royal blue scepter.

Kempinski Bristol Hotel Berlin Bistro GrillFor dinner, we selected the Grill Room, the gourmet restaurant at the Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin. The restaurant has a semi-open kitchen, and just 30 seats to provide for a very intimate evening. Kirstin, our server for the evening, began by bringing us hot towels for our hands, and then led us through the evening’s special offerings. We were rewarded a few moments later with Amuses of Veal in Aspic served in a glass jar, and Mousse of Turbot topped with Dill and Raspberry Sauce. Both were rich and prepared our palates for more to come.

After little debate, we selected the Peaks of Salad with Flamed Deer and Raspberry Dressing and the Mountain Lentil Terrine with Goat Cheese Mousse and Paprika Pesto to begin our evening. We selected the Schloss Reinhartshausen 2002, which had a strong bouquet and fruity flavor, which nicely complemented the salad and mousse, and also our soup course.

For the soup course, we selected the Foam Soup of White Beans with Lamb Mince Croutons and a Trio of Soups: Carrot Cream, Foam Soup of White Beans and a Celery Consomme.

For our entrees, we selected the Gratin of Fillet of Lemon Sole on Red Rice Risotto with Lobster Nage and the Duet of Conery and Milk-Piglet with Black Salsify Fritters and Carrots.

For our wine, we selected the Louis Jadot, Couvent des Jacobins, Bourgogne 2000.

For dessert we selected a Mille Feuille of Mango and Passion fruit with Coco Foam, which had delectable crisp layers, and luscious layers of fruit, making for a deliciously satisfying, but light ending to a great evening.

Please read Chefs' Recipes where Chef Frank Hokamp shares his incredible recipes for the Amuse – Veal in Aspic, the Mountain Lentil Terrine, the Foam Soup of White Beans, the Gratin of Fillet of Lemon Sole, and his Mille Feuille of Mango and Passion fruit with Coco Foam.

On our last full day in Berlin, we decided to take a stroll in the Tiergarten, the Berlin equivalent of New York City’s Central Park. Definite signs of spring were in the air – crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops peeked up through the remains of the autumn leaves in the wooded areas of the park, bicyclists where everywhere, and there was even a nude sunbather out to enjoy the first warmth of the season.

After walking for several hours, we decided to stop back in the Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin to enjoy an afternoon coffee. The hotel offers daily Afternoon Tea with live piano music from 3:00 pm.

Revitalized after our coffee, we went back to our hotel to get a little more exercise, this time in the form of a swim before we went to hear jazz in the evening. Since we truly do experience everything that we write about, we had to try the Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin’s 18-meter swimming pool, sauna and steam-room. We began with a eucalyptus steam, followed by a sauna, then a swim in the pool. It was then time to relax in a lounge chair poolside to enjoy the deserved relaxation that comes from exercise. There is also a Pool Bar, which has a selection of beverages and snacks to choose from.

Kempinski Hotel Bristol Berlin
Kurfürstendamm 27
10719, Berlin
Telephone: +49 30 884 340
Toll Free:  00-800-426313-55  United Kingdom
Toll Free:  1-800-426-3135  United States and Canada
www.kempinskiberlin.de

Since Berlin is noted for jazz, we made sure to make a trip to A-Trane Jazz Club, Pestalozzistrasse 105, 10625 Berlin, www.a-trane.de. This small, intimate jazz club has been open for 11 years, and has hosted some of the jazz greats – Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Brown and Diana Krall, among others throughout the years. Tony Hurdle, jazz trombonist and his quartet: Robin Dragonic on bass, Andreas Kersthold on piano, and Rico McClarrin on drums, played the night we visited the club, to launch Tony’s new CD, a 3 year project, which was mastered and mixed in Berlin in January 2004. The band opened their first set with a jazz classic, “Stella by Starlight”, followed by “But Not for Me” by George Gershwin, “Jug Love”, “Georgia” and a Charlie Parker tune called “Crazeology.” The band showed their experience with smooth transitions from solos between members and then back to the body of the song. Their second set started with an original composition by Felix Leach entitled, “Leach Swings”, followed by “This I Dig of You” by Hank Mobley, Tony’s former teacher in Philadelphia, who greatly influenced him. Andreas’ fingers flew over the keys in this piece, with great solos by Tony, Robin and Rico. To purchase Tony’s CD, Tony Hurdle & Rob Henderson’s Always Swingin’ and Poppin’ Octet, please contact A-Trane at www.a-trane.de, or contact Tony Hurdle at tonyhurdle@mymailstation.com. A-Trane was the perfect place to spend our last evening in Berlin. To read a review of Tony Hurdle & Rob Henderson's Always Swingin' and Poppin' Octet go to Music Scene section.

A-Trane Jazz Club
Pestalozzistrasse, 105
10625 Berlin
Telephone: 030/313 25 50
www.a-trane.de

Danke schön, to all our chefs for sharing their recipes; auf Wiedersehen Berlin, until next year!

© April 2004. Luxury Experience. www.luxuryexperience.com. All rights reserved.

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