Billy Wagner

Billy Wagner likes playing the field. Fruit brandies. Herbal schnapps. Liqueurs. Beer. Just some of the beverages this former German Sommelier of the Year enjoys sipping as well as serving to guests at Berlin funhouse, Nobelhart & Schmutzig (wine, naturally, usually makes an appearance, too). When the discussion turns to where to eat and drink in Berlin, his recommendations for The Local Tongue are equally diverse.
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Not Your Typical (German) Breakfast

What I really love about The Future Breakfast is that it’s not your typical German breakfast. A German breakfast is very classic, like bread with marmalade and sausages, but here it’s really diverse. The menu has a very internationalist approach which is really cool. You could have a Moroccan breakfast, a Vietnamese, an Australian-inspired breakfast; it’s nice to have so many tastes in the morning. They also do really good coffee. But what I really love, is going here on Sundays and having breakfast at 2pm with a beer. Yes, that’s a really nice way to start your Sunday.

Regional Chinese With A Great Cellar

I’m a big fan of going to Hot Spot, a Chinese restaurant where they do Sichuan and Shanghai cuisine, and what I really like about this place is that they have a huge wine list. They don’t display everything on the list, so you always have to talk to Mr. Wu (the owner) to get some of the really cool bottles from his cellar. He’s a big Riesling nerd, he’s a big Bordeaux nerd; you’re not going to be drinking really funky wines, but more classic European styles. With this style of food, it’s really nice to have something off-dry or sweet, like something old from Mosel, or a bone-dry, crisp, very acidic, sharp Riesling with low alcohol and no sweetness; that’s a really beautiful match. It’s also really interesting to pair spicy dishes with an old Bordeaux; something from the 80s, 90s or even 70s. It actually makes a lot of sense because the wines are so matured that they get really tender and mellow, and this works amazing well with the chilli and Sichuan flavours. It can be difficult to find nice lunch restaurants, but here you can have something interesting to eat and drink something really nice as well.

A Seasonal Cafe

Baldon (previously Pahr) is a really beautiful, industrial and very modern place in Wedding. It’s also a little bit hipster, I guess. It was designed by Arno Brandlhuber – a very well-known architect here in Berlin – and the space looks really nice: high ceilings, beautiful art on the wall, and a very nice terrace in summer. It’s a beautiful place to sit down and talk, to meet people and drink coffee. It’s also a nice place to work. Food-wise, they work local, they work seasonally – not in such a crazy way which we do at our restaurant, but they do it in a really positive way with a lot of thought. They don’t just think about what they want to do, they also think about why they do it. The menu is just very simple, but beautiful food; like a celeriac soup that will be perfectly cooked, or roasted bread with some toppings. I also really like that in the five or so times that I’ve been there, there’s always women working, which is cool.

A True Farm-To-Plate Restaurant

Forsthaus Strelitz is a restaurant and farmhouse about an hour’s drive outside of Berlin. It’s a beautiful space to get outside of the city and relax. The owner of the restaurant has a farm where he grows, breeds and even self-butchers everything to be used in the restaurant. It’s a very simple approach to the food chain; of doing everything yourself, from farm to plate.  You don’t see that very often. It’s a very simple cuisine, and they have a nice, small wine list; but you can also bring your own bottles for a small corkage fee. They have huge apartments to stay the night – they’re very simple and not luxurious at all, but I think this is a nice approach rather than staying in a normal hotel. It’s all about your value system. It’s a place where you go when you don’t want to be disturbed by too many different things. You take your wine, you can walk around the forest. It’s a place to be calm. I really love it there, my wife does as well.

An Inexpensive Neighbourhood Italian Place

Just around the corner from where I live is Osteria Sippi; a neighbourhood Italian place with a nice wine list, good beer and very good pasta. They always have something new on the menu, so I always eat at least two, maybe three pastas and a dessert. It’s not expensive, and it’s a really nice and cosy little place. Somehow, but not in a very stylish way, it kind of looks like your home – but if you had just randomly selected furniture because you didn’t have any money to style your home and make it 100 per cent nice; but in a charming way. But it’s a really cool atmosphere, it has a very friendly vibe. You know, you might turn up and they’ll still be eating staff meal, so they’ll invite you to have a beer; it’s very relaxed.

A Late-Night Wine Bar

Johannes Schellhorn, our former sommelier, opened a really nice wine bar called Bar Freundschaft. It has a very good wine list with classic wines, old wines, young wines, and a lot of wines available by the glass. And they serve a really beautiful Sülze terrine, and simple, but very good snacks like ham and bread with horseradish. They’re open late, which is also great.

A World-Famous Bar Serving Innovative Cocktails

Oliver Ebert and Cristina Neves opened Bar Becketts Kopf in Prenzlauer Berg, and it’s one of the most well-known bars in the world. They started with very classic cocktails, which they are still doing today, but now their style is extremely unique and very innovative.  They don’t have a huge backboard of different bottles and spirits – they’re very, very selective and careful about what they’re using, with most of their bottles coming from German and Austrian distilleries. They also grow their own ingredients and herbs to make syrups and infuse certain things. They do it in a really beautiful way.

Guide last updated March 2020

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Billy Wagner - Nobelhart Schmutzig - The Local Tongue

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