Posted on Wednesday, 26th February 2014
La Soupe Populaire by Tim Raue (a 2-star Michelin chef of Restaurant Tim Raue) is about as ‘Berlin’ as it comes. Grungy, soulful and heartfelt, the restaurant embodies the essence of understated cool. La Soupe Popularie is located in a building known as The Studio House, a once derelict building on a large block of land, not far from central Berlin on the border of the well-known Mitte area. The building may have been unused for a while, but most Berliners will tell you that the site use to house many an underground party, all of which adds to the building’s sense of cool. Know also that its location feels slightly off the beaten track which also gives it an air of mystic. These days the building not only provides the space for La Soupe Populaire, but it is also houses an art gallery and the very, very cool Crocodile Bar. A multi-millionaire investor bought the site recently and his intention is to transform The Studio House into something bigger with a hotel and many restaurants. La Soupe Populaire is just the start.
In keeping with the design of the large industrial space, La Soupe Populaire has been decorated with vintage furnishings, minimalist table settings and a warm lighting that gives the restaurant a great sense of coziness. Tim Raue might be a 2 Michelin starred chef, but his intention for La Soupe Populaire was that this was to be the people’s restaurant. As such the standard menu, which shows off some true Tim Raue classics such as his famed mustard egg, oozes accessibility with its limited options of four starters, four mains and two desserts. But there’s also a concept piece to the menu with some additional dishes being devoted to honouring and complimenting the nationality of the artist who is on show at the time. These dishes change along with each exhibition change about every three to four months. Also of note at La Soupe Populaire were the prices that were exceptional value for this calibre of cooking.
To start our meal we were presented with some fantastic crusty sourdough bread and a wonderful selection of homemade pickles and a hearty meaty German sausage. For the bread, there was a spread of lard with roasted onions and pickles.
At the time of our visit the reigning artist was Thai, and accordingly a number of dishes reflected a Thai flavour. From this part of the menu we chose a half lobster (€24) which was meaty and superbly tasty. The lobster had been slightly undercooked which meant it held onto its flavour and moisture. Served with a green curry broth with a touch of mango, the broth proved to be exquisitely light and showed great finesse. The contrasting tastes coming through from the curry and the mango – which provided both heat and a sweet acidity – gave the soup a really exciting touch.
As mentioned, mustard eggs (€10) is one of Tim Raue’s signature dishes and consisted of an egg with a soft runny centre, a topping of char caviar, and a superb mustard sauce. The sauce was divine and had been balanced expertly between a generous creaminess and a subtle airy lightness. The use of mustard in the sauce was also well judged to give the dish a delicate kick, and the beetroot mash accompaniment was wonderfully delicious to come together for a comforting and classy dish.
La Soupe Populaire happily explains that the Königsberger Klopse (€18) dish has been nicknamed the ‘Obama meatballs’ because Tim Raue cooked it for President Obama and 300 other state guests during his visit to Berlin in 2013. It’s a classic dish from the East of Germany, and here Tim Raue uses his grandmother’s classic recipe containing finely ground veal and calf’s head and tongue for a fine and delicate result. There was no stodgy heaviness here! The lovely white wine sauce was light and smooth, and the buttery mash potatoes were really yummy.
The fawn/venison (€24) was cooked to a beautiful medium rare and was extremely tender. The accompanying salsify still held onto their bite and added a warming touch to the dish with the pumpkin cream being smooth and creamy. The rich and flavoursome jus added a welcoming finish as did the touches of almond brittle.
We tried the signature ‘bee sting cake’ dessert (€8) and it went down a treat. Apricot cream and a fabulously crunchy almond tuile sat perched on top of a sponge, and all these flavours came together soundly to produce something that was scrumptious and satisfying. The ‘bee’ accompaniment was made from a chocolate-coated almond.
Tim Raue’s version of the classic ‘kalte schnauze’, a layered biscuit dessert (€8) consisted of shortbread like biscuits with a chocolate cream. A beautifully made quince sorbet helped to cut through dark richness of the chocolate.
La Soupe Populaire proved to be a stunning dining experience. This was a flawlessly prepared meal, beautiful in its simplicity of concept, yet complex in its preparation and depths of flavour. The setting was exceptionally cool, the prices were unbelievable good value for this calibre of cooking and the service was also excellent. With La Soupe Populaire you get the essence of incredible fine dining without any of the fuss and none of the high prices. What a winner.
Food rating: 4.5/5
Service rating: 4/5
Prices: €35 to €56 for three courses, excludes drinks.