Notes from Berlin: A Perfect Moment

Written By Scott Joseph On May 24, 2013

Sometimes, not often enough, things come together to form a perfect moment. That’s what happened in a place called Brel in Berlin’s Savignyplatz. 

Savignyplatz, in Berlin’s Charlottenburg neighborhood, is a green square with numerous cafes and restaurants ringing it. We had just had a wonderful dinner at Dicke Wirtin, just off the platz, and were looking for a nice place to have a cup of coffee, perhaps a digestif and maybe a bit of dessert. We were somehow drawn to Brel.

So were dozens of other people. The place was packed, and everyone seemed happy, eating, drinking and listening to the piano music coming from an upright in the small dining room. 

The bar was crowded, too, and there was only one seat available, down at the end next to the waiters’ service area. But the bartender, an affable and welcoming young man, came from around the other side, grabbed an unused stool from a nearby hightop, and plopped it next to the other one. We plopped ourselves down.

Brel is named for Jacques Brel, the composer who famously was “Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” though he is no longer any of those. It was a bit strange to be in a French restaurant in Germany, but the atmosphere, which made it feel as though perhaps it was the 1920s, made me think that it might have been something found during the Weimar era. I felt I had gone back in time.

Shortly after we had ordered our coffees and a Grand Marnier, plus a tarte Tatin that the waiter warned us would take 20 minutes to prepare, two seats opened at the other end of the bar, a space that had a commanding view of the entire bar and much of the dining room. We replopped and the bartender brought our drinks down to us, just before delivering the tarte, which was an odd variation of the classic dessert, more like a cinnamon dusted flat pastry with apples and pears and other fruits on top. Strange, but delicious, especially the beany vanilla ice cream.

And then the moment occurred. From the other room the pianist began to play “Mack the Knife” from The Threepenny Opera. The entire restaurant was mesmerized.

So there we were, sitting in a French themed bar and restaurant, in Berlin, listening to the music of a German composer, sipping coffee and liqueur, and enjoying a fine dessert that followed a terrific dinner just down the street.

I just smiled.

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