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Two great restaurants for Brandenburg day-trippers

You don’t go to Brandenburg for the food – or do you? If you’ve had your fill of sausage and schnitzel on summer excursions, you’ll find relief at these new spots.

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You don’t go to Brandenburg for the food – or do you? If you’ve had your fill of sausage and schnitzel on summer excursions, you’ll find relief at these new spots.

Frelich am See: Bavaria in Brandenburg

We have to think about Sweden. Even though the beautifully ugly, perfectly pink Zwiebelrostbraten (roast beef with onions) is, of course, 100 percent Alpine. So is the Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), which we didn’t dare try, and the fried chicken (€18) with a very light, very fresh potato-cucumber salad.

We’re thinking of Sweden, though, because we know this kind of gastronomic concept from Scandinavian coastal towns. Places where you can dine in flip-flops but also your Sunday best. Where the chefs are ambitious about their cuisine and the ingredients on which it’s based, but also recognise the need for accessibility in a day-trip destination restaurant.

In this case, the day trip is to the former spa town of Bad Saarow an hour outside of Berlin, the restaurant is Freilich am See, and the See is Scharmützelsee, the banana-shaped glacial lake on which Bad Saarow is situated. Opened just in time for the pandemic, this oasis of Bavarian hospitality successfully proves that a restaurant for German holidaymakers can also feature fresh, artisanal food – and allow for a new culinary zeitgeist without ostracising those folks who just want a schnitzel. It can be consummately professional behind the scenes, yet friendly and engaging with guests in spite – or because – of that.

The fact that they fill your glass with the wonderfully honest brew Traunsteiner Hofbräu, and not just any old industrial pilsner, shows how seriously Freilich takes the grassroots democratic renewal of good taste. The pike perch, meanwhile, comes from the excellent Köllnitz fishery just one lake away, with which the restaurant shares an owner: Berlin’s Artprojekt group, a “socially responsible” real estate developer that’s increasingly been branching out into gastronomy. With this slice of Bavaria in Bad Saarow, it’s already done pretty well for itself.

Karl-Marx-Damm 47a, 15526 Bad Saarow, daily 12-21.30, www.freilich.de

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Fritz am Markt: The destination of the summer?

It already says a lot about the young chef when Christian Heymer explains how he first came to the Havel river: as a 13-year-old sports student in Potsdam, a canoeist and aspiring Olympian. His dream was shattered in the decisive race thanks to a broken paddle. Now 27 and retrained as a chef, some of the Thüringer’s past as a competitive athlete remains relevant: his tendency to fully focus himself on just one thing, for example. Or his ability to maintain a low resting heart rate during even the most stressful of moments. And his uncompromising aspiration to do everything in the best possible way, always.

This is basically what he’s doing at his restaurant in Werder’s old town, on an island in the middle of the Havel. Alone in the kitchen, he sends out plates whose ingredients have never traveled more than 15 kilometres, yet which taste as convincingly cosmopolitan as they do brutally local.

On a typical day, Heymer, who previously cooked at Hotel am Steinplatz, wakes up early in the morning to browse the street wares sold by Werder’s hobby gardeners, where he might find the summer’s first cherries. Next he meets with his farmer, from whom he gets his onglet (hangar steak). A win-win situation: one of them gets rid of an “exotic” part of the animal that remains hard to sell; the other receives a piece of tender marbled muscle from a free-range cow, to be transformed into a summery BBQ course with puffed amaranth and very comforting onions.

From the local Kühn fishery comes the eel for a dish that’s both typical for Werder, yet couldn’t be more extraordinary: a deconstructed Fischbrötchen with house-baked focaccia, fermented radishes and Nordic dill. And the asparagus, grown without the use of plastic? It’s just briefly marinated and then served with strawberries and toasted dried milk – very tasty. Dishes cost between €9-15; share four between two people and you’ll leave both full and happy.

With its precise craftsmanship, its dedication to accessibility and natural investment in local structures, Fritz am Markt is a true stroke of luck for Werder on the Havel – and for Berlin on the Spree. For those who don’t want to stay overnight in the adjoining hotel (a mistake, given how cosy and full of personality it is), it’s just a quick Regionalbahn trip back home.

Baderstr. 19, Weder/Havel, Tel. 03327 731 76 70, Wed-Fri 18–22, Sat-Sun from 12, www.meinwerder-hotel.de