My father chanced upon this little delight just off Torstraße in the Berlin borough of Mitte while out on a stroll around the neighbourhood near where we were staying. There are a number of things that I’m sure attracted him: the quirky blackboard out of the front – ‘No, we don’t care about hobbits!’, to the name – Antipodes – which clearly strikes a nostalgic chord in any Australian or New Zealander venturing through the über chic rabbit warren of the centre of the German capital.
As an aside, quickly, I have decided, at least for the time being, in line with LA’s Jonathan Gold among others, that I will endeavour to visit places more than once before I write about my experiences. On any given day a café or restaurant can be markedly different from the mood of the cook, to the awkwardness of the barista. One thing slightly off key and the entire thing falls apart, like that note not quite reached in the finale of the school musical, a shadow cast across an entire show with the pimply pre-pubescent lead left to retreat, ashen faced to the dressing rooms forever. With that in mind, I have made my way to Antipodes over half a dozen times with various company: just family, family and another, friends, people I have only just really met and alone.
Every single time, I was impressed.
Not a hint of disappointment in any of my companions, even when I’d spent the previous hour and a half waiting for the Saturday opening spruiking the much adored Eggs Benedict on offer. (For those at home, in the geographical antipodes, hollandaise may seem pedestrian, boring even, but I guarantee when a forced departure from that buttery, eggy goodness is broken, nothing but pleasure and excitement can ensue.) Bear in mind that the success of this particular breakfast was heightened in importance in that we were sharing our time in Berlin with someone aiming for a top three tick in one day – KFC, the Swans winning a Premiership and Radiohead that night. Nothing could set the balance off otherwise catastrophe may follow and that friend robbed off his perfect day.
But this day, and all the others, Antipodes knows what it is and how to go about it. Jane and Paul are talkative and interesting without being intrusive: if you want to chat about writing, food or literature, they’ll partake if time permits; if you’re scribbling overly emotive letters home they’ll leave you be. It’s an art to know when and how to interrupt, when to talk, when to leave alone and when to bring over a magazine you might want to read. I actually found myself becoming bitter at the prospect one of my companions was going to get in the way of a visit – take your needy negativity elsewhere please, I thought. I am here for some respite, a little southern hemisphere hospitality, where, as their sign says, coffee tastes like coffee. I’m assuming the sign is meant as a contrast to the generally repulsive excuse for a cup of Joe served up. It’s as if the coffee is some sort of penance with an energy kick.
Not so at Antipodes. The delicious Kings & Queens blend can satisfy any range of brews from a macchiato, to a cappuccino, to a double latté, the beans provide a strong and aromatic coffee that will only ever please. To me, as it is also made with real milk as opposed to the long life nonsense most other places serve over here, it tastes of cold Hobart mornings walking to Uni in full winter garb and cherishing that warmth as it hits the pit of my gut and the caffeine as it instantly soothes my addiction.
According to another review, a desire for a fresh start prompted the move North to Berlin for Jane and Paul, and for that I am ever so grateful. Great food – simple breakfasts of soft boiled eggs, muesli served with fruit and honey or the moist and glossy scrambled eggs. Or interesting and well made sandwiches that fill without making you groan from overeating. But don’t just go for the food. The décor screams arty Wellington designer know-how with the bar made of old NZ apple crates recognisable enough for a Kiwi I had breakfast with to cease speaking as she was consumed with memories of home and friends missed.
Sometimes I find that’s all I want in a café: a place to sit, to chat, to reminisce, to meet, to read and to write. A place where you don’t feel lonely, or awkwardly alone when you’re by yourself. When they first opened Jane wrote letters to random New Zealanders in the old phone book as a way to pass the time of running a new, quiet café. I wonder if those people know who was behind their surprises?
What a shame for them, I’m so glad I do.