Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Oldest Pub in Berlin

There are places in Berlin that lead you back to an era of cobblestone roads, red-bricked buildings, churches fitted with wrought iron and stained glass windows, and ancient oak trees lining the pathways. You can almost hear the clip-clop a horses’ hooves, can almost see a carriage coming around the corner carrying people in old-fashioned dress.
Zur letzten Instanz, the oldest pub in Berlin, is one of those places. The pub first opened its doors in 1621, but the first documented mention of the building is from 1561. Zur letzten Instanz sits at the end of Waisenstrasse, an alley that also features the oldest building in Berlin- the “Graues Kloster” (Grey Monastery). A historic courthouse and the skeleton of a bombed out church can be found just around the corner.
I’ve heard stories that prisoners from the courthouse used to be taken to Zur letzten Instanz for their last meal in the days of old. The pub also boasts a repertoire of famous guests, ranging from Napoleon to Mikhel Gorbachev.
I loved how the candles on the tables and the large chandeliers bathed the pub in a warm glow. Rows of antique beer steins lined wooden shelves, stained glass windows and brick walls aptly portrayed the century in which the pub was born, and a heavy, wrought iron staircase wound a spiral of dark green to the restaurant on the top floor. Everything looked antique and I couldn’t help but feel the history of the place, as if there were ghosts milling about, mingling their laughter and chatter with the sounds of the guests from present day.
The wait staff wore classy black and white uniforms, and offered the luxury of service reserved for fine dining. The prices, however, were only slightly higher than the average Berlin restaurant and the food was well worth the few extra euros. The menu featured several meat-based dishes, with the meat often served on the bone, and always dripping with tender juiciness. Sides included beets, dumplings, cabbage, and potatoes prepared like I’ve never tasted before- sweet and savoury and bursting with so much flavour that I’ll never think of cabbage as a boring side dish again.
My own meal was one of the few vegetarian options listed on the menu and it was literally one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Fennel, rosemary, and other savoury herbs complimented tomatoes that tasted like they’d been picked fresh from the vine. I can’t remember what the dish was called, but I’m tempted to go back to Zur letzten Instanz for a second round so I can find out.

Visit the restaurant's website for more information:

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