Food in Berlin: Bully’s Bakery

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Neukölln, the hipster-y part of Berlin south of Kreuzberg, where obviously no one speaks Deutsch anymore*, is the district that’s changing the most: a new third-wave-coffee store opens every day, another second-hand boutique every second. Of course not all of these joints can be successful, and many are indeed rather ill-conceived and quickly assembled, probably not here to stay.

And then there are the others–places where the still somewhat affordable rents of commercial properties enable smart ideas and convincing strategies to flourish organically, without the competitive pressure they might suffer in other locations. Long story short, Bully’s Bakery on thriving Weserstraße is one of these businesses.

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Their concept is not necessarily original, offering a small but appealing variety of French baked goods aside from their very popular Flammkuchen. The former was what first convinced me. Entering the bakery during a stroll through the Kiez (where I also found the cosy Café Valentin), I went for a small cakelike muffin filled with sweet apples, its crispness just right, which made me want to come back and try one of the Flammkuchen. In case you never heard of it, some call it the German pizza, but it’s actually an Alsatian dish (called tarte flambée in French) made from a very thinly rolled out dough and, in its most classic recipe, covered with crème fraîche, thinly sliced onions, and bacon.

Bully’s Bakery serves the classic version, of course, but adds changing varieties to the menu, like an Italian one with tomato and arugula or the very delicious blue cheese one with pear and radicchio. I wouldn’t dare call myself an expert on the field of Flammkuchen (and I’m only saying that, because I know that there are people who actually would consider themselves exactly that), but I like these treats a lot. The dough is perfectly thin with just the right amount of topping so it neither feels to heavy nor too puny. Especially the blue cheese and pear variety tickles your tastebuds in the nicest way, the contrast of sweet fruitiness and intense cheese goes so well with the crispy crust.

I will come back, when I am hungry in Neukölln, that’s for sure.

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*Let me add a brief comment to the “No-Deutsch-Diskussion” that recently flared up inspired by Julie Colthorpe and her rant on expats’ lack of German skills in Exberliner magazine (sic!). For one thing, I’ve never encountered the situation where I would order in a restaurant/deli/café and the waiter wouldn’t know any German or at least try to communicate in German. Although I have in the past offered speaking English instead of German multiple times after a bumpy start, especially to French waiters, I have no experience or memory of being faced with total incomprehension. What I have experienced, though, are rather weird comments about the fact that this very blog is written in English, although it’s made “in the German capital, about the German capital, by a German” (loose quotation of a comment I received some weeks ago). And sorry, but I don’t get that criticism either.
As someone lucky enough to have learned this very complicated beast called German as my first language, I am always amazed when people take up the neverending struggle to learn it past the age of, say, ten. And it often makes me a little proud (although this is a feeling very uncommon, even uncanny to the German me). But to demand a skill surpassing “Eine Schrippe bitte!” and “Aufenthaltsgenehmigung” would never cross my mind. Luckily, I’m not alone in thinking this, I’d like to very much agree and recommend Lauren Oyler’s response to Colthorpe’s article for a perfect explanation.

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  1. James, überlin on

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    Hi guys,

    Thanks so much for sharing our response to *that* Exberliner article. It’s great to get feedback from native German speakers, and to find out what locals expect of us pesky expats!

    Love this review, and have to agree – Bully’s Bakery produces the finest Flammkuchen I’ve ever tasted. Here’s what we thought when we first visited: http://www.uberlin.co.uk/bullys-bakery/

    Is it lunchtime yet?

  2. Laura on

    Reply

    I have now spent the past half hour reading all the articles I could find on this topic – and I have to say that although I really do prefer the writing style of Lauren Oyler to the article by Julie Colthorpe, I’m leaning towards the view expressed in the Exberliner article. I get both sides. I have lived in countries where even after a couple of months my knowledge of the langugage was limited to basic conversations in present tense, ordering in bars and asking for directions. But I tried – that’s all anyone should ask and as far as I understand that ‘s all anyone is asking. Berlin is an enclave, yes, but it is Germany, and there are Germans living here that have every right to not speak English without having to apologize for it. Look at Room 77 for example – it’s American style. Of course they speak English with the customers, it’s part of the “experience”. But if my grandmother were to walk in and order in German, she could. I think that’s important. I feel like people are talking about two different things, or actually four different things – learning the basics and actually mastering the langugae are the first two. There’s a big difference and no one is asking for the latter. German is fucking hard, especially learning it in Berlin if you don’t have any sort of personal drive to do it. The second two are those Expats on a sort of prolonged Berlin vacation who are just here for half a year maybe, hang out with just their Expats friends and go to just bars where they’re sure everyone speaks English anyway. And then the ones who work here, live here for years and don’t even understand why they could maybe benefit from learning the language of their city outside of Expatria. In my opinion it has something to do with respect for the people around you (if you’re working, the ones who don’t speak English) and the city that you love, because the atmosphere in Berlin is thanks to both the international people AND the locals. I agree with Mary in that demanding a skill surpassing certain basics is beyond me, but the basics should be a given, and any effort beyond that is welcome.

  3. ellie on

    Reply

    Agreed! Thanks for posting this, especially as I have been trying to learn German for the past 4 months. It is an incredibly difficult language, and unlike the wonderful German school system where everyone gets a basic understanding of English, German is unfortunately not a common language to study in the US. However, I do believe it is an expat’s responsibility to try their best in assimilating with their new country, which includes learning the language! It just takes ein bisschen zeit!

  4. Kajsa on

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    Had I only been in Berlin………..:) Kreuzberg sounds really interesting.
    Happy Monday xoxo KJ

  5. Tinka on

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    I totally agree. I already feel awkward, when I´m on vacation in some country and I can´t speak the language and am reduced to speaking English. However, I alway, always greet them in their language and then ask if they speak English. I would never go anywhere, English speaking countries excempt, and expect people to speak English. I speak about 7 languages, but non of them fluent or not anymore, for having lived in the US for too long, but it´s enough to get by, have a light conversation, order, ask for direction, etc. And yes, it´s a matter of respect. I visit another country I want to give people a good impression of where I come from and not be labeled as the `dumb American` or `stupid German` whatever. And I expect the same from people living and working here. It is hard, but not that hard. Try Korean or Chinese, that´s much harder.

  6. Tinka on

    Reply

    Thanks for sharing, next time I´m in Neukölln and feel hungry I should try this. There´s a Flammkuchen resto around the corner, I go by there all the time. I guess I should stop and buy one and then see how it tastes. The one´s I tasted in the past weren´t anything to write home about.

  7. Denisa on

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    That pics are perfect and I would like to go there. I was in some bakery in Berlin.. But not that one. Looks perfect… Have a nice weekend.

    http://www.fashiondenis.com/

  8. Sasha on

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    I was not aware of this whole debate, but thank you for bringing it up. As an expat who lives in Germany (once in Berlin and now in Munich) and who does speak German, this is an issue that I have long thought about, am undoubtedly personally involved in and am still rather on the fence about what I think about it. I know that this is not necessarily the right space to add to the debate, but I just want to make two points. To flip the coin, saying a few words in Germany is vastly different than saying many and there is nothing that makes me feel smaller than when I order something or compose a sentence in perfect German but with an accent to only hear a response in English. I must admit that happens to me regularly in Berlin, but almost never in Hamburg, Munich or Düsseldorf. Someone thinks that they are being polite, but then I interpret them as rude considering how much money I have spent on learning the language. The second point is because of international politics, some people really have to learn German and others do not. As I am not a resident of the EU, I have to go through heaps of paperwork – in German – to live here. Someone who is able to bypass the bureaucracy and just hop on an Easyjet flight can stay in Germany without speaking German indefinitely. Someone who has to regularly fill out paperwork, talk to bureaucrats, and wait for approval, all in German, is less likely able to stay.

    But, most importantly, long live Flammkuchen! I often make a classic version at home with creme fraiche, onions, nutmeg, Speck and then add some thinly sliced pear. I love the idea of blue cheese and will certainly try it with the pear.

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      A very good point! It’s certainly not easy to bring fellow Germans to speak German to you, once they realized everything will be so much quicker when done in English. And I am guilty of that myself. (Sorry Darryl & Florian & everyone else!)

  9. Flo on

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    Hmm, none of the third wave coffee shops you list is in Neukölln. Am I missing something?

    1. Mary Scherpe on

      it’s true – seems to be a Mitte / Kreuzberg phenomenon… but, suggestions are very welcome!

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