If any place could be described as a hidden gem, it’s Roamers. Walk around the corner at the very end of Pannierstraße in Neukölln and there it is: a wonderfully cosy looking café. The place is not only filled with things looking like they’ve been taken out of a Kinfolk magazine, but loads of people and there’s barely a free seat when I met Flore, the owner. Only open since January, what is it that made Roamers an instant neighborhood favorite and instagram darling? I went to Roamers for some shaksukah on a particularly grey day to enjoy this dish with eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. It was spicy and creamy enough to comfort me as much that I was able to ignore the rain drizzling down on me. Then Flore served us some coffee and lemon cheesecake, one of the favorites from the menu. The fruity layer added the final touch to the creamy texture and I couldn’t wait to find out more about this place…Berlin has a lot of beautiful cafés. When did you first come up with the idea of opening your own and what do you think makes Roamers stand out from the others?
I’ve always had the dream of opening my own café. And when I stumbled upon this location, I quit my job from one day to another. With Roamers, I wanted to create a place where people feel welcome. And offer items on the menu which aren’t that common in Berlin until now like poached eggs.
Why Berlin? What makes it the perfect place for Roamers?
While the look of Roamers is definitely inspired by my travels to the US, Berlin is just the best place in Germany, if not Europe, to do your own thing. When we first started, we didn’t have much money, but we were lucky to have the help of family and friends. The tables were built by my mother’s partner, the chairs are from my uncle’s fabric hall and so on. People keep asking me about who our interior designer was, but I just love to work with my hands.
You’re not a trained chef, yet you cook and bake everything from scratch. Can you tell us a bit about the early beginnings and how you decide what’s on the menu?
I started cooking when I was 15, because I was tired of my mum’s Hausmannskost. So I got some cookbooks and just began learning. From early on, I collected all the recipes I liked in a huge folder. These days, at Roamers, I just cook my favorites from it. Therefore, our menu doesn’t reflect any specific cuisine: there’re for example poached eggs for breakfast, different sandwiches like our avocado classic with heaps of cilantro and the shaksukah. We also make brownies, banana bread and different cakes all ourselves. Still, we have a rather small kitchen and therefore, if we’re running out of something, that’s it. We never sell our homemade food the next day. And I always make sure to cook with the seasons. For example now there’re plenty of figs. So I sat down and wondered what to do with them. It turned out as a sandwich made with goat cheese, balsamic dressing, decorated with walnuts, hazelnuts and thyme. But I couldn’t do all this without my staff. We always test all the recipes before we put a new item on the menu. Then we sit down after closing the café and do little tastings. Everyone who works here has been a customer first, to me, it’s most important that the people I work with love this place and the way we do things.
Nowadays, many cafés have a Facebook page. You’re one of the first in Berlin who’s really active on Instagram as well. How much do you think has social media helped you to spread the word?
We definitely benefit from all the people taking photos in the café. We had visitors from Japan and Argentina who came because they saw pictures on Instagram, otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have found their way here. It’s really not a good location to attract passers-by, but I like it this way, because our guests are coming especially for us. On our own social media channels, we like to share news and beautiful pictures to let people know what we offer.
I heard, you’ve hired a professional to do the food styling?
Yes, Sasha Kharchenko is taking all the photos for us. One day, we sat down together and planned the look of the photos. It’s definitely inspired by the Kinfolk movement of shooting simple food in a rustic way. Like the café itself, Sasha’s style has evolved over time…
You have the following quote on your website: „You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.“ What’s that all about?
I just stumbled upon this quote and it brought back memories about going to the flower market in the morning with my aunt who owns two flower shops. I love plants in general which is why there are so many of them in the café. And to come back again to the first question, Roamers is all about spending a good time. Of course, we need to make sure that it’s running like every other business, but many people say that they feel like being on holiday when they’re here.
Roamers has already gotten a lot of lot of praise from the press. What’s next?
I have the idea of turning it into a small concept store. When you’re sitting here having a coffee and you still need to buy a little gift, let’s say, before going to a birthday party afterwards, you can all get it just here. There will also be more events, so we’ll see. I’m at the café every day since January and I’ve already learnt a lot along the way. And when I’m standing at the coffee machine with a smile on my face, I know it was the right decision.