We wouldn’t often splash out and go for a gourmet meal, but when I first heard about La Mano Verde in Berlin, I decided we had to check it out.
The fact that it was Berlin’s first ever vegan gourmet restaurant when it opened in 2008, a city now known as the vegan capital of Europe, was one important reason. Another, was the owner’s approach to food.
Rather than approaching veganism from an ethical standpoint (that is, mostly motivated by animal rights), Jean-Christian is interested in eating and cooking vegan for health.
This interest is clearly backed up by extensive research and reading as he was able to recite facts from memory regarding evolutionary history of the human body and nutritional values of different foods, among other things, when he came to talk to us after the meal.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
La Mano Verde is the kind of place you arrive and the waiter takes your coat. For me, this felt a little unfamiliar, which is simply to tell you that I don’t usually go to places that are higher end, though this clearly didn’t faze Zab. Nonetheless, I did not find the atmosphere to be overly formal, and relaxed immediately upon sitting. This was in no small part due to the welcoming yet professional attitude of the staff, who I would later learn were extremely knowledgeable about the food they were serving us.
The rather extensive menu, with almost half of dishes being raw vegan (and therefore also gluten free) is presented on an iPad, a small novelty that surprised me and delighted Zab.
The selection of drinks was almost as extensive as the food, and we took a while choosing something each. Eventually, I decided on a non-alcoholic cocktail of mora (a kind of blackberry), rhubarb, apple and cinnamon. Zab went for a glass of red organic vegan Argentine wine, which he thoroughly enjoyed for its smoothness and bouquet.
We started with a salad of twelve wild herbs from the area around Stuttgart and that were no less than two days old, we later found out. This was served with raw linseed and tomato bread and a selection of three vinaigrettes of a soy cream and mustard base: raspberry, white balsamic and basil.
I could certainly appreciate the freshness of the leaves, and the different dressings served to bring some diversity while the flowers definitely added to the visual feast, though I can’t say they brought much extra flavour.
We then moved on to starters, continuing with the raw theme. Raw vegan ravioli blanc (carpaccio size kohlrabi slices filled with cedar nut cream on a bed of fennel, apple and sprouts) and raw vegan kimchi tower (fermented cabbage and nuts). I definitely preferred the ravioli of the two, with their smooth filling and crunchy exterior. Personally, I found the kimchi a slightly strange mixture of sour and spicy, though Zab found it quite delightful.
After a slightly longer (though welcome) wait, we received our mains, this time both cooked. There was mushroom risotto with white wine sauce and herb pesto and spaghetti with two different kinds of algae, sundried tomatoes and pine nut parmesan. Both were rich, luxurious and moreish, contrasting with the light freshness of the preceding courses.
Nearing the end of the main course, I wasn’t sure I’d have space for any thing more.
But then the desserts came.
We received a platter with samples of three different ones; two raw cheesecakes (mango and raspberry) and a cooked triple chocolate fudge cake.
It is no secret that raw vegan desserts are favourite, so for me they won by far over the chocolate cake, despite it being superbly chocolatey.
We finished up feeling completely sated, though not stuffed; just perfectly filled and satisfied.
The whole experience was extremely pleasant, especially getting to talk to Jean-Christian himself, not only about his experience with running restaurants and his approach to vegan food but also on topics ranging from living in London to Conchita Wurst.
Although the location inside a relatively up-scale shopping centre in the western Berlin district of Charlottenburg is not anywhere near our regular haunts around Neukölln and Kreuzberg, it was definitely worth the detour.
I would recommend a visit to La Mano Verde to anyone in Berlin looking for a restaurant to splurge on innovative, good quality, health conscious food whether or not they are vegan or even vegetarian. Just as long as you go with an open mind and plenty of time (we were there for four and a half hours, but enjoyed every minute of it!) you’re bound to have a delightful experience.
For a closer look at the ambiance and food preparation process at La Mano Verde, check out this video.
- Open: 18:00-23:00, Monday-Saturday (lunch 12:00-17:00)
- Address: Kempinski Plaza, Uhlandstrasse 181-183, 10623, Berlin
- Telephone: +49 30 889 22228
- Foursquare; Facebook; website
The meal as described above would normally cost around €110 for two people, including water. Many thanks to Jean-Christian himself who kindly arranged a complimentary meal for us at his restaurant. He did not request that I write a favorable review, and my opinions are, and always will be, my own.