One of the very first cafes we first completely fell in love with in Berlin was the marvellous Aunt Benny in Friedrichshain.
Set up by siblings Kyla & Alexander Boyle, and later joined by Jeremy Caulfield, their ethos has always been about providing top quality comfort food; from delicious breakfasts & lunches to divine cakes & treats…. and now superb drinks too!
Having recently launched their evening barfood menu (offering perhaps the best grilled cheese sandwich of your life!), there’s now a great excuse to head back to Aunt Benny for more food in the evening too! We spoke to Jeremy Caulfield (photographed in the middle) about their very special cafe/bar, close to many a local’s heart.
You opened the cafe in 2008. What did you each do before opening Aunt Benny?
We all had pretty diverse backgrounds actually.
Kyla was an interior architect and designer, Alexander was working in fashion as a designer and tailor and I (Jeremy) was a globe trotting Techno DJ who was getting homesick a lot.
What were the biggest challenges in setting up the cafe?
Times have changed dramatically since first opening the cafe – there is now a very integrated understanding of food and gastronomy from both Berliners and tourists alike.
It took some years to get people interested in what we had to offer… and then it just clicked.
Perhaps this is because when we started, we stood out in Friedrichshain like a sore thumb . Now there are so many cool places around and you can eat a varied and high quality meals throughout the Kiez, so the initial challenge of bringing people out this way has significantly been reduced. Many of the other challenges are just simple matter of fact parts of running a business.
The interior design of Aunt Benny is aesthetic, stylish and cool. Who was responsible for the design elements and what inspiration was behind the thought process?
Kyla is always the lead on design, although we have a very organic and somewhat chaotic collaboration process. We have similar tastes about the big picture but often vary in the details.
We spend a lot of time debating the smaller things and these often turn out to be the pieces that really pull things together.
Kyla has a very keen eye and is an excellent picker & shopper. We are always amazed at what she can do, and since the beginning her design was quite ahead of anything we were familiar with.
You’re renowned for superb quality from delicious brunch to gorgeous cakes. How do you go about your food development process?
We talk about ideas a lot before moving on them, sometimes we try things on the fly and get them “in the ball park” so to say . “Does this go with this or this? Let’s try it this way !” and then we smooth out the production process.
Our cooking and baking is all based on classic north american fare. Things we have grown up with; Classic Comfort Food. Because of this familiarity there are always a lot of opinions about it. Opinions are essential because whilst comfort food might seem easy, there is deep personal histories intertwined with it (from family members making it etc… it’s often rooted in deep memories.) So you expect the same satisfaction. If your memories of chocolate cake are from your grandmother serving it to you on your birthday , well that’s some pretty serious stuff were up against to impress!
What is the most popular item on the menu and are they your favourite too?
The most popular item is our Carrot Cake!
And our favourite? Well… we love everything like a mother loves her children.
We also love your intimate bar next door (seating just 16 people!), especially as it also sells some incredible bar snacks made in your kitchen! Tell us about how the bar came to be, how it’s evolved and your future plans for it?
The bar used to be a broom closet…. but because of Kyla’s keen eye and Alexander’s construction we’ve been able to transform it into a righteous drinking establishment!
It’s now evolved into a high-quality neighbourhood bar, rather than the specifically cocktail based bar it was before. We’ve also now started having the bar service in the cafe side more, as we’ve grown into serving food later into the evening.
What advice would you give to someone interested in setting up a café in Berlin?
Strap yourself in and prepare for long hours & gruelling days but a lot of fun and satisfaction.
Be committed to your work & love what you do… and always keep the big picture in mind, even if you are killing yourself on the details.
Complete the following sentence, “For us, Berlin is”
Home (kind of)