The Michelberger Hotel is a hip, Berlin institution with an adjoining restaurant popular not just with staying guests, but to a huge amount of us local Berliners too! From affordable & quick lunches to more refined & elegant dinners, head chef Alan Micks continues to wow the Berlin food scene with his team’s innovative, contemporary dishes always with a strong focus on quality local produce. We borrowed a few minutes of his time to find out a bit more…
© Zoe Spawton
The local sourcing of your ingredients plays a big part in your menu. What are the factors that determine choosing one local supplier over another?
Yes, sourcing locally is a big part of what we choose to put on the menu. Although we wouldn’t select a supplier purely based on location, the reason behind exactly who we work with in a region always comes down to determining the quality.
That’s the main thing – quality always comes first.
Your (wonderful!) dinners are elegant, refined and contemporary, yet your lunches are much more casual, perhaps similar to a high-quality canteen. Which audience do you prefer cooking for and why?
Every serious chef always likes to cook the finer things and with the more luxurious produce… and I guess I am no different!
Our lunch menu changes every week, which doesn’t give the dishes time to fully evolve like they do at dinner which is when it’s nice to see a good dish evolve to become a great dish after working on it over time.
Generally, our lunches are there to provide good value and fast service. Our lunch guests want to be in & out with a full belly in less than an hour, so our dinner dishes would never work at that time. I like to cook both styles, but if I were to choose it would be dinner as it’s where we are most creative.
You’re from Ireland – does any of your Irish heritage ever show on the menus at Michelberger?
We have a few things here & there from time to time. In general though, in terms of flavours it’s hard to put a finger on Irish cuisine.
It’s not that distant to German showcasing lots of potatoes, root vegetables and braised meats in the winter.
Our use of seasonal fish and seafood is definitely an Irish trait, coming from a country surrounded by water. So without shouting about it yes there is often a little Irish heritage found on the menu, but not all the time.
* Menu changes regularly. Above menu taken from 17.03.16
Do you feel contemporary German cuisine is evolving with the influx of expats moving to Berlin?
Yes, I feel it’s improving all the time which also means more new restaurants are opening too, which I guess it’s a result of more & more people moving to Berlin.
There’s always somewhere new on my list of places to check out. More good restaurants means more competition – which is good for the industry. Success breeds success
What’s your favourite dish on the current Michelberger menu and why?
Because of our use of sustainable and regional produce, I would say our Wild Pig’s head fritters is my favourite dish.
We source our wild boar from Brandenburg. The meat is flavoursome and we serve it with locally-made black pudding alongside apples & pumpkin from our farmer.
You’ve worked in quite a few restaurants in different countries. Excluding Michelberger, what do you feel the German restaurant industry either does best, or needs to improve on as a whole?
I think German cuisine itself will always remain as it is and there is no point to try and change German classics.
The main thing is to bridge the gap between fine dining and local restaurants. Customers shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money or sit in a stuffy restaurant to get a good experience… and I think Berlin is moving positively in that direction.
Any exciting changes, events or news we can expect in Michelberger restaurant this year?
Yes, we started some bar events late last year and have got some good momentum going on these, so we’ll be developing them further.
They’re called Barfood Fridays and are held once a month. We combine one of our food producers and a drink so the serving becomes a perfectly matched combo, which are also fun to share. For example, last month we used buffalo products from Bobalis and paired them with Whiskey.
We will also upgrade our kitchen this year and will ‘tweak’ our lunch & dinner menus based on the possibilities available with that, so it is definitely an exciting year for the restaurant!
When not in your professional kitchen, what’s your quick ‘n’ easy dish you love to eat at home?
A simple pasta or salad. 1 pan. No fuss!
Which places do you personally like to eat & drink at in Berlin?
Finish the following sentence, “For me, Berlin is…”
…an exciting place to be for a chef right now.
Be sure to check out Michelberger‘s new Barfood Friday’s or pop in for a quality lunch or dinner soon – Alan and his team’s food is truly exceptional and some of the very finest in town!