Angelika Taschen has given more established book publishers a run for their money and turned the sexy and subversive Taschen Books into a global powerhouse. She chooses simple wurst for her last meal.
“I live in Berlin because, for me, it really is the most interesting city in Germany at the moment. Most of my friends from the old days in Köln have also moved here. I have always loved Berlin. Even before the Wall came down it had this great attraction.
I now live in Prenzlauer Berg, just north of the Mitte district and chose to move here rather than the more traditionally comfortable part of town because I like to be where things are happening. West Berlin has completely stagnated since the 1980s, yet when I cycle down the street around here there always seem to be new cafés and new little shops popping up all over. New, interesting people are moving here all the time and it is just that little bit more mixed, more international.
I find the idea of a ‘last meal’ somewhat morbid. But if one thinks about it in terms of a ‘last meal in Berlin’ before having to leave the city for some time then I think Konnopke’s, which is just near my apartment, is ideal. It is just so Berlin: a mix of the old and new and with no pretensions. The location, just under the green painted arches of the railway on a busy intersection is incredibly dynamic and urban.
You are always on your way somewhere in this city, either between venues, appointments or parties. Konnopke’s is like a sort of pit stop to refuel before the next adventure. I always bring visitors from abroad here, it is like a little attraction and helps give them a feeling of what Berlin is all about. The place is absolutely stuffed full of history: you can imagine German movie stars of the 1930s here, such as Hans Albers and Marlene Dietrich eating hot sausages late at night after a show. Even today it is popular with everyone from locals to tourists, star chefs and politicians. The former chancellor Gerhard Schröder is a famous currywurst fan and has eaten at Konnopke’s several times, they tell me.
And the wurst really are good: there is always a non-stop queue here from 6am when it opens to 8pm when it closes and the food is always fresh and super quality. Of course Konnopke’s closes in the early evening these days so it is not somewhere to have supper – unless you happen to have had a very long night and arrive at opening time. It is really the ideal place for lunch when you have a hangover – not that I have one that often!
If my last meal was in the evening then I would have to choose a schnitzel at Borchardt or a fillet steak at the Grill Royal in Mitte. I also have a super caterer here in Berlin, Zagareus, so when I am entertaining and have lots of people round, which happens often, then I get them to do the meal for me because they make food exactly how I like to cook. I can cook but I would rather spend time with my guests rather than juggling pots and pans in the kitchen.
Recently I had Mario Testino to visit at short notice and he came with seven or eight other people so I called Zagreus up and they brought round a spectacular spaghetti Bolognese and vegetable antipasti. Otherwise I would have had to spend the entire day shopping and cooking, but I had time to work during the day and all I had to do was lay the table before Mario arrived – it was just wonderful – I was so much more relaxed.
I do three or four big journeys per year, often researching for new books. If I happened to have my last meal while I was travelling, it would preferably be somewhere like the Waverly Inn in New York. I would much rather have lots of cool people around and eat something like steak and fries than go to somewhere with haute cuisine. I love good food and I will go and eat at a five star restaurant, but it is not really something that I get a fantastic amount of pleasure from. For me, people and ambience are more important in the end.
The daughter of a bookselling family, Angelika studied art history and German literature in Heidelberg before joining a little publishing company called Taschen in 1987. Together with her then-husband Benedikt Taschen she turned the Köln-based business into the most successful coffee-table book company in the world. She is an inveterate traveller and has published numerous sumptuous travel volumes as well as books on architecture, photography, design, contemporary art and interiors.
Currywurst is as traditional in Berlin as a hot dog in New York. It is a chopped sausage drenched in ketchup and a sprinkle of curry powder seasoning – served with chips (pommes) and mayonnaise. Currywurst is not a cuisine for the faint-hearted, but with a bottle of Berliner Pilsner it works wonders for the constitution after a night on the tiles.
Konnopke’s is a Berlin legend. Built under the iron U2 U-Bahn arches on Schönhauser Allee and founded by Max Konnopke in 1930, it’s where he worked seven days a week through the night. Eighty years later, his daughter Waltraud and grandson Mario Ziervogel are still serving the post-Wall Prenzlauer Berg crowd with sausages.