Wim Wenders extols the virtues of German cuisine at his favourite haunt.
“My first memory of food is sitting on the back of my dad’s bike. My mother was on a bike as well and we were cycling out of Düsseldorf, which in 1948 was flattened, bombed ruins. We took a ferry to the other side of the Rhine and rode for a couple of hours in the countryside to meet farmers. My father traded jewellery for a bag of potatoes. The bag ended up on the back of his bike and I rode back on the front bar between his knees. I was crying because I was so uncomfortable. But the precious potatoes were on the back and we ate them for weeks. I was three years old.
I’ve had an office and apartment in Berlin since the early 1970s, even when I lived in America. The culinary aspects of the city then were pretty grim. There were Prussian places where the main food was greasy sausages and heavy German things; they’ve disappeared. I discovered Florian when it opened. It serves southern German cuisine from Franconia, a region in northern Bavaria. Their speciality is Rostbratwürstchen [small roasted sausages] and sauerkraut. The ingredients come from Franconia and it’s special here. When friends visit from far away, like America or Japan, I take them here because they don’t know German food; it was long underrated and not really famous for anything except sausages. Even in the sausage department, this restaurant is better than anywhere else. The Tafelspitz – boiled beef – is amazing.
I don’t even have to look at the menu: I know what I want. I lived around the corner and for 20 years I ate here almost every day. Once I find something, I am very loyal. I now live in Mitte so I only come once a month or so. Last meal? I’d have it here because it’s the place I have the longest relationship with.
I don’t like fancy cuisine too much. There’s one big photograph in my show [an exhibition at Blain|Southern Berlin]: it’s a panoramic wide image of an asparagus field. White asparagus is my favourite food in Germany; it grows next to Berlin but also in the Rhineland. We always had it when I was a kid with potatoes and melted butter. Later, when the Wirtschaftswunder [postwar prosperity] came, we had ham with it.
I’ve taken pictures since I was six. My father gave me a camera; he was a surgeon but also an amateur photographer. I wanted to become a painter so photography was nothing special, it was just there. I only took it seriously from the early 1980s. It was spring of 1983 when I was travelling a lot in the American southwest and I had to get used to these bright colours; I wanted to lose my fear of this light. Until then I’d only photographed in black and white.
Photography doesn’t coincide with my film work anymore. As a film-maker I’m a social animal with 100 people around and have been quite adventurous with digital production and 3D. But as a photographer it’s essential I’m alone and I shoot analogue. There’s nothing retouched. On a long day of shooting I’ll travel with a Thermos; most of these places are lonely and I can’t get a coffee. Every now and then I’ll bring a Stulle: a small sandwich.
The [Blain|Southern Berlin] gallery is around the corner from Potsdamer Platz, a place that is still a mystery to me. In the first two pictures in the exhibition you can see its transformation. They show Potsdamer Platz as a junkyard. For a long while it was just that; pieces of the Berlin Wall and leftover trucks. It didn’t belong to anybody. Then it was a huge lake, because groundwater came up during excavation. It was amazing to see the centre of the city transform from no-man’s-land to a junkyard, to a lake and now a place with high-rises and movie theatres – in 25 years.
The independent film world is shrinking fast and can only survive if a need for narrative films remains. Blockbuster cinema offers formulas; every second movie is a seventh or eighth sequel. It’s like with food: it’s a matter of what you are offered. The more you get a certain kind of food, the more you depend on it. Slow food is a luxury, fast food is not. And that’s the same with blockbuster films. They’re fast food for the eyes.”
Open since 1982, Florian is a west Berlin institution. Its Franconian cuisine – dishes such as Schweinebraten (sausages and sauerkraut) – is one draw. Another is that the unpretentious lived-in interior spaces (old carpets, an oak bar) feel like home but better. The restaurant’s name comes from Florian Geyer, a freedom fighter who led peasants during the German Peasants’ War in the early 1500s. A photograph of a young Wenders hangs on the wall.
To start: Matjes (soused herring) salad with red and yellow beetroot.
Main: Franconian pork roast with a potato dumpling and gravy.
To finish: Mousse au chocolat.
To drink: Château Lilian Ladouys, Saint-Estèphe bordeaux and water
Franconian pork roast
1kg pork neck (single piece)
200ml white wine
200ml apple juice
250ml apple vinegar
4 onions 1 bunch soup greens (carrots, parsnip and parsley)
1 sour apple
15 prunes 1 tbsp juniper berries
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp flour
- Finely chop soup greens, onions and apple, then boil in broth with other ingredients (except apple, prunes and flour). Marinate meat in broth for two days.
- Remove meat from broth and pat dry. Strain broth.
- Sear meat in hot oil. Separately, brown vegetables, stirring constantly. Pour broth back into a baking tray, add meat, cover and braise at 180C for 2 hours.
- Remove from oven; strain juices and gravy. Heat latter again, thicken with flour and reduce by half.
- Serve with baked apple slices and prunes.