The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Special Dispatch: Bar Gagarin, East Berlin

Bar Gagarin
Knaackstr. 22/24
10405 Berlin
442 88 07

by Brad Wurst

In the intellectually demanding East Berlin district of Prenzlauerberg sits the Bar Gagarin, nestled like a discarded soviet space helmet between an aged water tower and cracked paving. Stuffed to the gills with kitschy propaganda art, this slightly bogus breakfast joint serves as an adequate meeting place for Lady Heinz Bohnen and her distant relative, Susi the beekeeper. I chaperone, as I am wont to do.

Confronted by menus dogmatically dedicated to showing the face of a dead cosmonaut on every single page, the three of us work out our orders. I am reminded of Camp David, the giddy and promiscuous hairdresser back in Ireland who would eagerly and gleefully gather this sort of colourful drabness around him as though he were wrapping himself in a glitzy bathrobe.

Scrambled eggs for me and Susi then, and a Russian dessert for the Lady. Politicised parents, with dogs and children (both leashed) surround us, invading our table with their loud chatter. They mix babies and Bakunin, and deny the outdatedness of their camel-hair coats. Almost twenty years after the fall, they still come to eat Russian food and bathe in happily unhappy nostalgia. A woman outside has a blanket brought to her, so she can sip her radioactive carrot smoothie in the cold and enjoy the dilapidated view.

Top marks on the hot chocolate, though one mark down for the condescension of the waiter, addressing me in English. Do I look English? Perhaps. Instead of answering him, I point at the menu and ruminate absently on the word 'Eier'. I am hungry.

The eggs are damp and spongy, and the bacon fried solid, but it suits my mood of cultivated depression. The ladies chatter, I do not care. Outside, a child smacks his sister across her head, and she laughs. I wish I was young enough to smack the waiter.

I steal bites from the Russian dessert, a quarky delight that outshines my unhappy egg dish. But I stand by my policy of avoiding culinary adventures for breakfast.

The food is disappointing, and so the customers are happy. All is as it should be in Prenzlauerberg.


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