On Saturday night it was my girlfriend’s birthday, and as you know Mr Goldman likes the romantic gesture, so I had to make the right choice for dinner. The occasion called for some good beef, a little bit of decadence, and the joy of people-watching, so I went for the starting point of Berlin’s elite party crowd: The Grill Royal.
If that was what I was looking for, then it soon became clear that I made the right choice. First up, the beef. As we sipped our first drinks of wine and alcohol-free beer (we turned down the suggestion of champagne or a bellini) we tried to decipher the menu, but the complicated culinary terminology was quickly too much, as was the sheer range of choice when it came to different cuts of meats and ways of preparation. We called someone over to help.
I was interested in the T-Bone (yabba, dabba, do!) but when I explained that I was not looking for a thick piece of meat and she showed me using her fingers what I was about to order my stomach revolted in advance at the thought of handling that amount of beef in one sitting. Instead, our new friend suggested either the entrecote from the USA, or the Wagyu from Australia. Now, I have heard about this Wagyu beef, and the rumours that these happy cows have an extremely controlled diet, get to listen to classical music, and have their own masseuse.
Can this be true? Indeed, our waitress told us. Yes, the cows have a very special diet, and yes they are massaged. She mentioned nothing about classical music, but then again the Australian version of these cows are perhaps bigger fans of Cold Chisel. In any case, we took her advice and ordered the cut from the States and the cut from Down Under, with some sides of grilled asparagus, sweet potato fries and some potato puree. Oh, and for a starter we ordered a KILO of prawns. It was a special occasion after all…
As we waited for our food we got into people-watching period of the evening, and in Grill Royal there was certainly a lot of interesting characters to look at, and we had a lot of fun playing the game of trying to guess people’s background and professions just by looking at them across a crowded restaurant. The place was pretty smart – a lot of suits, dinner dresses and complicated eye make-up – and the tell-tale sign of a number of older men (who ate their prawns with their fingers and by the fist-load) with their skinny younger partners (who attempted to shell their prawns with a knife and fork – 2011’s most effective dieting strategy). But this being Berlin we also spotted gay couples, some casual dressers and the odd transvestite, so the generally stiff atmosphere could never get too uncomfortable.
The KILO of prawns arrived, perfectly cooked with butter and garlic, to be delivered by service staff whose raised eyebrows suggested surprise that two delicate flowers such as ourselves were going to attempt such a pile of seafood. The prawns were out of this world, and I began to forget the slightly surreal surroundings and unlike most of my fellow diners, I did not care who was looking or what people thought of me. We stuffed ourselves silly.
After a short break it was back to the beef. Once again the meat was fantastic, and especially when it came to our Aussie Wagyu beef it was clear that this had once been a very happy, well-fed and relaxed cow. We took our time and savoured every bite – a special mention must also go to the sweet potato chips – and then headed for a post-meal cigarette in the smoking room, where we could relax surrounded by tasteful pictures of naked women that were hanging from the walls.
Back at the table we took coffee and crème brulee, and watched a woman dressing a table next to us for the next customers. Rather than clearing the crumbs, she simply threw on another table cloth to cover up the mess beneath. It seemed to me like the perfect metaphor for the unreal atmosphere and the crowd that made up the majority of our fellow diners. But the food was excellent, and it was certainly an interesting social experiment and experience so I am extremely glad we went. A word of warning though, if you want to try if for yourselves…talk to your bank manager, as it can get a little expensive. Or else find a sugar daddy; that’s what everyone else seemed to have done.