The hotel mini bar was complete with cheap prosecco, bars of milka and dangerously lumpy Orangina. It was Friday night. I opted for the prosecco and knocked it back in the tub. I was on my ‘long weekend away’ and I smiled gleefully to be away from the smog. I was in tow with my leggy blonde pal, two media mongrels who couldn’t really afford to be away, but we intended to drink to forget our heightened singlehood. I had never been to Berlin – I naturally preferred studying rocks to Hitler and my geography teacher was a good-looking chap who had an infectious chuckle and an excellent tie collection. My memories were of potholes, glacier formations and colouring in the outlines of the tatty shops located in my sad and boring local town. I got an A+ for my GCSE colouring in – but my history knowledge was sparse. I held dear my trip to Warwick Castle and tea staining a scroll, whilst the rest of my year group was totally enraptured by Stalin, socialism and East Berlin. I watched videos on coastal erosion and learned that Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, was a bloody cold place to live. I thought now was the perfect time to stare intently at the remains of the wall, take a selfie at the Brandenburg Gate and try my luck at wooing a German. After painting our faces with a shiny European confidence, we left Alexanderplatz behind and headed to its glitzier neighbour, Potsdamer Platz. By now, my one tumbler worth of prosecco was wearing off and I was hungrier than an Argentinian ranch horse. What idiots don’t book a restaurant in a city they barely know? Oh but of course, why have the contrived and predictable when you can have the distressed and the desperate? All we had had was Pret’s idea of a breakfast egg and sausage muffin – it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. When you’re chomping down lukewarm meat in Heathrow, sharing a table with strangers seems perfectly natural and you’re on holiday so the price becomes irrelevant, as does your own personal hygiene. I get the fear when I’ve reached the other end of how many public toilets I have visited in the past 24hours – it makes my daily commute seem somewhat organic.
We both piled out of the tube at Stadtmitte, still smug about the freebie jug of red at dinner and feeling justified because the steak had been over rested and it was still mooing a fraction. Then we found Newton Bar and our evening really began. It was smaller than the worldwide web made it out to be but intriguing nevertheless. The barman looked like he was on a gap year from a Shoreditch distillery, so I felt at home. The bar was ablaze with locals. Chief barman passed us a menu within seconds, thumbs up – this was a good start. I then clocked the gin offering, another smile to the barman; he had a good head of hair too. I ordered a Bombay Collins and, my God, Mr Twinkly Eye was generous with the good stuff. It was sublime. The blonde went for rum and we stood soaking up the bizarre surroundings and prowling for friendly, bearded men. Nude women in heels dressed the walls in black and white, a wallpaper of femininity. It was great. Another gulp and now we searched for somewhere for our travel bums to rest. Clearly this was a place to have a plan. Locals loitered and then pounced on the available leather. Red tub chairs sat snug around circular dark wood and foreign faces were hazy in the candlelight.
We dived for an available table and became restless in search of pointless chatter and a desperate flirt, my left rib recovering from a small prod in the back by the stroppy waitress; apparently we were in the ‘incoming’ end of the bar. I smiled through pursed lips and watched one Austrian over her shoulder latching onto every word of an excitable Brit. The champagne Bellini cocktails were sweet pink and the tequila was mandatory. I had three. No one seemed to leave once they were in. We planned our getaway before the leather tubs took us for the night. Then, quite unexpectedly, four volatile Norwegians strolled our way. The next morning, I recalled talking opera with Henrick and an unannounced Austrian was latching onto my every word. Except it was every lyric as I shamefully sung Edelweiss into his bemused eyes.
Newton Bar – I’ll be surprised if you just stay for one … http://www.newton-bar.de
Tourist notes – Close to Leipziger
Strasse and Checkpoint Charlie
The naked ladies? Homage to iconoclastic fashion photographer Helmut Newton
Drink of choice? Keep it real – martinis or a good single malt whisky. To be fair – it’s all pretty good. View Berlin from the heated terrace with a view onto Gendarmenmarkt.