There's something about courtyard restaurants that always feel right - like you really couldn't have picked a better spot to spend an evening and there really isn't anywhere else you would rather be.
It's strange that the two most recent times I have felt this way have been in courtyard restaurants in Germany - last summer tucked into the handkerchief-sized backyard of Hamburg's Messe restaurant, dining on plump scallops and crisp Riesling and this year cosying into a corner of The Casual - the little cousin of Cinco, the much more well known (and Michelin-starred) outpost of Catalan chef Paco Pérez at the gorgeous Das Stue in Berlin.
With its whimsical curvy chairs and lush location right next to Berlin Zoo and Berlin's famous TierGarten (if you are lucky you may even spot an ostrich or two, they live in the enclosure right next door), The Casual proved a fantastic spot to swap a hearty German meal for the more nuanced flavours of the Mediterranean and Catalonia - and the beer for a fantastic line-up of expertly mixed cocktails from the Stue Bar next door.
We started off with a taste of the tapas menu - three bold flavours perfectly married in a dish of anchovies with mato and truffle emulsion, followed by meaty chunks of octopus served with crispy-skinned oven potatoes and a spicy mayonnaise sauce.
Next came one of my favourite - and probably most unusual - dishes among my culinary jaunts in Berlin, a full and tart tomato and bread salmorejo lavishly lashed with olive oil and lifted with cool cucumber ice cream, a sliver of quail egg and earthy jamon iberico - a taste of Southern Spain brought alive right in the heart of the German capital.
For mains, a buttery soft wagyu short rib assado with chimichuri sauce delivered on every promise while desserts were whimsical and refreshing - especially the airy coconut foam, tarragon granita and pineapple ice cream served with a star anise flan.
The sense of whimsy continues when stepping through to the Stue Bar, with its B&W silent movies playing in the background, butterscotch, terracotta and teal seats, ghostly wire frame giraffes and gorillas peeping out from various corners of the room and gorgeous leather animal stools that I would love to have in my own living room (perhaps a nod to the hotel's zoo-side location?).
The Bar serves an interesting selection of 20s and 30s-inspired cocktails (an absinthe cocktail seemed most appropriate for the setting) and plays live music on the weekends. Although we turned up on a quiet Monday night it seemed like the place I would make a regular haunt if I lived in Berlin, with staff who were knowledgeable and treaded the fine line of always being available when you needed them and non-intrusive the rest of the time.
The way in which The Casual and the Stue Bar seem confidently quirky yet very comfortable in their own skins translates throughout the hotel - from the open-jawed croc head that greets you on arrival to the strong splashes of colour in the form of teal pillows and raspberry throws on your bed.
Rooms at Das Stue are sleek and sexy - all discreet sliding doors, soft touch cupboards and Apple monitors that double up as your TV - and my room had a fantastic balcony (complete with its own fake crow) from which to soak in the summer rays.
My favourite part was the sun filled white bathroom, which came complete with a roomy glass shower stall, free-standing bath tub and plenty of Molton Brown goodies.
Das Stue - which means Living Room in Danish - is housed in the old Danish Embassy whose stately proportions and impressive double staircase gives the hotel fantastic arrival appeal.
The hotel has an in-house spa and indoor pool, leading off from the ground floor, and serves up a fantastic spread for breakfast - where else but in the courtyard? I really can't think of a better way to start the day :)
Disclaimer: The accommodation and meal at Das Stue was provided as part of a hosted stay, but all opinions are my own. I would definitely say for anyone looking for a boldly stylish bolt-hole the next time they are in Berlin, Das Stue should easily be at the top of that list.
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