“ Indian restaurant and cocktail bar in Berlin. „
Bergmanstrasse in Berlin's vibrant Kreuzberg district offers an exciting and eclectic mix of ethnic restaurants and original boutiques and stores. We arrived there early on a Saturday evening having completed a self guided walking tour which we knew we'd end in Kreuzberg and though we didn't have a specific restaurant in mind, we knew there would be plenty to choose from.
We chose Swera, an Indian restaurant, based partly on the delicious aromas emanating from the kitchens which we passed in the back street, and partly because we had stopped to look at the cocktail offer posted outside and were lured in by one of the waiters. Since there are so many competing restaurants in the area some of them do encourage their staff to go out and get the business, the same way as they might in busy holiday resorts. This wasn't a hard sell, though, and we found all the staff we engaged with in the restaurant to be utterly charming without being too slick.
I wondered why there were so many tables outside the restaurant; it was December and it was cold. I understand that smokers go outside but there were no heaters so no excuse to linger outside any longer than absolutely necessary. In summer however I imagine it would be very pleasant to eat out and watch Bergmanstrasse life pass by.
The dining area is spread over several floors and, while the restaurant is large, it is arranged in such a way as to break up the spaces into smaller, more friendly, clusters of tables. The place is smart and contemporary but not overly formal. As we had turned up without a reservation on a Saturday night I can't really complain too much about being given a table near the kitchen door but with hindsight I might have asked if there might have been an alternative table if we'd been willing to wait a little while. There was music playing but it wasn't too loud and there was a general easy going Saturday night ambience. The service was friendly and fast though we didn't feel at all rushed which sometimes happens you're squeezed in without a booking.
The menu we were given was in German only but we were offered an English version which we declined. The menu isn't vast but there were enough curries of differing heat strengths among the meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian sections to give a reasonable selection. In contrast to most Indian restaurants in the UK each different dish was not listed as being available for meat, fish, etc but I imagine that you could request any sauce in any combination and also ask for any dish to be made spicier according to your own taste.
While Himself stuck with beer I chose a mojito from the (more limited) happy hour cocktails list (each priced at Euro4.50, Euro2 cheaper than the price outside of Happy Hour). A mojito may not be very Indian but it was what I fancied and it was a good mojito and they hadn't skimped on the mint. I also ordered a mango lassi to go with my food but was disappointed as this tasted like a pre-made version and I do like to be served a freshly homemade lassi.
Feeling rather virtuous we skipped starters and went straight for the mains: 'gosht palak' (mutton with spinach, Euro11.90) for me and 'jhinga masala' (king prawn cooked with garlic, ginger and 'exotic spices', Euro13.90) for Himself. At Swera all mains (except biryani) come with basmati rice and a salad which makes the dishes good value. We also added a naan bread (Euro2.50).
My palak dish looked appetising: the sauce was a vibrant green and was garnished with fresh coriander and slivers of ginger which added a zingy freshness to the dish. The mutton was tender and there was plenty of it among the tasty sauce. Himself had asked for his dish to be served extra hot and wasn't disappointed; while it was hot, however, there was no compromise on flavour and the individual spices, such as warm cumin, could still be picked up. The prawn count was OK but could have been better.
The sides of rice and bread were perfectly fine but we both thought the salad which comprised salad leaves and chicory, olives, tomatoes and slices of orange with a light vinaigrette was a little bit different and was a good palate cleanser.
This place is a lot more affordable than it looks from outside and the inclusion of rice and the salad made the main courses very good value. The prices were comparable with Indian restaurants in the UK outside London and were very good compared to London prices for a similar style restaurant. Vegetarian mains were priced at Euro8.90 while chicken mains started at Euro9.90 and a simple fish curry was priced at Euro9.90 too.
We came away feeling satisfied, but not uncomfortably stuffed, having enjoyed some very good food and a very pleasant evening. For service, ambience, food quality and value for money Swera really delivers. Highly recommended.
Note: there is a sister branch at Pariser Strasser 18 just off the Kurfurstendamm (nearest U-bahn Adenauerplatz)
The nearest U-bahn stations for Swera Bergmanstrasse are Platz der Luftbrucke or Gneisenaustrasse.