Matt Nimmo on Berlin's complex bar scene
Bartender and restaurant manager Matt Nimmo, furthermore my neighbour and previous colleague, is an Australian expat who's been working in the Berlin gastronomy-scene for almost five years now. I met him for a coffee and a chat about what it is, really, that makes the Berlin bar-scene such a vibrant industry to be part of as we enter into the new decade.
How would you describe the bar scene of Berlin year 2020?
— Berlin is an 'odd one'. Just by looking at the town's history, it is not difficult to understand that the culinary situation of the day is also quite fragmented. There is a "poor aber sexi" (poor but sexy) mentality that advocates quantity over quality. You hang in kneipes (neighborhood/dive bars) where you can smoke inside and where the beer must not exceed a cost over 3,50€. The bar scene in the west, however, is progressive and the clientele are prepared to spend money on elegant craftsmanship, but Berliners generally have an attitude that says "is it not good is wrong" and even when I was bar manager at Soho House we had many guests who didn't dare to order a drink that had balsamic vinegar in it because they have never seen it before, or tasted it for that matter. In Australia we have no food history of our own but we experiment with kitchens from all over the world, whereas here things should be in a certain way because it has always been so. However, the contradiction is that we still see that the East meets the West more and more. Now the culinary wall is falling and that's why I'm here. A lot is happening in gastronomic field of this city right now.
And why do you think that is?
— To a large extent, Berlin is so international. The city has gone from being underground to Instagram friendly. Many talented bartenders all over the world have settled here and they definitely leave a mark on what's is now being offered, while many Germans and Berliners with strong passion have finally succeeded in breaking the old culture's ideas of what gastronomy is and moving from the practical mentality to a more advanced one.
And what's your opinion on this development?
— I'm happy to be a part of it but it has to happen a little under cover. As soon as a place gets big on social media, tourists take over at the expense of the "Berlin" neighborhood atmosphere, which all of us who live and live here love..
I thank Matt for his time and he hurries off to to his shift at Gazzo — the Italian pizzeria on Hobrechtstraße 57 where he is the GM (general manager). But I had to ask him one last question before taking off:
So tell us, what do you drink when off-duty?
— Pilsner. I work with flavours all day and night so at the end of a shift or on a day off I just want a regular pilsner. Preferably a "boilermaker" (a beer and a shot of hard liquor).
And I too sign under to that — that's what I consume when I'm off work.