Brasserie Colette by Tim Raue is a solid restaurant for French classics and modern variations of them. It’s also part of the Tertianum project, a premium residency complex and retirement home for the elderly. I met Steve Karlsch, culinary director of the Colette franchise, for a little chat about the restaurant and the project.
Notoriously famous for his “Berliner Schnauze”, Tim Raue isn’t exactly an underdog of Germany’s culinary scene. Even so, his young enterprise, the Brasserie Colette, somehow missed my attention when it opened in 2016. It’s not a part of town I venture to often for a good dinner (Kantstraße maybe being an exception). That’s too bad – because the French bistro-restaurant is a wonderfully casually and relaxed place for lunch and dinner in a comfortable but refined atmosphere, run by Raue’s hand-appointed culinary director Steve Karlsch. And apart from bringing the philosophy of the charming Brasserie back into the limelight, Colette is especially interesting due to its unique location: the Tertianum retirement home.
Frequented by regulars – Brasserie Colette & Tertianum
“The restaurant was part of the project from the beginning”, explains Karlsch during our lunch visit on a calm Saturday noon. We’ve arrive in a quaint side street of the Ku’damm, where a Russian delicacy store and a sleepy café seem to be the only neighbours. The restaurant does stand out with its black facade, but if you didn’t know there was a whole world (of old people) hidden behind the residential complex next to it, you would think it’s stand-alone.
Tertianum, an apartment complex project for the elderly, was founded in 2005 and is connected to Colette by a backdoor through its lobby. It’s not just a retirement home – it’s a first class housing enterprise that puts most hotels to shame. “There’s a library, a spa, and a service contract connected to the lease of the apartments – and of course, the Brasserie Colette.” The project isn’t exclusive to Berlin, as there are other dépendances of Tertianum – including franchises of the Brasserie Colette – in Munich and Konstanz as well.
Although jokes have been made about the quality and novelty of the concept (a quick Google search reveals that all local newspapers were eager to spin another joke on ‘dining with the elderly’), our host insists that it has been a rewarding challenge to create a restaurant that would appease the regulars from Tertianum as well as outside guests.
“Logistics were difficult, because we’re actually sharing a kitchen with the Tertianum canteen”, Karlsch says, “but we were also dealing with a very new situation: unlike a regular hotel-restaurant, we’re cooking every day for the same people. And they’re not just any people. There are certain things we had to learn about the diet and the comfort foods of older generations.”
Some of the Tertianum guests missed their mashed potatoes, others complained because their fake teeth didn’t go well with rice kernels. Karlsch had to adapt to his new guests by changing his ambitious culinary plans from the beginning. “We had to get to know each other and find out what works, but we’re definitely in a good place now.”
Thankfully, patrons who aren’t 60+ mustn’t fear any compromises: if you didn’t know that Colette was part of a senior residence, you wouldn’t notice from the menu’s balanced composition of French classics, the modern and sleek interior and that slight fetish for Asian flavours that Raue’s cooking is known for.
Octopus, Tomato & Crêpes
Despite his international fame, I’ve never managed to visit any of Raue’s restaurants – presumably because I don’t dine out at star-awarded restaurants as much as I would like to. Fortunately for me (and for my wallet), the Brasserie Collette is, as Karlsch emphasizes, “a restaurant for every day”, and after my visit, I can whole-heartedly agree: optics, taste and accessibility, Colette is composed to make anyone feel at home. The food is easy to understand – a good mix of French elements, more refined and perhaps even a little uplifted, but never at the loss of familiarity.
Of the dishes that we tried, my favourite was definitely the juicy and spicy grilled pulpo with topinambur from the evening menu, although the starters weren’t half bad either: The tuna tartar’s faint Sriracha component wasn’t my thing, but the sweet and tangy tomato salad with passionfruit hit the spot. Accompanied with attentive service in a relaxed environment, there is nothing to complain about at Colette.
The golden finish was delivered in form of the dessert – the Crêpes Colette – which was the perfect symbiose of sweet and salty and, obviously, the name-sake of the restaurant. “When Tim was a child, he ate his perfect Crêpes on a French beach, made by the famous Madame Colette”, Karlsch explains.
The Brasserie Colette makes for an ideal lunch stop while touring Charlottenburg, the Ku’Damm or KaDeWe on a Saturday afternoon, or for a night out with friends. While certainly not as expensive as other localities in the vicinity, Colette nestles itself in a mid- to high-range category. And for everyone who keeps asking me where to go for a “Beuster or Goldener Hahn style” dinner out in the West: here’s your answer, finally.