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Willhelm Tell: No Schiller for the Kiez

published on 2014-03-17 by Sara
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The Schillerkiez is in constant transformation. Ever since the former airport Tempelhof was opened to the public, the adjacent quarter on the Neukölln side has been subject to change. New cafés and restaurants are testing those new grounds continuously while long-term residents are shaken up. Until only a while ago, this was their territory; gentrification is slowly seeping into every crack and corner.

This is not to be blamed on the shops opening up on the long-forgotten turf next to the field. After all, where there’s a market, there’s demand. The first bar-café, burger diner and bakery that settled into the Kiez were all founded by the same witty business group. Because of its aggressive settlement, nice interior and, for lack of better description, hipster-ish patrons, the Schiller conglomerate was consequently “bombed” with red paint by left anti-gentrification activists shortly after opening.

But the people of the Schiller Bar, Schiller Burger and Schiller Bakery weren’t giving up on their spot. Instead, they built a little Kiez empire which has been extended to include its newest addition “Wilhelm Tell”. Wilhelm Tell was one of Schillers brightest characters. Now it’s a Bourgeois German restaurant in the middle of Neukölln.

We’ve been big fans of the Schiller Burger so far (especially the sweet potato fries with the garlic dip – you have to try those!), so we thought it was only right to try the cozy new restaurant that was basically built into the existing Schiller Bar.

Wilhelm Tell promises sophisticated German meals with a twist at medium prices (around 13 to 20 Euro for the mains). My starting chestnut soup with duck was fairly nice; Nicos “Hauptstadt Tapas” (Bulette, Currywurst and Sülze) weren’t. Although our overly enthusiastic waiter stressed on the fact that everything, from the bread to the sauces, was homemade, we were surprised by the lack of taste. Unfortunately, the mains didn’t convince us either. The Wiener Schnitzel was decent enough, but it wasn’t the best I ever had. The steak, with beans, bacon and potatoes on the side, was mediocre at best. The dessert (poppyseed cream and orange sorbet) was really good, though, so credit where credit is due. We tried what our waiter enthusiastically kept recommending us, and although we are rarely snobbish about food, the whole visit turned into an experience of discomfort.

Wilhelm Tell has a weekly changing menu, so it would only be fair to give it another shot. And we do ask our readers to find out for themselves what it’s like and share their thoughts in the comments. But food is only part of a wholesome dining-out experience. The Schiller dynasty is trying a bit too hard to achieve a certain effect of high-class extravaganza while being extremely out of place. It wouldn’t bother me if it weren’t for the setting of their restaurant. Had it been just another place in Mitte, I would probably forget about it. But being the first of its kind in the Schillerkiez, they’d have to try a lot harder to justify the prices they’re demanding. The numbers on the menu seem to reflect their goals rather than their actual status. The waiter was conceited and annoying, and the atmosphere of the restaurant was overtly constructed without taking its surroundings into consideration. Basically, I had no expectations and yet I was disappointed.

Right now it feels as if the restaurant is a desperate attempt to create a market that hasn’t existed in the Kiez so far. The guests we saw aren’t business men or women, they’re mamas and papas with their strollers and old high school buddies. The concept feels displaced, especially when they’re aiming so high in expectations and prices. The ambivalence of this impression left a sour aftertaste. All the carefully constructed interior design and the frenetic service seem wrong if they can’t be backed up by the product.

The Schillerburger seems much more in line with the natural growth of the Kiez. And remember: the sweet potatoe fries are really, really good.

Full disclosure: Usually we don’t include the restaurants we can’t recommend as we try to be as positive as possible. In this case, we were invited to review Wilhelm Tell (we did pay for our own meals though), but the whole topic isn’t exclusively about food. It’s also about how our quarters are changing with so much business calculation that they leave no room for organic development. 

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