JW Steakhouse Berlin Review

Flanking the southwestern fringes of Potsdamer, the JW Marriott hotel honours Berlin’s famous nightlife by decorating its impressively sized hotel, almost Corbusier-like in its shape and crispness, with green slashes of vertical light. At a casual glance, it could almost be a club. Inside, however, the reception’s marble flooring which seems to extend forever dictates its 5* otherness; its slick sheen could belong to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. To the right is the hotel’s flagship restaurant, another geographical jump, this time to Texas, maybe, or New York; to an archetypal American Steakhouse.

Also long, thin, and oblong in shape, the space is filled with hearty red velvet armchairs and illuminated by art-deco mustard lighting. The black and white wallpaper consists of humourous anthropomorphic portraits with larger, coloured art portraying all things Western; bison, buffalo skulls,  herds of cows. Americana music accompanies the evening; sometimes sultry, sometimes twangy, always relaxed, never too frenetic.

We peruse the menu over a glass of Geldermann Carte Blanche, a German sparkling wine which is dry, refreshing and compelling. As soon as we’ve ordered, we’re presented with a board of five steak knives from which to choose. It’s a fun touch and makes the meal immediately unusual and interesting; interactive almost. One knife is German, two are Italian and two are French. Two have serrated blades, the rest don’t. Each has its specific use, depending on the meat chosen, whether it’s on the bone, off the bone, thicker in texture or thinner.  The French ones look like flick-knives, the German and Italian more like hunting knives. We go for a chunky Italian hunting knife and a more dainty French flick knife.

For starters, the Burrata is local, from nearby Brandenburg. It practically slouches like a relaxed cat on a floor of thinly cut and cooked carrots and chunks of pickled pear. Splashes of cranberry sauce add to an already colourful palette. Inside its firm skin is a super creamy cheese close to a thick yoghurt in texture. It has a subtle but sublime smokey aftertaste and is a constant intrigue to taste. The Caesar Salad is more adventurous than it sounds. Rather than with chunky croutons, it’s served with a wafer-thin slice of toasted bread; a culinary lattice which sets the salad’s tone. The parmesan and anchovies mix almost as a slight mayonnaise cover over the crunchy and aqueous lettuce. Strips of crispy bacon provide extra saltiness and halves of Quails’ eggs provide an extra je ne sais quoi. It’s both refreshing and vivacious.

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As well as the specifically chosen knives, we’re also given a tablet with five different vats of salt. Beyond regular, there’s black volcanic salt from Hawaii which is the most intriguing but the most subtle. There’s smoked salt which is the most flavoursome and also flower salt. When you have 745 grams of dry-aged medium rare Porterhouse steak (sirloin in the UK), bursting with succulence, flavour, and an edge of fat the size of a 50-cent coin, it’s debatable if you really need the salt but it’s another classy and unusual touch that continues the interactivity and intrigue.

A 2018 Spätbugunder (German Pinot Noir) from Kammerberg serves as an elegant wine companion but the steak is also served with half a head of garlic. The head is a small fist in size and comes with about 15 cloves. Fail to squeeze them over the steak at your peril. They ooze out like a viscous spread and perfectly complement the steak if that’s your thing. As well as crispy fries, we opt for grilled Portobello Mushrooms. Large and chunky, delicate and tasty, filling but irresistible, these are cooked in a rich sauce which has hints of soy and BBQ and a red wine base. These are great ‘steak’ options or alternatives for any vegetarian (although the menu serves a small handful of specific dishes for vegetarians).

All the meat on the JW Steakhouse menu is sourced from its partner farm, North of Berlin, in Landkreis Overhavel. There’s a large terrace outside which works perfectly for the sunnier Berlin Spring and Summer months and watch out for the outdoor grill. It’s currently used to smoke the butter accompanying the brioche rolls and the brisket, however, from Easter onwards, special events are planned around it so keep your eyes open if you’re looking for a genuine and unique Berlin BBQ experience.

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The deserts are idiosyncratic in style. The JW Steakhouse Brioche is literally a bun with dark chocolate ice cream on it; it’s a bit like a chocolate éclair without any cream to accompany it. The brioche is sweet, of course, but dry.  I found the longer I waited, the more the chocolate melted, the more it melded into an appealing and filling fudge-like substance. The Crème Brulée is also served with a scoop of ice cream on it; this time a soft nut/nougat flavour. It’s a curious choice which arguably takes from the purity of a classic dish but also works surprisingly well and fits in with the larger-than-life steakhouse.

Our waiters have been helpful and attentive throughout, with a strong understanding of the menu and especially the alcohol to accompany each course. For a final trick, we’re offered a sparkling desert wine; Moscato D’Asti Moncalvina Canelli. As to be expected, it’s sweet as a cordial but floral and tastes of bubbling elderflowers. It’s so moreish, I have to have two.

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