Let's be honest, "gourmet" and "vegan" aren't words you see together all that often. So when I stumbled across Lucky Leek, while browsing for veggie places in Berlin, I was intrigued. Given the universally glowing reviews, I didn't really think I'd be able to get a table at short notice, but I gave it a try and thankfully they could fit me in for an early dinner.
The outside seating was popular, but it was a bit warm for me, so I went for a cooler table inside. The decor was light and simple, with a bit of fun in the form of silhouette murals, and the whole place had a relaxed but elegant vibe. I don't usually make a habit of eating alone in sophisticated restaurants, generally preferring to grab a snack that I can enjoy while keeping myself company with the fictional characters who live inside my Kindle, but for this evening I decided to leave the book at home and just concentrate on the food. I felt perfectly comfortable eating here by myself, and the staff were friendly but not at all pushy.
The first thing I should say is that it felt like a lot of choice, even though there were only four or five options for each course (and only two desserts). This is, after all, more options than most restaurants have for vegetarians (let alone vegans). I would have liked to try everything - it all sounded divine, and if I'd been in Berlin for longer, I would certainly have gone back. There was a bread basket with a light pate (butterbean, I think) to nibble while I made my decision - not that I ever make a real decision until the moment a waiter appears to take my order. The drinks menu was also imaginative, with various unusual juices and five different flavours of homemade lemonade. I had the lime & ginger soda, which was refreshing and had a great kick to it.
For my starter, I ordered the mushroom consommé from the specials menu, which came with wontons (stuffed with tofu, herbs, and chilli), and potato croutons (basically tiny roast potatoes). This had a rich, savoury flavour, but was still light enough that I could easily have eaten twice as much. I'm a lover of wantons almost any which way, and these ones were excellent, somehow managing to be fiery and delicate at the same time.
After much internal debate, I went for the spinach dumplings as my main course, even though it surprised me to see dumplings presented as a main item rather than an accompaniment to soup or casserole. The dumplings themselves were baked with something like couscous or polenta, which gave a more interesting texture than plain flour would have done. The spinach was a nice touch, which I'll have to remember next time I make dumplings.
The three dumplings were topped with a generous helping of wilted rocket, roasted squash, and crunchy walnuts, with a side of creamy pepper sauce, all of which came together into a perfect balance of flavours and textures. The garnish was pea sprouts (naturally: every fashionable plate is wearing them), basil, and strands of raw saffron. The latter had an incredibly strong flavour, which surprised me as I've always found it to be quite a delicate taste when I use it in cooking.
Of the two desserts, it was immediately obvious which one I would choose, because of the magic word marzipan. In fact, this was advertised as a "marzipan-currant-tartlette"... something lost in translation, I think, because I wouldn't call this stack anything to do with a tartlet. There were two layers of cake, sandwiching a layer of marzipan, and then topped with blackcurrant coulis and blackcurrant cream. The whole thing was enclosed in a chocolate cage, and topped with a fruit crisp, a sprig of mint, and a tiny chocolate truffle which exploded into liquid chocolate in the mouth.
This was served with espresso sorbet, fresh fruit, mango coulis, and a little marzipan chocolate triangle. The espresso sorbet was the only less-than-perfect element, being a little on the watery side. I saved the wonderful chocolate triangle, with its layers of marzipan and chocolate cream, until my final mouthful - an impressive end to an incredible meal.
Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Lucky Leek for anyone who enjoys imaginative food, beautifully prepared. That it was all vegan was an added bonus, but don't let it put you off if you're not! At just shy of €30 for three courses, a soft drink, and coffee, I think it was excellent value, too.