"Welcome to the Holy Zenner!", chef Robert Hilges greets us with an unmistakable Berlin twang. Some may still know Haus Zenner as a beer garden and previously as a Burger King terrace. Gastronomy has existed here directly on the Spree for around 250 years. Most recently, it was typically German, typically beer garden. But for a few weeks now, a new wind has been blowing in the newly opened Biergarten Zenner under the new management of Sebastian Heil and Tony Ettelt.
Both know each other from nightlife. Now they are taking a somewhat more dignified, but certainly not quieter approach here in the Zenner. They are having the building from 1955 renovated and reconstructed in the style of socialist classicism. Just as architect Hermann Henselmann originally envisioned it. Inside, there will be more of an event space than a restaurant. Pop-up restaurants, readings and concerts are also planned. The technology will be modern, but the look will be as it was in 1955.
Various conversations with contemporary witnesses have already taken place. With former waiters, trainees and visitors. The people from Treptow who have known this place for 50 years want it to be like it used to be. Younger visitors simply want a cool place with good food and good beer. No easy task, because this is where the old and the new Berlin meet.
After all, the Zenner beer garden season got off to a promising start a few weeks ago and has been well attended so far. The huge beer garden has room for up to 2,500 guests, set around 1,500. It is still cosy here. Plenty of space in the fresh air and, of course, freshly tapped beer served for the beer garden romance on the Spree.
In order not to scare away either the old guests or the young ones, Sebastian and Tony combine tradition with modernity with their concept here. That's why not only Berlin craft beer from BRLO comes out of the barrels, but also Berliner Bürgerbräu, which has been specially relaunched by a large brewery and is only available here at Zenner vom Tank.
Meanwhile, Zenner head chef Robert Hilges ensures that the popular beer garden feast arrives in the 21st century. His culinary balancing act includes an older audience from Treptow-Köpenick, who, metaphorically speaking, don't want to have their sausage taken away from them, and a younger audience from Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, for whom it can often be vegan-vegetarian and less Königsberger Klopse. That is always a balancing act.
Hilges, who has already worked in the kitchens of the Adlon and the Ritz Carlton, manages this balancing act well. The menu includes Berlin beer garden classics: meatballs, curry sausage, organic bratwurst from Müritz pork and - of course - super crispy fries. These are also available "loaded". Loaded with all kinds of delicacies like pulled pork or German pico de gallo, that is.
Or, especially fine, with truffle pesto, garlic and parsley - our personal highlight alongside the homemade pretzel dumplings with wild mushroom sauce and the wonderful vegan fish n' chips made from deep-fried oyster mushrooms. If you eat vegetarian, Zenner is definitely the place for you, as the majority of the menu is vegetarian.
The side of the Körnervilla, which is still being renovated, is more intimate, but no less cosy. In the slightly delimited vineyard, there are palatable wines from Germany and Austria as well as crispy tarte flambée.
The Zenner seems to have arrived in the 21st century. The kitchen team is more international, and they basically look at what they can make themselves and what they can buy in without compromising on quality. The burger buns, for example, come from Bekarei, the excellent organic ice cream in the tower house from Rosa Canina. Even as a large beer garden, as the Zenner is, you can deal responsibly with resources, and that is something that is close to the hearts of the entire team.
And so, with a glass of Berliner Bürgerbräu, we look out over the Spree and the Stralau peninsula in the evening light and crunch on some more chips. Where could it be nicer right now? We can't think of anything. It's nice to have him back, the "holy" Zenner.
Translated by Alexander Brandes