Your past doesn’t need to define your present, but it does make you who you are today. Berlin is a city that lives by this principle. It has become a magnet for individuals from around the world who want to create something new. Allan Bourbon is one of those exceptional individuals. A French national with strong Australian roots is the founder of Allan’s Breakfast Club and Wine Bar (ABC), one of the most exciting brunch and wine spots in Berlin! Time to say G’day to Rosé.
ABC opened its doors in the winter of 2015. Located on Rykestraße, a charming street in the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood. The restaurant has become of one of the hottest destinations in Berlin for a “proper” brunch. Working in hospitality runs in Allan’s blood. His mother owned and ran various restaurants while he was growing up in Paris and he tells us with a huge smile,
By the time Allan hit 20, he was a seasoned hospitality professional. With an itch to see a bit more of the world, he made his way to Australia. He found himself working at restaurants again across various roles and even had a stint as a sommelier.
Berlin happened because after 18 years, he started to get bored of Sydney. He always had aspirations of opening his own wine bar, but this never came about, so he was ready for a change. With his girlfriend’s family living in Germany, Berlin seemed like a good place to call home.
During his first three years in Berlin, he worked at various restaurants including the Grill Royal, the upscale steakhouse, with a celebrity clientele. His last role before opening ABC was managing the now closed, Melbourne Canteen. His nostalgia for Australia was the driving factor for taking the job. Everything about the place was so familiar. From the service and menu, was exactly like a café in Australia.
In less than 6 months he turned Melbourne Canteen into a well-oiled machine. He improved the quality of food and the restaurant was thriving. Due to creative disagreements, Allan left Melbourne Canteen. In a lot of ways this was a blessing in disguise. His dream to start his own place started to become a reality.
On his arrival in Berlin he noticed that there weren’t many brunch options available. Allan describes the traditional brunch in Berlin as,
As a result starting a brunch restaurant seemed like the best fit. It was one thing he could never imagine doing in Australia. The quality and diversity of brunch options are incredible. Allan tells us,
Allan currently gets his coffee from Passenger Coffee, a small roastery based in Alt Treptow, Berlin. Their signature blend is made up of 100% Arabica coffees from South/Central America and Asia.
The one thing that Allan does not miss about Australia is the level of customisation in an order. Coffee for example, a customer can ask for various portions of milk and roasted beans. For which Allan says, “It can drive you fucking crazy!” But you have to do it because that is what the customer wants. So in many ways he enjoys the simplicity of Berlin, where he can concentrate on a few dishes done well!
As result Allan’s menu consists of 10-13 dishes. Above all, this is an authentic Australian brunch menu. It is also a personal selection of his favourite brunch dishes from his time in Sydney. There are a few of dishes that are an ode to his own life.
The Chakchouka is on the menu thanks to Eva, Allan’s girlfriend. Eva loves Chakchouka and especially from her favourite place in Sydney. Allan, the romantic that he is, got the recipe and replicated the dish. The dish usually has a 9 hour prep time. So you know it is love, for the amount of hours Allan puts into it to make sure it’s exactly how Eva likes it. For this reason, the menu lists this dish as Eva’s “favourite” Chakchouka.
The cured Salmon is on the menu because it reminded Allan of his memories with Eva on their weekly beach retreat, back in Australia. The salmon is cured for four days with beetroot, vodka, dill, sugar and salt. The beetroot is what gives it that brilliant red colour. The dish used to be served on top of a New York style poppy seed bagel but due to staffing issues at the baker, the bagel had to be scrapped. I was lucky enough to have one before it went off the menu and it was simply delicious. I hope they are able to get it back in the future!
The new incarnation of cured salmon is now served on a potato waffle, with buttermilk crème fraîche. Allan has kept the similar ingredients with rose peppers and avocado, to pay homage to the bagel version. I had mine with a side of poached egg for an added level of comfort. The potato base is made up a of variety of ingredients such as grana padano, mozzarella, chilli and super starchy potatoes. It provides the right balance of carbs to the freshness of the greens, capers and salmon. It is the perfect summer hangover dish!
The one dish I cannot stop thinking about is the Portobello mushroom on toasted brioche. Along with sautéed spinach with a poached egg placed on top and blanketed with Béarnaise sauce. This is the ultimate in indulgence and comfort food! The béarnaise is executed to perfection and is buttery, fluffy and is flat out tasty.
One of the new dishes on the menu is the baked French Toast with vanilla mascarpone, seasonal fruit and matcha meringue. The fresh toast is fluffy and dense at the same time. The natural sweetness of the berries, combined with the tartness of the meringue and creaminess of mascarpone, is divine. This dish is pure indulgence made in a simple and beautiful way.
The key to Allan’s food is his ability to pick the best ingredients. He is always willing to test boundaries, to give his customers the best value for their meal. This is something I admire about the guy! He stays true to his principals and only serves the best possible version of his food. He is very blunt about it,
He sources only free-range eggs from local farms. He gets his olive oil and Parma ham from Italy while the avocado is sourced from Peru. The sourdough bread comes from Sironi, the famous bakery located in Markethalle 9. The rest of his carb delights come from legendary Bekarei. All his ingredients are sourced from the people who know how to do it best.
One thing that most people do not know about ABC is that they do not have a fully equipped kitchen. There is no exhaust, which means they cannot use a pan. This to me makes the food stand out even more. Allan has had to be creative and get around the limited capabilities of the kitchen, while still creating spectacular food. If you have tried his French toast, you would not be able to tell this was not done on a pan. The entire brunch menu is a tour de force.
During the first couple of months of opening, there was trepidation from the locals. They saw a foreign guy with the baseball cap, invading their neighbourhood. In a short period of time Allan has been able to win a lot of the locals over with his effortless charisma.
Today his customers are 75 percent German and local. Some of his regulars come twice a week. This is something that gives Allan a strong sense of pride, as he never expected to have such a strong local following.
This is because the food is exceptional and people love the experience. Allan describes it in straightforward way,
On a typical Sunday, his customers alter as the day progresses. At 10 a.m., kids come with their mums. At noon the local brunch crowd starts coming in. Post 4 p.m. the Berghain crowd comes in for an after-party Bloody Mary. The sign accurately points out that the Bloody Mary is “probably” is one of the best you can get in Berlin!
To give you an idea of how it’s popularity, in a week, ABC goes through 800 – 900 eggs, 250 avocados and 18 cured salmons.
Another key element to Allan’s success is his staff. He is very particular about who he hires and swears by 3 rules:
1) They have to have previous experience working in hospitality
2) They have to be able to carry 3 plates
3) They need to know what role they want to focus on
Once your hired and can deliver, you are part of the family and Allan will always have your back!
At 6 p.m. on most days ABC turns into a wine bar, serving a selection of French wines. The wines are from small wineries and he buys only from people that share his values.
His primary focus is on Rosé from Provence. Similar to his approach to his menu, he focuses on Rosé is because he loves Rosé! As Allan describes it:
There are currently six Provence style Rosés on offer. There are no other cafes in Berlin that offers such an eclectic variety. Bodvar will stay consistently on the menu but the rest Allan tries to rotate, whenever it is possible, through his local suppliers at L’Épicerie. I was recently there and can attest for the summer, there are very few things as refreshing as an ice cold Rosé!
This is the ultimate vibe Allan goes for at ABC, it is Sydney brunch on the French Riviera! The awnings with yellow stripes are reminiscent of the ones seen in the South of France and the inside feels Australian with the images of surfers on the wall. Both locations fit in with Allan’s personality and the dichotomy of his world.
Recently Allan became a proud father of twins. This has meant his life revolves around ABC and his family. He does however, have huge ambitions to bring more of Australia to Berlin. As soon as his kids are a bit older, he will be ready to take on new challenges. We are excited for the future and happy to have him as one of the beacons for brunch in Berlin.
TookTook Stories covers the people behind the most exciting restaurants, bars and hotels from around the world. Running a restaurant or working in hospitality is incredibly hard. It takes more than a few visits to really be able to judge a quality of the experience. This is the reason why this is not a review. We only cover places we admire, with the focus to learn more about the background of the individuals, their work and what drives them.