TookTook Eats with Allan’s Breakfast Club
Your past does not need to define your present but it does make you who you are today. Berlin is a city that lives by these principals. It has become a magnet for individuals from around the world that want to create something new. Allan Bourbon is one 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 right now! Time to say Bonjour to Flat Whites.
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. The reasons for ABC’s success is down to a simple equation, Great Food + Incredible Hospitality + Local Buy in + Good Press = New + Return Customers.
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,
“My Mama used me! And when I was 11, I was already serving a 100 people, working, the bar, cleaning plates, doing everything!”
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.
After 18 years in Sydney, he was ready for a change. With his girlfriend’s family in Germany, Berlin seemed like a good place to call home.
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 luxury 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,
“Average toast, average cheese, average ham and average juice! Everything is just average!”
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,
“It is the way of life, it’s the first thing you think about in the morning. And more often than not, it ends up being Brunch with friends, with rounds of Bloody Mary’s and Wine.”
The level of expectation from customers in Australia is also very high. Along with their deep love of coffee. This is something that is now built into Allan’s DNA and his coffee has to meet the same standards. The only way to get it right is to have Australians or staff with experience working as a Barista in Australia. There is a lot of training that goes into how Australians do the milk, grind the beans and use the machine. This is something Allan swears by and you can’t argue with him. This is happening at all the outstanding coffee places in Berlin right now. The stand outs such as Silo Coffee and The Barn, all have Australians working behind the counter.
Allan gets his coffee from Sylt, a German island in the Frisian archipelago in the North Sea. It is an Arabica, with chocolaty tones and what he describes as “loud.” It has all the right ingredients to make consistent and old school coffee, exactly the way Allan likes it.
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 Shakchouka is on the menu thanks to Eva, Allan’s girlfriend. Eva loves Shakchouka 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” Shakchouka.
The Home Cured Salmon Bagel is on the menu because it was part of Allan and Eva’s weekly beach retreat. The salmon is cured for four days with beetroot, vodka, dill, sugar and salt. The beetroot is what gives it that brilliant red colour. You then add a toasted poppy seed bagel, avocado, olive oil and lemon. You can total see the passion in the way Allan describes it, “It is simple! It is beautiful!” We were lucky to have caught a glimpse of it today, because it is very popular and runs out quickly!
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.
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,
“If you want to give good food, you have to buy good ingredients. These ingredients are not always going to be cheap. You have to balance your pricing with other items, to give the best possible experience.”
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 Markethallen 9. The bagel is from a bakery in the neighbourhood, made by a baker from Brooklyn. 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 was 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,
“I am the king of my castle, if you follow my rules, you will come away with an incredible experience. If you don’t follow my rules, please go away!”
On a typical Sunday, his customers alter as the day progresses. At 10 a.m., kids come with their moms. 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 get you an idea of how it’s popularity, in a week, ABC goes through 800 – 900 eggs,250 avocados and cure 18 salmons (Salmon is on the menu only a few times a week!)
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 work 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 Rose from Provence. Similar to his approach to his menu, he focuses on Rose is because he loves Rose! Allan describes it,
“You can have Rose with ice, with food, with no food, it’s dry and light. You suddenly feel like eating seafood and you are on the beach!”
This is the ultimate vibe Allan goes for at ABC, it is Sydney brunch x 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 worlds 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 a beacon for brunch in Berlin.
TookTook Eats are stories about individuals in Gastronomy, with the focus is to learn more about their background, the stories behind their businesses and what drives them.