überlin

Portrait: Matthew Gordon, Taiko Gallery

by James Glazebrook

Matthew Gordon, Taiko Gallery, Berlin

Meet Matthew Gordon, the co-owner of Taiko Gallery, a new tattoo studio and art space on Schönleinstrasse in our beloved Graefekiez.

Originally from Sydney, Matthew first landed in Berlin two years ago, after travelling to Europe with his Taiko partner Wendy Pham. They visited fellow tattoo artist Uncle Allan in Denmark, who mentioned plans to open a German outpost, and invited the Aussies to join him. Already half a world away from home, they were unphased by the last leg of a journey to a city they’d never even planned to visit. As Matthew says of his fellow countrymen, “we’re all crazy anyway!”

Matthew Gordon art space Berlin

Moving to Berlin was just the latest in a series of risky but rewarding moves for the young artist. At 19, he quit a promising career as a 3D animator, designing levels for video games and fly-throughs of skyscrapers in Dubai, and persuaded the guy who had started covering his body with ink to train him as an apprentice. Then Gordon cut his apprenticeship short to move to Melbourne, where he opened up a private studio with Wendy.

Inspired by Grime of San Francisco’s Skull and Sword, Shige of Yellow Blaze in Yokohama and local hero Owen Williams of TAMA, Matthew started carving out a niche in the tattoo world: “I don’t look at any other work or references. I draw from my head, and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. It’s the only way to give yourself a style”. That style, which Matthew calls “open illustrated Japanese”, renders Eastern-inspired imagery in vibrant colour and (not surprisingly) perfect 3D, with dragons and snakes covered in intricate, interlocked scales that pulsate from the subject’s skin. He conservatively estimates that his forthcoming art book contains over 5,000 hand-drawn scales.

Matthew Gordon Medusa snakes sketch

The desire to be different that informs Matthew’s work is also shaping the shopfront that he single-handedly renovated from a water-damaged, nicotine-stained Fahrschule into a beautiful, white-walled, multidisciplinary space. “We’re trying to create something different, that’s not just a little hole-in-the-wall studio,” Matthew explains. Taiko Gallery  is “more about the art, and less about making a million dollars,” serving as an exhibition space for the founders’ paintings, and a venue for life drawing classes and other creative events. Above all, it is “a positive place”.

Matthew Gordon art space Berlin

Unfortunately, not everyone is pleased about the latest development of this small Kreuzberg side-street, where old school Berliner haunts like the 24-hour bar Bei Schlawinchen rub up against the internationally-owned curiosity shop The Cheese Mountain Tragedy. The subject of thoughtless protests against the perceived gentrification of long-gentrified Graefekiez, Matthew finds himself cleaning spit off the gallery’s window almost every day.

But far from feeling threatened by such low-level hostility – “I’ve got a scythe in the back; I’d like to see them try” – he has been surprised by the extent to which foreigners are tolerated, if not always embraced, in Berlin. “Most of my time is spent in my own little bubble. I feel like an alien sometimes, but that’s OK. I’m in my own little world, no one really pays attention to me, and that’s fine.”

Matthew Gordon at work tattooing

“It’s definitely opened my eyes to the way that Australians deal with foreigners. If you go to Australia, and you have trouble speaking English, it’s horrible for you. People are abused to their face, and it’s just shit. If I ever go back and see that, those racists are getting told to shut the fuck up.”

Provincial attitudes aside, Matthew is optimistic about the future of Taiko Gallery and his adopted home: “Even in the two years I’ve been here, I’ve noticed more art going on and I’ve met lots of interesting people. Berlin is a great city. It’s a good place to have a new thing, one that doesn’t really exist yet. In five years, you’ll have built a reputation, with expats and Germans alike.” Put simply: “Being able to see Berlin grow is cool.”

Matthew’s book of snake illustrations, the Compendium Vipera, is now available via Illustrated Monthly.

Taiko Gallery, Schönleinstrasse, Berlin

Taiko Gallery, Schönleinstrasse, Berlin

Tattoo ink bottles

Matthew Gordon leg tattoo

Matthew Gordon tattoo sketch skull snake

Matthew Gordon Taiko Gallery paintings

Matthew Gordon animal skull painting

Matthew Gordon painting close up

Matthew Gordon self portrait close up

Matthew Gordon, co-owner Taiko Gallery in Berlin

On the Street: The Peacock

by Zoë Noble

Berlin streetstyle of man in blue suit

Berlin streetstyle closeup of brown shoes and blue socks

Berlin streetstyle closeup of man in blue suit

Filterhouse

by James Glazebrook

coffee slogan on wall

The owners of Filterhouse have their priorities in order. By day, they serve an impressive selection of filter coffees, and by night, a full menu of gin and tonics. Replacing the reliable Café Matilda, Filterhouse is ramping up the hipsterfication of our beloved Graefekiez with cold brew and cold drip (where did summer go?) and paleo options which taste as good as real Homo sapien food. We can recommend the pancakes with blueberries, coconut, syrup and mint, the (non-paleo) roast chicken with lime and spinach pesto in coffee-encrusted bread, and the coffee… Oh, the coffee! I tried a Gichathaini from Kenya, which was like a rhubarb-y kick up my arse – and I can’t wait to try the rest of the extensive selection. If you like coffee and/or food, check out Filterhouse. If you don’t, get out now!

kaffee bar area

closeup of pancakesFilter House Chicken Sandwhichmenus in the sun green chairs in back room

Le Bon

by James Glazebrook

Graefekiez is such a small world! Le Bon was recently opened by the people behind one of our favourite local cafés, Kaffeebar, in the space once occupied by our home away from home, Hudson’s. This means that there’s yet another awesome food place in our area, run by lovely people with a passion for good food. The beautiful Le Bon has absolutely nailed the minimal, rustic aesthetic that dominates Cereal, or whatever interiors magazine you’re currently drooling over, with a culinary focus on the fundamentals to match. We’ve already sampled most of the brunch menu(!) and can happily report that everything is delicious, especially the granola pancakes and pulled pork sandwiches. Now we can’t wait to go back and try dinner!

Le Bon Cafe Logo

Le Bon Cafe Interior

Le Bon Cafe Pancakes

20140414-121706-u

Le Bon Cafe Cookies

Photos by Zoë Noble Photography

The Bird West

by James Glazebrook

The Bird West Steak

One of our first ways of bringing the überlin community to life was with our Berlin Burger Tour. The plan was to chomp our way across the city, make new friends, while at the same time settling that important question: where can you get Berlin’s best burger? It was a great idea, but we cut the tour short after just three evenings, as Zoë and myself went to The Bird – and we decided that we’d just eaten the best burgers in Berlin! The only problem? We had to go all the way up to Prenzlauer Berg to get them…

Well we have good news for all lazy burger fans who live south of Pberg – The Bird West is now open on Kottbusser Damm, on the border of Kreuzberg and Neukölln! Larger than the original American expat hangout, and much bigger, the new Bird was nonetheless packed when we first visited. Luckily, we managed to get seats at the bar, conveniently close to a broad selection of beers from the US, the rest of the world, and even back home (Brew Dog FTW). A psychic chef surprised us with what we were planning to order anyway – a succulent beast of a burger topped with bacon and cheddar (The Filthy Harry) and an immaculate fillet steak, both accompanied by a epic stacks of perfectly-crisped fries. The New York cheesecake that followed was both totally uncalled for, and an absolute treat.

If you’ve been to The Bird East, you know what to expect from their Western outpost. If you’ve never been to either location, you’ll probably feel like you’re stepping onto American soil when you walk through the door – a sensation supported by the food, the buzzing atmosphere, the excellent customer service… everything about the place. We’ll leave the investigative reporting to Stil in Berlin and declare the Bird our favourite burger in Berlin, and our favourite environment in which to enjoy it.

The Bird West Burger Filthy Harry

La Ultima Cena

by James Glazebrook

La Ultima Cena Exhibition Space Bokeh

La Ultima Cena is a special place. A taste of Mexican authenticity in a city dominated by Tex Mex joints, a shining cultural light glowing among the sex shops and Möbel sellers of Urbanstrasse, a bar/eatery/exhibition space/venue for experimental, industrial music – there’s simply nothing else like it in Berlin.

The founders of La Ultima Cena, meaning “The Last Supper”, have taken inspiration from both the Catholic symbolism and the street life of their home countries of Mexico and Spain, and created a totally unique space. In the front room, decorated in gold and concrete and traditional plastic tablecloths, the food is free – paid for, and washed down with, Corona and tequila, mescal and killer black shots with chillies in. Behind this, a cluster of exhibition spaces show video art and darkly ritual installations, and host the odd musical performance.

La Ultima Cena is an edgy, night-or-day night alternative to the more chilled out spots in neighbouring Graefekiez. We can’t wait to take visitors there in summer to show just how weird and wonderful Berlin can be. ¡Salud!

La Ultima Cena Interior

La Ultima Cena Taco

La Ultima Cena Food Closeup

La Ultima Cena Bottles on Shelves

La Ultima Cena Chili Shots

La Ultima Cena Exhibition Space

Photos by Zoë Noble Photography

Marqués Rene Maschkiwitz

by James Glazebrook

Marques restaurant menu

There are so many good places to eat and drink in Graefekiez that if we ever tried to feature them all, before we were finished, a bunch of new ones would have opened up around them. We walked passed Marqués Rene Maschkiwitz many times, mistaking its crisp tableware and affluent-looking guests for an air of stuffiness. For sure, the food isn’t cheap, but it is far from old-fashioned – the restaurant’s refreshing take on Mediterranean adds popcorn to pork and curry paste to pasta. The combinations are better than they sound, honest (just check out Zoë’s beautiful photos!), especially when washed down with the bar’s specialty cocktails – we enjoyed a gorgeous Melon Ball. Add this one to your list of places to eat at when the parents are visiting… and paying 😉

Marques restaurant melon cocktail Marques restaurant flowers Marques restaurant curry Marques restaurant paella close up Marques restaurant popcorn pork Marques restaurant chocolate cake Marques restaurant reserved sign

Marqués Rene Maschkiwitz, Graefestraße 92, 10967 Berlin.

(Photos by Zoë Noble Photography)