Stephen McCusker calls Berlin D2 a “nice little shop”.
That’s handy. Because since McCusker, the manager and “energy inducer” took over the place about nine weeks ago, it’s become way more than a cafe.
Sure, at 3 pm, Berlin is a cafe serving good coffee and the bar top is covered in muffins and sandwiches. But later, you can order bratwurst at Berlin the restaurant. Even later, the lights are turned down and the music is turned up for Berlin the bar. And on some days, you can even take part at Berlin the cultural centre.
“We’re not trying to be anything specific,” says McCusker with a shrug. “It’s growing organically.”
Moving on from Electro
The original concept for Berlin D2, thought up by Dan Watson and passed onto McCusker, sprouted from an interest in the electro music scene in Berlin.
“[Dan] did all the hard work. He built the whole place with his own hands,” McCusker said waving his arms around to point to the wooden wall panels and orange turf below our table.
“It is a 1980s Berlin warehouse kind of look, when they were habitating the old buildings. You basically went in and it was a city within a city,” he said.
While they’ve been toned down to open up the place to a wider range of tastes, McCusker and Watson haven’t completely abandoned their electro roots.
“The electro scene can be a bit bedroom nerdy sometimes – sometimes you just want to have some fun,” McCusker said. “We do a night for the electro guys and they all gather and do their thing, they listen to their bleeps and everyone is happy.”
Dubliners are invited to come listen to music and to come make music. The decks are always on and anyone with a bag of records is welcome to jump up and have a go. If you’re horrible, they’ll tell you to stop, but if you’re brilliant they’ll invite you back.
The Niche: Fun and a Warm Welcome
If electro isn’t your thing, though, Berlin D2 now caters to, well, just about everybody. Themed nights so far have ranged from David Hasselhoff to raclette, a cheesy French winter dish.
“Not to say we are jacks of all trades and masters of none, but we’re masters of making fun and making people feel welcome,” said McCusker.
There is a rule at Berlin that has become a game amongst the staff; the game is called “magic carpet”. The magic carpet is a faded oriental red and blue rug by the front door and the rule is that anyone who walks through the door must have been greeted before they move off the carpet.
“Berlin is all about having fun and community,” said Poppy Copeland, who moved to Dublin from Kerry and has been working at Berlin for the last three months. “The staff and customers are all buddies, it feels like a sitting room.”
Turning the tables around 90 degrees is, according to McCusker, the main change Berlin has seen since he took over. The tables run parallel to the bar and span the length of the room, with benches on each side.
“The benches are key,” said Kevin Douglas, a regular coffee drinker there and now buddy of the bar staff. “They mean you can sit together talk to random people.”
French Cheese and Juggling Elephants
Berlin D2 is itself shaped by those who drop in. “Someone comes in and goes: ‘I’ve a really good idea, I want to do a night and it’s going to be . . . juggling elephants’,” mused McCusker. “I would say, ‘If you can do it and it’s fun and safe then do. This is an open space.’”
No one has tried to juggle elephants yet, but Jozef Bielik runs a raclette night on Wednesdays.
Raclette is known to the French and Swiss as a warming winter dish with meat, potatoes and the namesake cheese: raclette. A special grill is the centre piece at a raclette dinner table, and diners melt cheese over pieces of meat and vegetables.
“Cheese and salami, who doesn’t like cheese and salami?” says Bielik, who is originally from Slovakia and has been all around Europe trying out different foods and businesses.
A big supporter of the raclette night is Leonard, Bielik’s five-year-old son. He zooms around on a scooter and occasionally stops to listen. Shy, he didn’t speak much but nodded enthusiastically. “He is like a small French you know, he’s all about cheese,” said Bielik.
Raclette is sociable food. The grill is built for eight people so some parties end up sharing. “It is funny to see. When it is busy you can mix people, so two people and two people or four people and four people and, before you know it, they are talking,” said Bielik. “We’re trying to mingle the people.”
Raclette night at Berlin D2 on Coppinger Row runs each Wednesday from 5.30pm until close, although it’s advised to go before 10pm to avoid missing out. One serving is €20, for 10 types of charcuterie, potatoes, vegetables and a lot of cheese.