There are at least two Berlins. One of them that we’d spent a couple of days walking around: Historic Berlin; museums and monuments to events of the last century. The Berlin of the Dead. But the Berlin of the Living is clustered around the Zoo of all places – a vibrant and lively city centre revolving around the Bikini – a shopping centre so named because the upper and lower balconies resemble the famous swimwear. And right in the centre of this urban centre is the 25hours Hotel Bikini Berlin.
You begin to suspect there’s something special about the Bikini from the atrium where you catch the lifts. Bicycles hanging from the ceiling compete for attention with a Trabant thats been converted into a planter box, but as soon as you step into the lift heading for reception, that’s the clue to throw out expectations and just enjoy the experience.
First of all the lift is very dark (a little embarrassing as we almost walk into someone getting off). Second of all there’s funky animations playing on the screens as you ascend – think contemporary Salvador Dali and you won’t be too far off the style.
As you get off the lift and approach the reception area you notice little things – hammocks and seats overlooking the zoo so you can chill and relax while reading a book. Workspaces with computers so you can check emails, a high chair/life guard chair so that you can… yeah I never figure that one out, but it’s a funky design-y feature. This is a hotel which has decided the normal is mundane and have added design twists to everything, in the name of a better and more memorable experience.
The hotel also includes a sauna and a top floor bar (Monkey Bar) and restaurant (Neni), which we visit for dinner and breakfast.
When we head to our room there’s a continual wow factor as we discover another element or realise the full impact of what we’ve seen. As you come out of the lift on your room’s floor you see a mountain bike bolted to the wall above the stairs. Then you turn to enter the corridor to your room and there are neon signs with the room numbers outside every room.
You enter the room – we’re lucky enough to enjoy a ‘Jungle Room’ – and floor to ceiling windows, which encompass one end of the room, allow you a panoramic zoo view. The double glazing works really well and it’s only when we open the window that we can hear the hooting of the monkeys (or it might have been the laughing of the hyenas – my skills at discerning animals by their calls is pretty much zero).
The next wow moment for me at least is with the hammock. Allowing you to lay back and gently rock back and forth as you take in the view, the hammock is sturdy and takes my 115kg frame with ease.
I have previously written about the Four Points in Shanghai which had the bathroom viewable from the bedroom, but the Bikini goes one step further. The sink is in the room and the shower partially exposed to the main room! We can’t quite figure out how to get the light in the shower to work and find out later it’s not our fault – the bulb had blown, and the switch we were trying to use was the right one.
Two nice touches were the little booklet with recommendations of places to eat and things to do in the neighbourhood, written by staff members, and the little booklet of “do not disturb” signs so that you could select the one that conveyed the nuanced message you wished to send to house-keeping. They even had one in New Zealand English: “your turn to clean, bro'”.
After a day of cycling in the spring sunshine in Potsdam, we return in time to catch the sunset from the rooftop restaurant.
Before heading over to see if they could fit us in without a reservation, we decide to take a swing through the Monkey Bar. In the corner a DJ plays music which isn’t overbearing and the place is full of hip young Berliners quietly conversing and waiting for the sunset.
The bar faces the northwest, and the balconies on the two sun-facing sides are full. It’s a relaxed and cool vibe – it’s a pity we’re only here for one night as it would be a cool place for a few drinks. We end up at the restaurant, Neni, and manage to get a seat.
The clientele in the restaurant is slightly older, but we’re lucky enough to sit next to a pair of millennials from the UK, one of which discusses the most mundane topics at a piercing volume while the other struggles to get a word in edgewise. I guess that’s the price of attracting the cool crowd to the bar!
We end up learning how to tune them out and enjoy our dinner – Ange has the Korean fried chicken and I have the almond chicken with sweet chili sauce. We wash it down with a bottle of home made lemonade which reminds me of something I can’t put my finger on. Ange takes a sip and nails it – it’s like a mojito, she says. Without the tequila.
We decide to stay for dessert and split a double scoop of the ice cream. Feeling adventurous we allow our waitress to choose the flavours. Which kind of backfires when we get one delicately flavoured scoop of caramel and one of a coconut vanilla, which I don’t fancy but Ange likes. Hard to complain about that though!
Our neighbours step up the intimacy of their conversation, without lowering the volume, so we settle the bill and head back to our room before they get too graphic.
The next morning we’re back. I had briefly considered getting up at sunrise to take advantage of the dawn light – Neni faces the south-east so presumably would catch the sun coming up over the zoo, but I succumb to the comfort of the bed and we head up a little later instead.
The light streaming in through the floor to ceiling windows when we do get up there has me reaching for my sunglasses and I’m glad we hadn’t had a heavy night the night before – that much sunlight would be murder with a hangover. The breakfast would certainly take the edge off though: the German’s definitely know how to do the first meal of the day!
The hot foods are served in Le Creuset casserole dishes and in addition to the usual suspects of scrambled eggs, mushroom, tomatoes and bacon are poached eggs, homemade tomato sauce, stewed apples and rice pudding. But like everything Bikini-related it’s the little things that provoke a smile – in my case it’s the honey still in the comb. I love the fact you can peer into the kitchen as well and watch the chef preparing the food.
Pros & Cons
Would I Go Back?
In a heartbeat. The views, from the room, from the restaurant – even from the sauna are lovely, the staff really seem to care and the decor exudes design excellence. We loved it.