You might have reached the bottom of this photo and found the floor was missing. Sorry to disappoint you.
Ever been to a café with sofas nailed halfway up the walls? With a mattress on an upper level only accessible by a ladder? Or with concrete blocks on wheels for coffee tables? This is what gets people talking about the quintessentially Neukölln café, Leuchtstoff. For the non-Berliners out there, the archetype of a Neukölln café essentially has to look like it was never intended to be a café, or at least that the owners just casually threw something together and started selling coffee and cake there. The owners of Leuchtstoff tried so hard to keep the look casual, that they couldn’t resist making wavy patterns between the ceiling and where they’d stripped the paint off the walls. But as transparent as this attempt to be cool is by destroying a perfectly decent paint job, there’s a certain charm in the lengths to which these hipsters go.
As you can see from my sofa panorama, these lengths take the form of carpentry. Lights are strung from wooden beams, stools and tables which could be mistaken for genuine cargo crates are neatly arranged. And, of course, there’s a platform closer to the ceiling than the floor with a sofa on it (look for the photographic evidence below). This is roughly connected to the floating sofa, which is supported on one side by two – well, let’s call them sticks, and on the other side by wall. Although my friends and I were feeling mad enough to stack some chairs and clamber up onto the sofa, none of us thought to be mad enough to check what was actually supporting us. So if you’re curious, then go find out for yourself.
These hard-working hipsters – is that an oxymoron? – are also bad-ass bakers. Their carrot cake is moist enough to dampen the corners of your eyes. Their croissants are soft and crispy, and if you become a regular (which you will if you go just once) then you’ll be handed the slightly stale ones at the end of the day (which you probably will have spent entirely in the café). There are rich brownies, and there are Leuchtstoff’s pass-the-water-quick brownies, which even make a cappuccino seem mild. And their cappuccinos aren’t milky muddy water with a few bubbles on top. As a new convert to coffee, I have to say that they alone have (so far) uniquely defined what coffee should be like: rich, but not too bitter; milky, but silky all the way through; no plastic-y foam sat on top of a puddle. And where else do you get the drink of your dreams served to you in sky-blue handle-less cups, which you can clasp your winter-worn palms against without fear of burning them? Please, someone give these people a medal. Or maybe just a tip for starters.
Siegfriedstraße 18, Neukölln
S + U-Bahnhof Hermannstraße
Mon – Fri: 8am – 6pm
Sat & Sun: 10am – 6pm