Nomad Espresso: Godshot, No Fire No Glory!

Godshot Coffee Klub, Immanuelkirchstraße 32, Prenzlauer Berg.
Reviews seemed to tout this place as one of Berlin’s best coffeeshops, so my expectations were set a bit high. Arriving, I was somewhat bewildered—the bar itself had an authentic, understated charm with truly beautiful coffee machinery, but the front seating area, with unadorned, drab white walls and exposed light fixtures, was spartan to the point of distraction, and an alarming number of flies were buzzing around the tables. Batting at the infuriating pests between sips, I exchanged an exasperated look with my tablemate, who was doing the same.

I was also a little irritated by the discrepancy between the apparent menu cost of 2.40 euros for a “Phoenix” sized caffè macchiato, and the 3.20 charged by the barista. She also chose to serve the drink in glass, which is fairly common in European coffeeshops, but the appeal of drinking a hot coffee beverage in a glass without handles is utterly lost on me—particularly when the macchiato is uniform in color and density, rather than displaying characteristic layers. I gazed with a little envy at the smooth, warmly glowing ceramic mugs of other customers. I may have just gotten unlucky with my choice of drink—the macchiato tasted fine, but was nothing extraordinary. I’ll have to try the much-vaunted flat white at a later time.

I was about to write the entire coffeeshop off as overrated, when I went to find the WC and discovered two separate, much nicer and fully deserted seating regions. One really doesn’t see these back areas unless one walks into the back past the coffee bar to search for the restroom, which is probably why most customers are parked outside at the unremarkable street tables or inside in the fly-infested front area. Behind the bar, stairs lead to a slightly elevated area with tasteful minimal décor and an abundance of comfortable chairs, couches, tables and wall outlets, with a similarly comfortable space downstairs. Presumably in cold weather, these tables are well-populated and provide a perfect space for enjoying a drink. The café also offers WiFi, although limited to one hour per purchase. On the whole, a decent coffeeshop, but not so divine as its name might suggest. With so many alternatives in the immediate Prenzlberg vicinity, I’m not sure I would be drawn back here regularly.

No Fire No Glory, Rykestraße 45, Prenzlauer Berg.
After my hour of WiFi at Godshot ran out, I strolled up Prenzlauer Allee to the nearby No Fire No Glory, tucked away on Rykestraße. I find it interesting that three of Berlin’s most famed coffeespots (Café CK, Godshot and NFNG) are located within mere blocks of each other—couldn’t they have spaced it out a bit? But that’s Prenzlberg for you.

In any case, as soon as I saw No Fire No Glory, I realized we were now operating in an entirely other league of coffeeshop than Godshot, whatever the Qype reviews may say. This place scores points from fifty meters away just for the beautiful tapestries of vines covering the facade and the tree shading the collection of outdoor tables. Like Café CK, part of the front facade can be thrown open, admitting the fresh air and street feeling to the indoor tables as well. In the case of NFNG, the curtain of leaves on the building wall and the cubist stools and tables graced with single peach-colored roses make this framing effect even more entrancing.

Whoever built and designed NFNG didn’t miss a single detail in crafting the perfect coffeeshop. The interior is as lovely as the exterior, with muted tones, streamlined furniture and soft lighting. One striking piece of modern art adorns a side wall, while the gleaming wooden bar is crowned with a massive antique register. The customer has about every conceivable seating choice. Typical European café tables are scattered outside, while inside offers a range of options—a luxurious leather sofa, contoured armchairs, the cubist tables, or a narrow counter with tall metal barstools. A variety of newspapers and trendy magazines are available for customers, the WiFi has no time limit, and a great blend of indie, world and electronic music pipes from the speakers—the sort of place where an afternoon can easily slip by.

In a hangout like this, I could forgive mediocre coffee, but happily the java was as exquisite as the rest of the café. I ordered a flat white, fittingly prepared by a friendly Australian barista with top-notch skills. Ruffled foam curling into a fern, in dark earthen ceramic—so pretty I was hesitant to mar the artwork. Any guilt vanished with the first sip. I don’t remember the last time I was in a coffeeshop this comfortable OR tasted coffee this amazing. Like the slide of silk over gritty sand, a hot desert wind laced with distant spice, acrid, demanding but intoxicating, leaving a scorching kiss on your tastebuds. No fire, no glory, indeed. Without a doubt, the best coffee I’ve tasted in Berlin, and probably anywhere else, for that matter. I’ll definitely be back.

A house track from their playlist: Audiofly feat. Fiora, “6 Degrees,” Tale of Us Remix.

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