All is not quite as it seems at Bar Zentral in Berlin’s ‘old West’; designers Hidden Fortress (in collaboration with architect Collignon Architektur) subtly subverting the standard approach to high-end cocktail bars. Sebastian Mathow and Torsten Bender, formerly of renowned Schöneberg spot Green Door Bar, are behind the bar — occupying an arch underneath the S-Bahn line — that keeps things classic. To an extent.
There’s the long American-style bar, but no height difference between customers and mixologists … you’re led to become immersed in the making of your drink. Gone are the branded bottles — drinks sunk into the bar, and behind slatted doors. And the toilets. Make sure you’re not too far gone; an interpretation of Norman Wilkinson’s famed dazzle camouflage taking the subversion scale up to 11.
Water buffalo leather, swirling marble, high-quality carpentry (courtesy of Majo Ertel), brass … there’s a timelessness to Bar Zentral that instantly seduces — but, like Mathow and Bender’s sublime cocktails, the twist is key. This is not a subversion led by dissidence, but of an understated, considered desire to poke the envelope. Just enough.