early everybody dreams of getting off the career ladder at some point and opening up their own restaurant or café at least once in their lives. While some keep on daydreaming, others make their dreams come true. Just like Lale and Arzu. Their biography alone would fill half a book. Lale und Arzu grew up in Germany as second-generation Turkish immigrants. Concomitant conflicts between tradition and a Western lifestyle were therefore inevitable. Lale makes it as an actress in Munich, while Arzu studies Business Administration in Berlin. Their shared love of cooking and providing hospitality enables them to come up with a plan to open their own restaurant.
We are ‘Osmans Töchter’. It wouldn’t be the same without us, we couldn’t abandon all this here.
The idea behind it sounds simple: to free great Turkish cuisine as passed from generation to generation in families from its domestic confines, modernise it and familiarise Berlin palates with it. After all, a fair number of Berlin insiders associate Turkish food with old-fashioned tiled kebap joints, where skewers of pallid meat rotate lethargically, ayran is poured from plastic buckets and the bright neon lighting is not exactly inviting enough to make you think, I’ll hang around here for a while.
Lale and Arzu intend to do away with these clichés when they open their restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg. In the vicinity: Italian restaurants with good-value lunch specials, hip artists’ cafés and spaceship-like start-up workspaces. Old ivy-clad buildings flaunt their newly renovated facades. Young families stroll by at a leisurely pace beneath the colourful awnings. Tourists stand in front of the restaurant’s window frontage, leaf diffidently through their travel guides before they walk in full of expectation. Inside, they come across grand dames from Charlottenburg and hip artist couples. Behind a glass panel, the chefs are calmly going about their craft. The waitresses zip casually by between the tables, get things organised, provide recommendations and serve food. Anybody coming into the restaurant feels like a welcome guest at a dinner with friends.
The walls are plain, bouquets hang from ceiling lamps made of preserving jars above the unpretentious wooden tables. Industrial Berlin charm. Only the family photos dating from the 1970s remind you of both start-up entrepreneurs’ immigrant backgrounds.
The menu also reflects Lale’s and Arzu’s own path between traditional and modern: cream ewe’s milk cheese with brittle and truffles meets fish kofta. Caramelised onions with goat’s cheese are rounded off with oven-baked beetroot.
Their favourite source of inspiration is Istanbul: “Why leave such wonderful things in Turkey?”, Arzu explains. “Most restaurateurs don’t have the confidence to do that, they stick with what they’re used to.” However, the way they present their food is more of a classic affair – lots of small portions that you share at the table, as is customary in Turkey. Lale admits: “We want to familiarise our guests with the concept of sharing by doing away with main courses.”
It was a long journey for “Osmans Töchter”. It all started with a tip from a friend that they should go and have a look at the property in Pappelallee. “Never ever!”, they both agreed. There is only a dreary tax office in this street.
A few weeks later, curiosity gets the better of Arzu. They buy chalk, spend days on end in the empty premises and start planning. From grease traps to water connections, they sketch everything out and go through several potential restaurant scenarios. But they only sign the tenancy agreement six months later.
The following period pushes the novice restaurateuses to their limits. Craftsmen that want to talk them into having unnecessary work done, the complexities of preservation orders and slowly exhausted reserves. Everything as tough as old Turkish resin chewing gum.
Did they get any advice from other restaurateurs back then? Arzu nods: “We visited other restaurateurs, ate in their restaurants and got useful advice. Quite honestly, all these conversations just gave me sleepless nights. Everything just scared me.”
Now they only had two options left – give up the restaurant or battle their way through. They were rescued by a simple piece of paper on which they once again listed all the problems and the appropriate solutions in tabular form. This piece of paper still hangs in the office like a kind of trophy. It reminds them that it is often better to make decisions based on your own gut feeling and above all make them yourself.
Arzu and Lale still handle a lot of work themselves. They find it difficult to delegate. Ranging from major decisions to minor details – everything carries their own personal signature.
At the end, one last quick question: could they imagine opening more restaurants? The reply is prompt: “No, we are ‘Osmans Töchter’. It wouldn’t be the same without us, we couldn’t abandon all this here.” With a twinkle in her eye Arzu says: “On the other hand… at first we said ‘never ever’ about this place too.”