luca Magazine

Bonvivant, or: How does autumn taste?


28 Oct 2022

Jules Winnfield used to organize parties and run a club on Potsdamer Platz. When the club’s lease expired, he decided to open a vegetarian restaurant. He and his staff focus on one thing above all: being authentic.  

 

“We’ve grown organically,” Winnfield says. “Everyone has put heart, blood and soul into it. That’s how the Bonvivant has become what it is.” The restaurant’s kitchen has a semi-open floor plan, so guests sitting at the counter can watch Chef Niko Berger and his team at work. “It builds more of a bond with the guests than trying to keep everything away from them that‘s going on behind the scenes,” Berger says.   

 

The Bonvivant team attends to each guest with an open mind and a warm heart 

Nature called, the Bonvivant answered

Everyone on the team contributes very personal preferences and experiences. In Niko Berger’s case, it’s his passion for wild herbs. “My great-grandfather,” he says, “was a biologist. And after the war, he went into the forest with my grandma to pick mushrooms, elderberries and wild herbs because there was nothing else to eat. Later my grandma went hiking with me and we cooked with what we collected on the trips. That’s how my passion for the wild herb world came about.” 

Bar manager Elias Heintz grew up in the countryside, which has had a lasting impact on his perception. “I think you just smell, taste and experience a little bit more in the countryside,” he says. “For example, I have an idea of what a season smells or tastes like.” Because the cuisine at Bonvivant is regional and seasonal, guests also get a sense of a season’s flavour. That includes both the dishes and the accompanying drinks, because Heintz creates a matching cocktail to go with each course. 

Culinary Surprises

“The guest gets an all-round experience here,” says Elias Heintz. Both the dishes and the drinks hold surprising moments in store. For example, by utilizing spruce needles, pinecones, cherry leaves and blackcurrant wood in the kitchen; or vetiver, artichoke spirit and the Asian herbal decoction ponzu for mixing drinks.  

It's not authentic to just do anything that's trending right now. We said: Let's do something we really stand behind.

Jules WinnfieldOwner of the Bonvivant

Because of the very personal service and the semi-open kitchen, an evening at the Bonvivant also feels like some sort of performance. Both chef and bar manager seek to get close to guests, explain the concept behind the menus and welcome direct feedback. “Actually,” says bar manager Heintz, “I wanted to act and be on stage. But when you work as a bartender, you also have a kind of stage. The setting is just different: It’s not about me then, but about the food, the drinks and the atmosphere. You moderate through the evening and balance everything into a perfect experience. 

Blackcurrent wood

And last but not least: There’s the story of blackcurrant wood. Jules Winnfield still has a gleam in his eye when he talks about Niko Berger‘s test cooking at Bonvivant and how he charmed everyone with his presence and a perfect menu. “It all went so smoothly,” Winnfield says, “Niko put on such a kick-ass show, cooked such delicious dishes, and then, to top it off: blackcurrant wood. That doesn’t sound like a delicious dessert at first, but it was world class!” 

Niko Berger explains: “You chop up the wood from a blackcurrant bush, pour hot cream over it, and strain it afterwards. This adds a flowery, floral note to the cream. After that you freeze it and get a parfait called blackcurrant wood.”  

Sometimes guests want to talk to the chef after their menu at the Bonvivant. “Those are just great moments,” Berger says, “when you come out of the kitchen to meet the guests, and then ten or fifteen people start to applaud because they’re so excited.”