The waiter is solemn and handsome. The menu is a repurposed Insel Verlag hardback. The library hush is appropriate for a bookshop café. An elderly Charlottenburger flicks languidly through an art catalogue, her wooden necklace as eye-catching as a parrot. Across the room, two spectacled parents play Uno with their grade-school son.
Elegantly vaulted beneath the arch of the railway viaduct, the space is echoing yet intimate. I tuned it out a number of times, until finally I stepped in.
The menu is brief and unfussy: a trio of Austrian bread dumplings done three ways; Weck jars filled with Greek yogurt, toasted hazelnuts and honey, or with Quark and fresh fruit; a flaky chorizo and red pepper quiche matched with a small, perfect salad. At teatime, there is also a wicked selection of cakes, matched by coffee from Berlin roaster pioneer Andraschko. Early risers: The café opens at 9am every day; its breakfast options include perfect eggs and present a pleasant alternative to bewildering, expensive brunch buffets.
Later, you will inevitably be drawn into the adjacent bookshop, where you will admire the spaniel napping on an armchair and leaf through the latest Alice Munro. The Autorenbuchhandlung Berlin has a venerable history, founded in the late 1970s by authors including Heinrich Böll, Elfriede Jelinek and Günter Grass as a protest against an increasingly homogeneous book-selling environment. Then as now, the bookshop (and its mates in Frankfurt and Munich) preserves a literary culture that prizes breadth and depth.
But for now, the only thing to do is savor your lunch and enjoy the serenity of the summer light.