“The happier you are, the more you enjoy häppies – and the happier they make you in return.”
häppies is a tiny enclave of joy in Prenzlauer Berg (where else in Berlin could it exist?) that serves up cute, vegan/vegetarian sweet or savoury knödel/bao creations known as “häppies”.
Each häppie has a name and is referred to by its name or as ‘him’ or ‘her’. They are the children of owner and mother to all häppies, Uli Marschner.
Uli has deep, fond memories of eating Germknödel – those fluffy yeast dough dumplings, filled with spiced plum jam and drenched in melted butter and poppy seed sugar – as a child on holiday in Austria. Upon a year-long trip around Asia, she met the super-light bao and saw the love that could be had if she introduced these two things together.
“Häppies is love in the form of food.”
Before she found Häppiness in her life, Uli worked in advertising, and her experience in branding is very evident throughout häppies.
häppies is more than just a simple restaurant. From the curious sign out front to the häppies engraved on the wooden tables, to the artwork on the walls and even the hand-blown lamps in the shape of häppies, it’s a fully-formed brand with a concept that runs true to its core. Kids love it. You’ll love it. You’ll hate yourself for loving it. Too late.
Uli is even floating ideas of venturing into häppies kids books, computer games and fluffy toys… the world’s about to get a lot häppier.
Combine this with wildly-creative menu and you have a restaurant that was placed in the top three of all Berlin eateries on Tripadvisor for the last year and a half.
Fluffy dough balls drenched in cuteness.
Häppies came into being through a successful crowdfunding campaign and there’s an entire wall of häppies illustrations, each one a personal gift to every person who contributed.
We speak to Uli whilst sampling a rhubarb vanilla lemonade, the syrup of which is produced using rhubarb grown by Uli’s own father. It’s sweet with a slight rhubarb tang, and the vanilla adds a warm and rounded note on the palate. Uli explains the crooked smile of the häppies logo, “It says you don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, you just have to be happy”.
The restaurant itself is very child-friendly, with colouring pencils for children to occupy themselves and even a häppie just for kids. It’s called Julia and is spaghetti and ketchup flavour, filled with meat-free sausages. Uli told us we couldn’t try this one. It’s for kids, not adults.
Meet the häppies.
We start with Matthias. He’s advertised as very spicy, something which made me slightly apprehensive, but by British standards, the heat is very easy to take. The sweet chilli and fig give a complex savoury/sweet contrast, the warmingly-seasoned soya mincemeat deep within him is rich and the black sesame seeds give dry crunch against the dough pillow walls.
Then, my favourite: Krische. Turmeric tinged, he was inspired by Uli’s travels in India where she had the privilege to cook with locals and find new inspiration. He’s a combination of daal and Indian spices, topped with crunchy poppadom shards that contrast with the soft dough. It comes with a delicious tomato-coriander dip.
Next is Helena, who comes topped with crunchy almonds and oozes gorgonzola and pear when you squeeze her. The pungent blue cheese is perfectly offset by a lightly sweet Heidelbeer sauce which sits on top.
Bärbel, named after Uli’s grandmother, is goat-cheese and nut filled, complemented by the sweetness of just a hint of honey and the tart aftertaste of cranberries. And it’s covered in pesto.
If it hasn’t dawned on you yet, Uli’s a master at mixing unusual flavours from around the world and making them work together. It’s astonishing.
She is constantly looking for new inspiration for her menu, and even created a häppie with Berlin-based vegan superstar and cookbook-author, Sophia Hoffmann. Unfortunately, Sophia is so popular that she’s already sold out by the time we arrive.
häppies’ menu has two dessert options – Netti and Helga.
Netti is the menu’s best-seller and is a take on the classic Germknödel, with the addition of a browned, cardamom-infused butter. The tart plum filling is the secret weapon that adds the perfect balance to the dish, completely elevating it.
Helga, named after the grandmother of one of the employees (Uli’s “girls”), comes garnished with vanilla ice-cream, crunchy shortbread crumbs, a sheet of caramel and a rosemary pesto. The coolness of the ice cream, the crunch of the breadcrumbs, the sweetness of the apricot filling and the herbal notes of rosemary are an explosion on the culinary senses.
At the end of our visit, Uli states that her mission is to bring joy to all her customers, “häppies is love in the form of food”.
Everyone who works there believes deeply in this concept, and it shows in the warm, personal service they give.
“I believe that the key to happiness is in making other people happy,” Uli reiterates. Did she succeed? With us it was a resounding “yes”.