Canned food definitely has its pros. Just to name a few: it’s handy, it’s durable and of course, it’s tasty. This is where Thomas Vetter comes into play: He has brought the game of tinned food to a whole new level. In his restaurant Sardinen.Bar in Berlin, he serves only the best tinned fish as well as other delicate seafood. We asked him a few questions about how his idea came to life and why his fish is more than just tinned fish.
What inspired you to open a restaurant that serves tinned fish?
I got the inspiration on a trip to Portugal. While strolling through the city of Lisbon, I came across a little Café called Sol e Pesca. At the café, you could enjoy various tinned fish and different wines. After I had tried some of them, the idea suddenly came to my mind. Thanks to being a chef, I had already gained much experience in the gastronomy and at the time, nobody was following a concept like this in Germany. Back in Berlin, I worked out the concept and searched for a location. In November 2016, the Sardinen.Bar finally opened its doors.
In Germany, Tinned fish is commonly seen as a fast and easy way to eat. When people visit your restaurant, however, they’re stunned by the quality of the food. What sets your fish apart from the one we can buy in supermarkets?
In Germany, we’re still struggling with the rather poor image, tinned fish and other tinned foods have. In France, Portugal, or Spain, on the contrary, people have always appreciated high-quality tinned food. In these countries, its production has a long tradition. We only buy cans containing freshly caught fish, which is gutted, processed and put into the can by hand. The quality and the demanding crafting process is what makes the fish served at Sardinen.Bar a bit more expensive than the products at supermarkets. So it comes as no surprise that you will easily see and taste the difference.
Your restaurant offers a huge variety of fish – be it sardines, tuna or mackerels. Where does all this fish come from? Do you know the people you get your fish from personally?
The majority of my food comes from France and Portugal. Because of its healthy fish stock, the fish is caught entirely in the Atlantic. It’s also possible to use fish from the Mediterranean Sea, however, I personally think that it’s overfished and decided to not offer fish from there. So all of my producers, whether they’re from France or Portugal, are settled at the Atlantic coast. I have also met many of them in person, who then explained everything to me in detail.
Do you plan to extend the range of canned products in the future? Are there any more foods that could benefit from being tinned?
There are many interesting products that suit my concept. For example, I’ve recently added various fish pastes (rillettes) to my menu. It never gets boring. But what really makes the difference will always be the quality of the products, especially the origin of the ingredients and how they’re processed. Today, people are very sensitive about these aspects.
The cans you store on shelves and walls are definitely an eye-catcher and add to the cosy atmosphere of your restaurant. Which one is your all-time favourite can, based on taste and look?
That’s a tough question. The designers all put a lot of work and effort in creating the look of a can. For the vintage sardines, local artists try to give the cans a very special design. The canning factory “La Quiberonnaise” stands out in some way. Their designs are great and they offer unique taste compositions such as “Persilage” (cold-pressed olive oil, garlic and parsley), which tastes absolutely amazing.