When Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro opened the hidden one-room Buck and Breck, named after a historic champagne cocktail, in 2010, demand was so great for the 14 seats that he often had to send people away. But even the glowing neon “closed” sign couldn’t keep away the stylish regulars and privy visitors who know that when the sign is on, the speakeasy-style bar in Mitte is open. So he did what any noble barkeep would do: up the capacity. Most of the original black-walled space is taken up by an oversize table with a faux alligator linoleum surface. The bar counter is L-shaped and embedded with stealthy receptacles for liquor bottles, a mini sink, and a cooler storing chilled glasses. Hanging above are several elongated hanging lampshades that recall the bottom barrels of a rocket booster. When lit at night, exterior shells blend into the darkness and emit mysterious golden, circular lights that appear to be two-dimensional.
Customers were so attached to the design and feel of the interior that when de Sousa Monteiro decided to add an extra room, he turned to local architects Hidden Fortress, whose Ingo Strobel was commissioned for the original. The firm took the closed-off storage area in the back, which had been accessed by a hallway, and reinvented it as an intimate lounge with raised, upholstered sofas. The original bar table top was reproduced and placed against a wall, making it look like a sleek midcentury luxury airline. A luminescent sculpture, dubbed Eclipse by the artist Tilen Sepič, makes a subtle reference to the overhead lights in the main area. But according to both de Sousa Monteiro and Stroble, the key to the new addition’s success was to construct open entrances on both sides, so that views of the original space are available from any seat.
“The aim was to create one space as a whole, but with two alternative atmospheres,” says de Sousa Monteiro. For him, it’s a matter of the psychological effect. “Instead of feeling trapped in one room or left out in another, guests can chose either the communal table or the more quiet lounge.” Even though Buck and Breck now has 17 more places to sit, de Sousa Monteiro still has to turn patrons away. “I only allow as many people in here as I have seats,” he says. “But, if they put down their number, I always call them when someone leaves.” “After all,” he adds, “a good bar is a democratic place.”