Kipferl

20 Camden Passage, N1 8ED

Price for two: £54.23

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As I say, unassuming

Yes, it’s back to Austrian cuisine. Turn For The Wurst is running out of German fare in London and, with the influx of Liechtenstein eateries yet to arrive, it’s to Germany’s smaller southern neighbour we turn for Germanic food – although Kipferl is pretty much a continent away from Tiroler Hut, our previous Austrian review.

While Tiroler Hut seeks to capture the booze-fuelled après-ski antics of the country’s west, Islington’s Kipferl is influenced by the coffee shops of Vienna, or at least a romanticised version of it where Hans Hahn and Philipp Frank might nurse a thick black coffee while inventing functional analysis. The café’s own website says it’s “where the kitchen is open all day and you can sit on your own with a ‘kleiner Brauner’ reading newspapers for hours”. Alas, a newspaper is not to be seen on our visit.

Kipferl sits on Islington’s Camden Passage, the sort of street which looks like the media stereotype of Islington – all boutiques and independent coffee shops, bunting and plotting Labour types. While the image of the borough is misleading – 33.7% of the population live in poverty, compared to 27% across London – Camden Passage ticks every middle-class cliché box. Kipferl itself, though, is so unassuming, charcoal-grey with its unobtrusive signage, that we’re still looking for it while stood directly outside (it describes itself as a Geheimtip – a ‘little secret’).

It originally opened as a small delicatessen shop near Smithfield in the City, the brainchild of Christian Malnig, and opened to the public on Camden Passage in 2011. When we visit on a Sunday it’s busy outside and at the front, but a little quieter at the back, where the waiter finds us a table next to the ladies’ loos (it’s fine). Tellingly, German seems to be the predominant language amongst our fellow customers. A table next to us sound Austrian, a couple to our left perhaps Bavarian. The décor is pictures of presumably Austrian luminaries, a map of the Vienna public transport network and a confusing sign to the ladies’ which sends several people off in the wrong direction during our visit.

I order a Hirter Pils, a delicate, semi-dry Austrian lager which is very pleasant, albeit £6.50. Mrs Turnforthewurst has opts for a white wine, a Grüner Veltliner, which only comes in 125ml glasses and is “fine”.

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The food, then. Unimaginatively, I order the Wiener Schnitzel. It comes in two large pieces and is very tender, accompanied with soft, delicious parsley potatoes and salad, a mix of salad leaves and mixed salad tomatoes. It also comes with cranberry sauce – I have no truck with fruit-based sauces on meat and could not tell you if this was the finest cranberry sauce the world has seen or gloop. In general, though, the schnitzel is luscious, even at the slightly eye-watering £18.50.

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Mrs Turnforthewurst has the Steirischer Backhendelsalat, a Styrian-style salad made up of strips of breaded chicken, roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed dressing oil. While it was tasty, pleasant and light, she says she would have preferred more variety and suggests sun-dried tomatoes or olives would have made a difference – listen up, Kipferl.

In an unusual turn for Turn For The Wurst – well, it is Viennese, so it would almost be rude not to – we order a dessert, sharing an Apfel Strudel. Coming cold, as is the traditional Austrian way, I find it surprisingly tasty, particularly the ice cream which sits alongside it. Mrs Turnforthewurst, though, expected a more sugary pastry.

The atmosphere in Kipferl is very pleasant and relaxed, almost to a fault (while the service was initially attentive, getting the bill at the end becomes a bit of a mission). And while the food was good, it might be more of a weekday catch-up-with-a-coffee place, or maybe an informal business meeting or first date. While the Viennese vibe is definitely authentic, we don’t make any breakthroughs in mathematical analysis while there. But on the way out I did notice the little shop at the front sells cans of Mezzo Mix – the Germanic soft drink I’ve never seen in the UK before – which, for me, is a eureka moment in itself. We’ll be back.

IMG_2126Food 8/10

Drinks 7/10

Authenticity 9/10

Staff 8/10

Overall 8/10

http://www.kipferl.co.uk/

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German Kraft Beer

42 Newington Causeway, SE1 6DR

Price for one: £10.50

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Some poor phone-at-the-table etiquette here

Mercato Metropolitano claims to be in SoBo. You won’t find that on a map, though, as it’s not a thing – it means ‘South of Borough’ and is the creation of edgy creative types keen to rebrand Elephant and Castle, a corner of South London synonymous with the capital’s least salubrious shopping centre and a 1980s sitcom starring Jim Davidson. It’s London’s most futile reinvention since an estate agent tried to dub Hackney Central ‘Mareditch’.

What Mercato Metropolitano is, though, is an ambitious venture by an Italian businessman to transform 45,000sq ft of a disused paper factory into a space packed with food stalls, shops and bars with a vague pretension to a greater social good. It’s a veritable Tardis of a place, unassuming-looking from the street but a rabbit warren inside, stall upon stall selling cuisine from across the globe to an equally international crowd.

And for the last few months it’s where German Kraft Beer has called home. It’s a relatively new brewery, partnered with one in the Bavarian town of Erlangen, which at present produces three different beers. Their big thing is the water. They’re very proud of their water. Unlike most craft brewers, who make do with plain old tap, German Kraft Beer boasts what they call an “exclusive water distillation and mineralization technology” which, they say, allows them to consistently create the perfect brewing water for very different types of beer.

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I’ll be honest – I couldn’t tell. But I did very much enjoy a pint of their Edel Weiss, a fruity, creamy wheat beer pleasingly poured into a proper glass. Mrs Turnforthewurst’s friend, joining us for the afternoon, is not a beer drinker so asks the barman for advice, and he offers a taster of each. She opts for the Heidi Blonde, their biggest seller and a crisp Bavarian lager I professionally have a taste of (she gets a wrap from a nearby Lebanese stall, whereas Mrs Turnforthewurst goes completely rogue and gets both food and drink from elsewhere). They now supply beer to both branches of Stein’s.

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I order two Bratwurst in a bun from the bar and although the staff member says he will alert me it’s ready by shouting ‘number five’, somebody else locates me and brings it to the table. Which is good, as onlookers might have thought he was a Short Circuit obsessive. And when it arrives – well, it doesn’t look like Bratwurst. The sausages are long and thin, more like a Nürnberger than a Bratwurst, but they’re tasty, well-seasoned and with a barbecue-like smokiness. The sauerkraut compliments it well and at a fiver, less than the beer, probably one of the best-value snacks within all 45,000sq ft of the place.

But it’s all about the beer (or the water). That’s what German Kraft Beer does and the food doesn’t really have any pretensions above being a snack. That beer is terrific, though, and any new addition to London’s craft brewing scene has to be welcomed. A pint or two comes well recommended next time you find yourself in SoBo. Or, as I like to call it, NoPe (North of Peckham).

Food 7/10

Drinks 9/10

Authenticity 7/10

Staff 9/10

Overall 8/10

https://www.germankraftbeer.com

 

Wolfgang’s Beer Haus

2-3 Creed Lane, EC4V 5BR

Price for two: £57.85

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I think my parents’ first house cost about the same as this pint

What a strange fish Wolfgang’s Beer Haus is. Like its hotchpotch German/English name, it’s not entirely sure what it wants to be. Situated in the former Duke and Duchess gastropub close to St Paul’s, it launched without any fanfare – take a look at the slapdash job on redirecting traffic from its former website – and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s because it’s not really nailed down exactly what demographic it’s chasing.

It’s in the City, of course, but perhaps a stretch too far from the bars around Monument to attract the braying traders seeking power-lubrication before hitting the Waterloo & City Line towards home. And besides, it’s not really set up for post-derivatives shenanigans – there’s no room for an Oompah band, and the tables aren’t suited for dancing on. They’re too small and the condiments would go everywhere. There aren’t even any TVs for football. But on the other hand, it’s not open at weekends, which suggests they’re not targeting the seven-day tourist trade either. Which seems odd, given it’s a stone’s throw from St Paul’s and a refuge from the generic chain restaurants which make up much of Ludgate Hill. As I say, strange.

Still, we’re here to rate its food and drink, not its business model. And when we arrive on a horribly sodden Wednesday evening, it seems to be doing nicely enough in terms of trade – a few couples, a couple of larger groups, a table or two of older business types. In proper German style, drinks are table service, and gratifyingly quick. I have a pint of Krombacher weizen, and this is the only moment it feels like a City boy pub: it’s £7. Not a slightly psychologically easier £6.80 or similar, but seven quid on the nose. It’s good – it has that lovely banana bread taste like the best weizens – but £7 for a beer is enough to make one move to Stockton-on-Tees. It’s 30p more expensive than Mrs Turnforthewurst’s pinot grigio.

The feel is, as ever, quite Bavarian (nobody opens up a German bar to resemble, say, Bremen). The décor is Alpine, all wood panelling, with some tables under a little alcove to the left of the front door. A number of cuckoo clocks adorn one wall. It’s relatively spacious and there’s a separate room downstairs which can be rented out to groups.

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After one drink we order another round and then the food. I have ‘Wolfgang’s Special’ schnitzel, with black forest ham and cheese, along with a potato and bacon salad, sauerkraut and salad garnish. First thing to say: it’s big. The picture doesn’t do justice to what a plate-filler this schnitzel is. And it’s good: the bread crumbs are sourdough, which makes it more dense, and the cheese oozes pleasingly from the edges. The potato and bacon salad is rich and delicious. The sauerkraut is so hidden by the enormity of the schnitzel that I was halfway through when I remembered that it was there. It has carrots in it – actually more of an East European sauerkraut – but is pleasant enough. Before I’ve even finished the schnitzel I’m stuffed although I bravely insist in eating at least the bacon from the salad, along with any bits of potato they touch.

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Mrs Turnforthewurst, who is embracing flexitarianism, opts for the vegan Frankfurter, which comes with sauerkraut, crispy onion, pomme frites and a pretzel. Her view of the frankfurter is that it initially tastes like any other, but it’s the aftertaste which gives away it’s not meat. Trying it, I see what she means, without really being able to articulate why – but it’s good, and credit to Wolfgang’s for offering it. The fries, she says, are “just like McDonald’s” – and this is meant in praise – while the pretzel is warm, soft and delightful. Her only quibble is an excess of crispy onion, but it’s a relatively minor one.

The price of the beer aside, there’s little to fault about Wolfgang’s Beer Haus. The food is high-quality, the service swift and the atmosphere and look quite cool. It deserves every success. But they’d do well to tie down a bit more clearly what they want to do with it. It would be a great place to, say, meet with friends on a late Saturday afternoon. But it’s shut then. By eschewing the City boys, they’ve got a real opportunity to offer something a bit different in the Square Mile.

IMG_1611Food 8/10

Drinks 8/10

Authenticity 8/10

Staff 8/10

Overall 8/10

http://wolfgangsbeerhaus.com/

Tiroler Hut

27 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UA

Price for two: £63.20

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The night is but young

Yes, Tiroler Hut is not a German restaurant. Tirol (or Tyrol in English) is a state in western Austria, and its Hut in Westbourne Grove is very much Austrian. But we’re 18 months into this esoteric quest now, and if it’s not to meet an untimely end its remit needs to extend, so Turn For The Wurst is now exploring German(ic) food in London. Expect some Austrian eateries, some Swiss saloons, even some Liechtenstein luncheonettes should one ever open. Actually, scratch that – it’s only a matter of time before the Standard magazine declares that “Liechtenstein food is really having a moment”.

Tiroler Hut is a bit of institution. It opened in 1967, so it celebrates its 50th birthday this year, although one suspects it hasn’t aged much in those five decades. With live music, yodelling and traditional Tirolean outfits, Joseph Friedman’s family-run restaurant is pitched firmly at the ‘fun experience’ end of the Germanic eating scale – stags and hens abound, as so often at these places – but, as we shall see, happily not too much at the expense of quality.

As said, it’s in Westbourne Grove, close to Bayswater station, one of those fringy bits of West London where high street brands and shopping centres such as Whiteleys stand cheek by jowl with mobile phone unlockers. In between are some of the more outlying tourist shops selling traditional London souvenirs including finger spinners, cushions which look like emoji poos and, in one case, scarves celebrating Portugal’s triumph at Euro 2016.

Tiroler Hut’s entrance is one small door lodged between Persian and Turkish restaurants, notable only for its fittingly red and white canopy. Once inside, you walk past the bar downstairs into a relatively small restaurant area – booking definitely advised, especially at weekends – all walls decorated in trinkets and mementos, tables clad in checked cloths and, the centre of attention, the music man. A comedic player of Austrian Schläger, a kind of Teutonic John Shuttleworth, he keeps it just the right side of the kitsch-naff divide. It’s difficult not to be taken in, if not all a bit Bring Me Edelweiss.

It’s busy when we go, on a Saturday night. To our top-left are a slightly older group on a hen do, telling the waiter they have to be back in Oxford that night. He responds via the medium of dance, hopping around the table slapping his thighs. Slightly later, a stag do – all Barbour, waistcoats and flat caps – walk in, flashing the cash. In our time there, they work their way through two of the house ‘boots’ – a nine-pint glass, clocking in at £45 (plus £20 deposit) – while all nursing another pint by their side while the prize isn’t in their possession. They only order starters as we’re leaving. To our right, two men visiting from Munich chat to their waiter in German. Turns out he’s originally from Hungary.

We order a bottle of the house white, a “blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay” at £25.50, which sounds criminal but which is quaffable, although it probably helps we’d had three drinks beforehand while watching the FA Cup Final at a pub around the corner.

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Another atmospherically dark picture

I have the Bauernschmaus – a new one on me, described as the “Tyrolean Peasant’s Favourite” and made up of a whole host of meats served with dumpling and sauerkraut. There are two sausages, one long, one thick; beef; what seems like a gammon steak; and what can only be described as a kind of black pudding tartare. At least that’s what I can remember – it’s all delightfully rich and there wasn’t a bit left by the end. The sauerkraut, in particular, is deliciously piquant and the sausages wonderfully tasty.

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Mrs Turnforthewurst opts for the Hühnerbrust, a chicken fillet fried in breadcrumbs, served with red cabbage and, ordinarily, potato salad, although she asks for French fries in lieu of the latter and the staff are obliging. The fillet was tasty and moist, and Mrs Turnforthewurst is “pleasantly surprised” by the care lavished on the food in a place where, in lesser hands, it would be second place to fuelling the hens and stags into the long West London night.

As we leave, at just 9.30pm, many are getting started, and Herr Shuttleworth is close to breaking out the cowbells. At £63.20 it’s not the cheapest, but it’s an awful lot of fun, and the food is not at all bad. The stag and hen dos are eyeing each other as we go. It’s not IMG_1588clear who’s making it back to Oxford.

Food 8/10

Drinks 7/10

Authenticity 7/10

Staff 7/10

Overall 7.25/10

http://www.tirolerhut.co.uk/

 

 

 

German Deli

8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL

Price for one: £4.90

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These lads don’t look keen

Borough Market, while never traditionally on the traveller’s must-see list of London, seems to now exert a gravitational pull on a certain sort of European millennial tourist to the capital. On any given visit, parties of teenage and 20-something Germans, Spaniards, French and Italians pack the tight spaces between its stalls selling every sort of food and drink imaginable to eat there or take away. Crowds shuffle haltingly – it gets very packed at weekends – but spirits are high, drinking is early, Europe’s young mix and everyone’s happy until you think about it a bit more and feel sad about Brexit.

Absurdly popular on our Saturday lunchtime visit seems to be the stall selling sea urchins, which looks intriguing until you realise that the image of cosmopolitan Londoners eating sea urchins is precisely the reason vast swathes of the country voted to leave the EU. So we head to German Deli, which backs on to Southwark Cathedral in one of the four corners of the market.

It’s the stall arm of an operation which also has a warehouse shop in Hackney Wick and a store around the corner from Borough Market on Park Street, which is well worth a look. On our visit there’s a queue at the stall and it’s doing a decent trade amid vast competition. It speeds along though, thanks to having gratifyingly few options – Bratwurst or Frankfurter, with a choice of any or all of mustard, ketchup and Sauerkraut (oddly, the staff and signs say ‘cabbage’, as if these urbane gastronomes may wonder what this alien ‘Sauerkraut’ is).

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As modelled by Mrs Turnforthewurst

I opt for the Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and mustard at £4.90, and the first impression is it’s more than a handful, a decent size and with the cabbage not scrimped on. In fact, there’s pretty much half a jar on there. Second impression is that it’s the real deal, hearty and citric, the bread fresh and soft and the Sauerkraut deliciously zippy, even if much of it lingers between my teeth for the rest of the day. In fact, it’s so good it’s wolfed down by the time Mrs Turnforthewurst gets back from getting her lunch – she went totally rogue and got a chicken pie from the Pieminster stall next door.

It may be pretty pedestrian by comparison with sea urchins, but if all you want is the kind of Wurst you’d be happy with standing on the terraces at a 3. Bundesliga game, it hits the spot. And I shall go there next time I’m near Borough Market and get another to congratulate myself on getting 446 words on what is, after all, a review of a sausage.

Food 8/10

Drinks n/a

Authenticity 9/10

Staff 7/10

Overall 8/10

http://germandeli.co.uk/

 

Find all our reviews on our new interactive map

Turn For The Wurst has now published no fewer than 14 reviews of German and German-themed eateries right across London. In order to help you discover them more easily, I’ve created this interactive map which you can click on and find those near you, with a link to its review on this blog. I’ll update it as and when I add more reviews to this site. And West/South London – you’re lagging behind.

The Eagle

250 Ladbroke Grove, W10 5LP

Price for two: £29 (not including drinks)

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A sunny Saturday afternoon out west

First things first – The Eagle is not a German or German-themed restaurant. The relaunched and newly refurbished pub in Ladbroke Grove, now under the ownership of Hippo Inns, has no staff clad in dirndls. There is no oompah music or David Hasselhoff. So why is it here? Well, the press release announcing the venture referred to its “host of British and Bavarian-influenced dishes”, and that’s enough to pique this blog’s interest.

Second disclaimer: when we visited it was still in its soft launch period, with the formal launch to come. I’ve alluded before to the ethics of reviewing at this time, and the same still applies, up to and including the fact that – and if you want to avoid the results, look away now – The Eagle has absolutely nothing to worry about.

It’s already pretty busy when I arrive on a Saturday afternoon – in fact, there are no free tables and I have to perch at the bar to wait for Mrs Turnforthewurst. It’s light and spacious, the décor a mix of contemporary and classic and the stand-out fittings a large bronze eagle and the huge, black tanks above the circular bar containing something called Truman’s Raw. This, I learn from eavesdropping on a conversation between the bar man and a customer, is unpasteurised and unfiltered and delivered straight to the pub from Truman’s brewery in Hackney Wick. The Eagle, in fact, was originally a Truman’s pub and, intriguing though the Raw sounds, I go for a pint of Zephyr, their Australian pale ale.

(The customer, noting I was eavesdropping, asked if I was a restaurant reviewer. I said I wasn’t, which is technically true. He wasn’t having it, though, and later taps me on the shoulder to show me how good his and his friend’s selection of starters, including venison carpaccio and pickled herrings, are. Later still he tells Mrs Turnforthewurst she is beautiful, particularly noting her “white, square teeth”.)

A table is freed up as Mrs Turnforthewurst arrives and gets a pinot grigio. The menu, it is fair to say, wears its Bavarian influence lightly. They offer a crispy knuckle of pork, a chicken schnitzel and a Bavarian sausage served with brioche and sauerkraut, but the rest is standard fare for a Notting Hill gastropub – crab, sirloin steak, plaice.

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I order the chicken schnitzel, which comes topped with a fried duck egg, accompanied by a green bean salad and on a wooden board complete with mock newspaper, which would irritate the sort of people who follow that plate-wanting, book-deal-baiting Twitter account but I quite like. The schnitzel is tender and flavoursome, the egg done to perfection and the salad, while looking lightweight, is delicious, the green beans accompanied by capers and an unidentified but moreish dressing.

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Mrs Turnforthewurst, perhaps discombobulated by her attention from my new friend, goes for something far from Bavarian – approximately 632 miles, as the crow flies, from Bavaria – and orders the Dorset crab. It’s a mix of brown and white crab meat, the former packing a far greater flavour punch, although both are tasty. The dressing is saffron aioli and, with tastes of honey and vanilla, brings out the delicate, sweet taste of the crab even better. The fries which accompany it are thin and crispy and go well. The likes of Elbow, Snow Patrol and Hall & Oates are piped unobtrusively in the background.

The staff throughout are terrific – helpful, attentive and friendly and, best of all, they seem to be genuinely having fun. They’re a young and presumably new group and, if Hippo really want to succeed in making this a community pub, keeping this vibe will be key.

Initial impressions are extremely positive. Certainly it seems to be going well with the large and eclectic clientele in there on a Saturday. In fact, as we leave to head east, Mrs Turnforthewurst says, “I wish this was our neighbourhood pub.” I hope it was not because of the fangs-fancier at the bar.

Food 8/10

Drinks 8/10

Authenticity n/a

Staff 9/10

Overall 8.5/10

http://www.theeagle.co.uk/

 

Bavarian Beerhouse

190 City Road, EC1V 2QH

Price for two: £45.68

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Back in the very early days of Turn For The Wurst’s short life – November 2015, to be precise – we reviewed Bavarian Beerhouse’s City branch and were cheerfully surprised. “For all its location, and the threat of the Jägertrain, Bavarian Beerhouse is a really pleasant weekend find”, we said. (Aforementioned Jägertrain, less approvingly, was described as “a tequila slammer-like horrorshow with Jägermeister for stag do enforced fun”).

But that was in the City on a Sunday afternoon, when Europe’s foremost financial centre can represent the famous scene of 28 Days Later. So we decided to turn it up a notch – just one, mind – by trying out the Old Street branch on an early Saturday evening.

A Stein’s throw from the Silicon Roundabout, where Hackney meets Islington, this branch was its first and original (they also have one in Bristol). It’s a decent size, with seating for 330, and at 5pm on a Saturday the main area is relatively deserted, bar a few couples. It seems buzzier out at the back, where a group was watching Wales v England in the Six Nations – in fact, during the day a member of staff had taken the time to phone and ask whether we wanted a table near the screen. We’d declined – despite living in Wales for nine years, where you might assume one would take these things in by osmosis, I’m never quite sure how many points you get for a try – and took one of the large benches to ourselves on the proviso we were done before a large booking arrived at 7.30pm. Fair enough.

I order an Erdinger Hefe Weißbier and Mrs Turnforthewurst a glass of Macabeo, which is met with a “what?” from the waitress (“We just say first or second,” she says of the white wines – one to bear in mind). It’s then worth perusing its impressively packed magazine, which gives some insight into how the venue sees itself. With its monthly ‘Stammtisch’, an opportunity for everyone from absolute beginners to native speakers to practice their German, and the fact it’s the home of the London branch of the Bayern Munich official fan club, there’s almost a community-type underpinning to what might otherwise be a once-in-a-blue-moon funhouse.

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Anyway, the food. I order the Special Bavarian Beerhouse “Wurstplatte”, which consists of a Bratwurstschnecke, a Merguez spicy sausage and a Käseknacker served with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. As so often with these things, it’s deceptively big, the sausages peaking over the sides of the plate. And it’s hugely satisfying – the Bratwurst, spiralled in the centre of the plate, is thick and well-seasoned, the Merguez piquant and the Käseknacker quite smoky, with the cheese – Emmenthal presumably – understated. The sauerkraut is moist while the potatoes are velvety in their smoothness.

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Mrs Turnforthewurst has the Nürnberger Bratwürst’l, three of the small, grilled sausages served with sauerkraut and a pretzel. They are, again, deliciously thick and citric, while the pretzel is soft, salty and fresh.

One little niggle: there was no soap in the bathrooms. The men’s did, however, have an intriguing-looking locked door and a key left tantalisingly by one of the sinks. I briefly thought of investigating before recoiling in fear of a Saw-style game.

That aside, Bavarian Beerhouse’s food is better than it really ought to be, or probably needs to be. It’s not exactly one of the increasing number of German restaurants in London experimenting with a new wave of Germanic cuisine, but then why would it? It shows rugby and serves Jägertrains. What it does do is afford its customers the respect of doing the classics well, and this is where it sort of triumphs. Its own website quotes an unnamed reviewer as saying: “This place is not something you would consider for a romantic or a posh dinner. But it is one of London’s best places for a group night out and having fun!”. Which is probably fair enough.

img_1475Food 8/10

Drinks 8/10

Authenticity 7/10

Staff 7/10

Overall 7.5/10

http://www.bavarian-beerhouse.co.uk/london/london-old-street/

 

 

London German Restaurant of the Year 2016

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The Bierbratwurst at Liverpool Street’s Bierschenke

This blog, with its noble and only slightly esoteric quest to review every German food establishment in London, began its life in November 2015. That makes 2016 its first full year in operation, and so it is that we take a look back over the restaurants we’ve reviewed, the festivals we’ve frequented, the sausages we’ve scoffed and, finally, crown the winners of Turn For The Wurst’s inaugural London German Restaurant of the Year. The prize is pride, a warm fuzzy feeling and, if they really wanted it, I could probably knock up a laminated certificate.

This year we’ve reviewed 10 restaurants and been to two festivals. That those are just a pick of the number of German eateries in the capital is testament to the fact that it is a cuisine whose reputation is growing. So many are taking it seriously rather than a token accompaniment to a stein of lager and a raucous stag party. And even those whose main revenue-drivers remain post-work shenanigans to a soundtrack of ironic oompah bands are putting much more thought into their menus than the anaemic hot dogs which would once have been their stock-in-trade.

We ventured to London Bridge’s Katzenjammers on a cold Sunday afternoon for a quiet lunch (we said we’d be back for a weekday evening, a promise we’ll keep in 2017). We braved Kennington for hidden treat Zeitgeist (“colourful, a little boisterous and with food which won’t disappoint while not necessarily knocking your socks off”). We headed to Kingston to pay tribute to the exciting creativity of the wonderful Stein’s. And we had post-cinema bratwurst at the Charing Cross branch of Herman Ze German.

We went native amongst the students at Fulham’s oddly-named Octoberfest (“[it] has no pretentions to provide an authentic Teutonic dining experience, but be a fun meeting place with an Alpine tinge”). We went not once but twice to Victoria’s relatively new Munich Cricket Club. We had early-evening kebabs after just two pints at Islington’s new branch of German Doner Kebab. And we were quick on the draw to get into what will surely be one of the hits of 2017, Berlin brünch.

We also visited both London Oktoberfest and Oktoberfest East, although the less said about the former the better.

The obvious choice for Restaurant of the Year would have been German Gymnasium. Named as the world’s best overall restaurant, design-wise, in a major international awards ceremony, it was, I wrote, “the current darling of the dining clubs, the subject of dinner party ‘have you been?’ whispers”. And, as I also wrote, it succeeds magnificently, effortlessly classy with fantastic staff and wonderful food (they also surprised me with a birthday cake). If you haven’t been yet, do so soon.

But for the inaugural London German Restaurant of the Year award I really wanted it to be the one which would be my go-to, every time. And that place is Bierschenke, close to Liverpool Street station. The food, I wrote, is “the real deal… tasty, well-presented and lavished with love”. Its Bierbratwurst is a thing of beauty. The stylish upstairs wears its theme lightly while its downstairs, a huge Munich-style beer hall, plays the game more. It’s equally as good for a Saturday night meal as it is for watching live Bundesliga games on its huge screens. In short, it ticks every box, every time. And that’s why Bierschenke is Turn For The Wurst’s London German Restaurant of the Year.

Berlin brünch

365-366 Warburton Street, E8 3RR

Price for two: £26.30

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Brunch is in many ways a Berlin way of life, particularly at weekends. In trendier parts of the German capital, such as artsy Kreuzberg or gritty Neukölln, fresh bread, pastries and an approach bordering on the languid are what Saturdays and Sundays are made for – long, lazy and an opportunity to put the world to rights with friends over endless bottomless coffee.

Berlin brünch (the lower case is deliberate, the umlaut a slight affectation) is a pop-up which has been touring supper clubs and festivals across London and beyond for the last 20 months to general acclaim. A Kickstarter appeal to find a permanent home was successful in raising £10,000 and this month it set up shop in what would appear to be a perfect fit – the Taproom of London Fields Brewery in Hackney. The cosy space already has cachet as the home of one of East London’s hippest breweries and is at the epicentre of Hackney’s time-rich freelance types. It’s also approximately 30 seconds’ walk from where I live, which probably gets them an extra point.

The idea from London Fields Brewery’s point of view is, according to the publicity, “bringing the Taproom back to the heart of the London Fields community” and it’s in some ways a brave move given the plethora of upmarket bakeries and breakfast joints which have appeared amidst the area’s arches in the past 12 months. And the Taproom, which in the evenings serves up their beers (try the lovely, lively Hackney Hopster) never appears to be short of custom. So, does the move work?

First, full disclosure: we went on its second day of opening. If this were a professional review site, we would have waited until at least after its official opening, avoiding the kind of furore which hit the Times and Daily Mail when they reviewed a preview of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet. But we’re not, and we’re basically neighbours, and we were excited and – spoiler alert! – they have absolutely nothing to worry about, because Berlin brünch has hit written all over it.

We arrive on a late Sunday morning, and it’s already got a promisingly fair bit of custom for a street where you might not expect huge passing trade. Taking a table towards the back of the café, which has lost a lot of its pub feel, we then order at the bar. And it’s a no-brainer, really – the Berliner, a £20 platter for two to share which heads the menu. They do a vegetarian version for three quid less too.

img_1426Perhaps strangely, for £20, it doesn’t includes drinks. I have an orange juice, which comes in a kind of miniature milk bottle, has the consistency of a smoothie and costs an eye-watering £4. Mrs Turnforthewurst has a filter coffee which comes with bottomless refills. It takes a while to come as the server hasn’t used the machine before but – again – it’s their second day and the staff are warm and friendly. And the fact the drinks aren’t included makes sense when you realise how much brunch you get for your buck. It’s a wooden board packed – and I mean properly, disconcertingly packed – with tasty goodies. So here we go…

There are two topless Burford eggs with remoulade; fresh, delicious and ethical too (prior to going I googled topless eggs to see if they were anything other than boiled eggs with the tops pre-removed. Tip: if googling topless eggs at work, make sure you put it in speechmarks). The German pepper salami is delightfully piquant, the Berliner Fleischsalat a thick meat salad adding gherkin slices for a spiky aftertaste. Cheese? There’s goat’s – super-rich – local cheddar and smoked emmenthal.

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The granola in vanilla quark is deliciously moreish but the star of the show is the smoked mackerel paté, maybe not traditionally German but packed with flavour. And best of all, there’s a basket of various bread from Broadway Market’s cracking Pavilion Bakery. Run out? Fine – you can help yourself to more from the counter.

Going to Berlin brünch in its early days feels a bit like spotting a thrilling winger making his debut – giving you the smug feeling of seeing something you know all the tastemakers are going to be raving about in the months to come. There might be one or two things to iron out, service-wise, but they’ll come. The only real problem Berlin brünch has is that name. German caps up all nouns. Can we not have one here?

Food 8/10

Drinks 8/10

Authenticity 8/10

Staff 8/10

Overall 8/10

http://www.bruench.com/