49-51 Black Prince Road, SE11 6AB
Price for two: £24.60
On the face of it, Black Prince Road in Kennington is not the place one would expect to find a truly authentic German pub in London. As this blog has noted before, the bigger theme pubs tend to congregate around the institutions of the City. Zeitgeist is plonked seemingly at random on the A-Z, a 15-minute walk from Kennington Tube station through a series of slightly forbidding (at least on a dark Saturday evening) series of domestic streets.
Originally the Jolly Gardeners (officially it still carries the name), it was bought up by new German owners in 2007, who gave the spacious, wood-panelled pub a new lick of paint and a rebranding from home. And, despite its relative isolation, it seems to have found a large audience of homesick natives, Bundesliga-following football hipsters and curious locals.
The large pub, which appears to have almost as many entry doors as it offers imported beers, is effectively split into two by the bar which runs through the middle. The left-hand side has some lower-level table seating while the bulk of it is made up of high tables with stools. This would appear to be the louder of the two halves – during our time the noises made by some of the well-oiled men in there were little more than primeval and may or may not have been linked to the projected screening of Bayern Munich v Darmstadt highlights (and this goal). TVs throughout show a mix of Bundesliga, Sky Sports and Jukebox, a music channel catering largely for people who used to buy their CDs from Woolworths.
The right-hand side is entirely lower-level tables, quieter and entirely more convivial for eating. Flanking our table were one lone man reading the Times Literary Supplement, and three young German professionals (in a wonderful show of bilingualism, one briefly stopped speaking German to announce to his friends in English his intention to get “batsh*t drunk”).
Initially getting served was a challenge – despite Saturdays obviously being a peak time there only appeared to be two staff behind the bar, meaning patience was required to get a Krombacher Weizen and a gin and tonic. The former is a Hefeweizen-style beer with a history only going back to 2007 but is pleasant and rarely seen in the UK.
Food is easier to order and the menu decent. One caveat: astonishingly, in 2016, Zeitgeist charges 20p for payment by card. But it’s a minor quibble. I go, rather unadventurously, for the Krakauer, the strictly speaking Polish sausage spiced with herbs and served with chips and salad. It’s substantial enough and tasty, and the chips are thick, fluffy and filling. The salad, essentially a garnish with a slice each of cucumber and tomato, is barely worth the length of this sentence. But it’s good enough for what it is – a quick late lunch.
Mrs Turnforthewurst opts for something different. Zeitgeist offers five different variations of Flammkuchen, an Alsatian dish made of bread dough rolled out thinly and covered with crème fraiche, sliced onions and cheddar cheese. She opts for the Italian version, which adds prosciutto crudo and rocket. It’s surprisingly substantial and rich – my dining partner compares it to a Turkish lahmacun and wonders about the inclusion of both crème fraiche and cheese (a traditional Flammkuchen tends to include lardons rather than the latter).
Still, at the price, and even including the 20p card fee, Zeitgeist is a real find – colourful, a little boisterous and with food which won’t disappoint while not necessarily knocking your socks off. It’s unlikely to be one to just stumble across, but for meeting up with friends to catch a football match it’s a good bet. After all, Kennington is just a few stops on the Northern Line from Bank. “Kennington: not as far away as you think it is,” says Mrs Turnforthewurst. “That should be the slogan it puts on its tourist posters.”