678-680 Fulham Road, SW6 5SA
Price for two: Approximately £44*
What’s that name all about? With its anglicised ‘c’ spelling, the message of Octoberfest seems to be “we’re German – but don’t worry, we’re not too daunting”. Which, actually, would be a fair approximation – Octoberfest has no pretentions to provide an authentic Teutonic dining experience, but be a fun meeting place with an Alpine tinge.
Which fits its clientele. Running late, our friends who are already there text to say that the neighbours next to our reserved table are a Sunday league football team who, judging by their essence, had not fitted in a shower between the full-time whistle and arriving. They’re watching Sunderland v Leicester on the big screen, which dominates the rear of the pub and somehow gives the place the feel of a student union bar on a lazy Sunday.
Elsewhere, the fittings are similar. The adjoining room hosts a pool table and fruit machine; among the German ephemera – posters, Bavarian flags – are the results of a challenge which appear to have involved drinking beer from a glass boot in the shortest space of time. It’s all a bit #lad, like a German restaurant as envisaged by the creators of a noughties alcopop commercial, but the vibe is generally relaxed and the staff friendly enough. Friday nights, one imagines, might be a bit less bearable.
After the briefest of kerfuffles ordering drinks – the drinks menu only bears a passing resemblance to what they actually had in stock – I get a Franziskaner while Mrs Turnforthewurst has a Riesling which she is pleasantly surprised by. And then to the food. And more drinks.
For reasons now unrecallable both Mrs Turnforthewurst and I and our friends decide to tackle their speciality platters. These are described in the menu as “a challenge for one, great for two or a sharer for four”. In actual fact, for one they would be less “a challenge” and more “a coronary thrombosis” – these things are huge, to the extent we struggled to fit both on our (large) table. We go for the German sausage platter – two pork, two pimento pork and two beef sausages together with four smaller Nürnberger sausages, sauerkraut, potato salad and, just for the hell of it, a week’s worth of chips. It’s a cartoonish concoction à la Mr Greedy but actually of the highest quality – there’s no scrimping of the quality of wurst here, the pork in particular having a delicious consistency, while the Nürnberger are zippily citric.
Our friends try the “Bavarian platter”, a plate piled high with schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, potato salad and a second week’s worth of chips. They are less blown away – the bratwurst and the sauerkraut gets the thumbs-up, the potato salad less so and the schnitzel is variously described as “so-so” and overdone. The platter being apparently insubstantial they also opt for a side-dish of käsespätzle, egg pasta topped with melted cheese and caramelised onions, which comes with more sauerkraut and provokes six-out-of-ten noises.
Sticking with the platter theme, we also get a beer wheel – a wooden wheel laden with eight one-third-pint glasses of different beers, a mix of lagers, wheat beers and darker ales. All go down well, although the darks are more of an acquired taste for some. It’s a good idea and one which would appeal to the beer novice.
It’s after all these, though, that one of our friends disappears off to the bar and re-emerges with four bottles of Underberg, a digestive bitter which, he insists, is best drunk by opening the bottle, holding it in the mouth, knocking one’s head back and swallowing in one before, for some reason, placing the cap on your nose. This we all do. And, having done so, we look around at the students and 20-somethings, clad in their training tops and feeding the fruit machine, and realise we’ve gone native. Octoberfest is a fun find, fine for what it is. But it’s #timetogo.
*As there were four of us, and we paid for different things at different times, the price is a bit more ballpark than usual