27 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UA
Price for two: £63.20
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.
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.
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 clear who’s making it back to Oxford.