2-3 Creed Lane, EC4V 5BR
Price for two: £57.85
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.
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.
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.