9 Crutched Friars, EC3N 2AU
Price for two: £52.76
We’ve been here before. Way back in November 2015 we arrived at the very same venue in Crutched Friars in the City to review the “surprisingly authentic and likeable” Bavarian Beerhouse. But it closed late last year, along with its branch in Old Street, amid vague murmurings about the effects of Brexit. The official line, as reported by Camra, is that the Tower Hill branch closed due to an increase in rent, and Old Street thanks to redevelopment; its other branch, in Bristol, shut suddenly in 2017 following an “unforeseen dispute” with the building’s landlord. But paperwork lodged with Companies House show the firm filed for insolvency last December. So make of all that what you will.
But one German restaurant’s loss is another’s gain, and now, as of June, it’s the second venue for Bavarian beerhall concept Bierschenke, firmly established near Liverpool Street since 2014. It’s all part of some serious expansion plans – this new branch follows an £800,000 investment and owner Gerry Hanratty has said the firm is already in negotiations for two more sites.
If the London Wall Bierschenke, which claims to be London’s largest German pub, is a cavernous beerhall, the decidedly more bijou Tower Hill offering, limited by its 6,000sq ft, 400-capacity size, stays closer to the small-town Bavarian eatery style of its previous tenant. Upstairs is more foody, downstairs is described as a Bierkieller, rather than hall, and is a more spacious, boozy affair with plenty of room for roaming Oompah bands to blast out those ironic brassy covers of Despacito which are pretty much de rigueur. The interior is all wood panelling and northern European minimalism (all furniture was apparently imported from Bavaria and installed by German carpenters).
Having sneaked into the press opening back in June as Mrs Turnforthewurst’s +1, we return on an August Saturday, a day our server assures us with some relief is more laid-back (it’s close to the financial institutions of the City and Fenchurch Street Station, from where much of the former’s workers are ferried back to their Essex villas at the end of the day, so is perfectly sited for post-derivatives Thursday night blow-outs). But even at 2pm there’s a fair few couples in there having hearty lunches.
Like its Liverpool Street branch, it wears its German-ness relatively lightly, save the staff outfits and a couple of period tourism posters for Bavaria. Unlike its sister outlet, it has unnecessary TV screens pumping out a revolving set of Instagram pics and slogans reminding us (with spelling mistakes) just how awesome Bierschenke is and how we should visit. We’re here now. You’ve got us. Musically it’s much less overt than its predecessor, which genuinely pumped out DJ Ötzi and David Hassellhoff. Here it’s all AOR and the type of Hall & Oates fare now retrospectively dubbed Yacht Rock (seriously, look at Google Trends – it barely existed before last year). Anyway, it is at least a fairly decent representation of what you’ll here on most German radio.
I get a Weissbier, the same brewed-in-Bavaria, signature beer served at London Wall – lovely, light and with its signature banana tones. Mrs Turnforthewurst gets a glass of house white wine – “very nice for a house white”.
The food, then. After some epic um-ing and ah-ing from Mrs Turnforthewurst (“I might just see what comes out of my mouth”) we go for the Bierschenke Platter for two, at £26.50. “You’ll need to clear some room,” says our server, referring to our table and not our stomachs, although it turned out to be equally applicable to the latter. Described as “the best of Bierschenke”, it consists of two schnitzel, Bratwurst, Nürnberger, Frankfurter, Debreziner, hunter sauce, chips and Sauerkraut.
And what a thing of meaty beauty it is (this was, admittedly, days before the UN released a report urging the world to less meat and focus on plant-based food). The schnitzel is perfect and better than any on a platter has any right to be – although Mrs Turnforthewurst thought one would have sufficed – the Bratwurst soft and deliciously citric. The Nürnberger have that distinctive sweet pine flavour of marjoram, while the Debreziner is heavily spiced and luscious for it. The hunter sauce is wonderful, the chips perfectly crispy, the Sauerkraut delightfully tangy. Only the salad, in a separate bowl, looks on largely neglected, a plant-based side days ahead of its time (although it does contain pickled cucumber – why don’t we do this more often?).
Oh, the food is wonderful alright. The service is very good. And the setting’s not bad too. It just needs to lose the TV sets – except when the Bundesliga is on, natürlich – and the Bierschenke team have another hit on their hands. Oh, and maybe the Yacht Rock. Lose the Yacht Rock too. And then – perfekt.