Monthly Archives: June 2013

Oom-pah-pah on Villiers Street: Meat me at Herman ze German

Copyright of Herman ze German. Sourced from Herman ze German website

Copyright of Herman ze German. Sourced from Herman ze German website

Cuisine: German

Address: 19 Villiers Street, WC2N 6NE

Area: Charing Cross

Nearest Station: Embankment/Charing Cross

Tel.: N/A

Website: http://www.herman-ze-german.co.uk/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Casual dining, Takeaway, Filling meal, Sinful snacks

It’s been a month since I was in Munich, on a holiday between projects. Whenever I told anyone of my plans, I was asked whether I was going to gorge myself on sausages and beer, and I would reply enthusiastically in the affirmative (if I said I was going to a party to gorge on sausage and beer, that would sound horrifically dodgy – ooh err).

Now it may surprise many people, but I only had sausage twice those four days in Munich – weiβwurst for a rather sluggish and hungover breakfast on the Sunday, and a currywurst snack during a daytrip to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Rather, I came to appreciate the other regional dishes, such as roast pork knuckle, obazda, leberkäse and, rather surprisingly, white asparagus.

And, instead of plying myself silly with litre steins of Münchener weiβbier (I did have some, mind), I instead discovered a strong liking for the sweet, cool, refreshing taste of the radler and the russ’n, aka the shandy.

But that’s all for another day. Now that I am back in London, I find myself dreaming of big, fat, juicy German sausages (oooh errr), and bitterly regretting that the drei paar of weiβwurst I brought home with me lasted only three days. And so, where would I go to, in order to fix this absolutely wurst problem?

Enter Herman ze German from stage right. Anyone wandering along that crammed stretch of Villiers Street between Embankment and Charing Cross stations is bound to have seen this place, and thought to themselves, “Hmm, I hope that Herman has good sausage” (ooooh errrr). The fact that it is almost opposite one of the exits from Charing Cross has meant that I, and I’m sure countless others, have popped across the road to grab a meaty snack as we waited for our trains home.

And now, actually having been to Germany, I can come to Herman for my fix of all things German: the place screams over-the-top Germaness, specifically of the Bavarian Alpine lodge variety. However, as my Bavarian friend did point out, our perception of Germaness is… rather narrow-minded, let’s just say. But then again, there are loads of pictures of her wearing a dirndl, eating bratwurst and drinking weiβbier out of litre steins, so why should Herman disappoint us by not offering these?

Okay, there is a distinct lack of girls in dirndls and guys in lederhosen, and I don’t think they sell beer any more (*sob*), but there is wurst.

That eventful first currywurst

That eventful first currywurst

They will leave you feeling satisfied and all filled up. They are well-cooked, juicy and have great flavours. The old classic bratwurst is a favourite. But the first time I was here, I had the currywurst. They overloaded mine with spice, which made it difficult to finish off without a cooling beer. The sauce is perhaps too ketchup-y for my liking, but it has a strong and distinct tang about it. I like the fried onions that you can request to sprinkle on your sausage, and the sauerkraut is up to the job too – some crunch and texture, and not packing too much sourness.

However, I would recommend going for something a little different from the average wurst – the leberkäse. This translates, literally, as liver cheese. Before you vomit at the thought of that, hear me out. It is, roughly-speaking, a sausage meatloaf, and so has nearly (but not quite) the same taste and texture as the bratwurst on offer. Herman’s example is a pretty good one, and they have been quite generous with their portions, cutting their under-used loaf into hefty slices for your enjoyment and smothering them in punchy mustard.

As for the all-important fries that accompany this cornucopia of sausage meat – they are thin, crisp, and delightful when dipped in either curry sauce or mayonnaise.

So, the next time you find yourself at a loose end whilst waiting for your train in Charing Cross, why not pop out, cross the road, and enter a little haven of Germany?

VERDICT – A good place. Portions are hearty, prices are good, flavours are tasty; it is simple food done well. Sometimes, all you need in life is meat, bread and potatoes. ‘Nuff said.

Currently listening to: Circa Survive – Dyed in the Wool

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It’s time to get to know your neighbours: getting local at the Royal Albert

Cuisine: British

Address: 460 New Cross Road, SE14 6TJ

Area: New Cross

Nearest Station: New Cross

Tel.: 020 8692 3737

Website: http://www.royalalbertpub.com/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Friendly conversation, Beer selection, Fresh ingredients, Loitering over drinks

It was Star Wars Day recently, if you were unaware – “May the Fourth be with you” and all that – and for some people it was quite a big deal.

My brother told me that he found this awesome pub in our neighbourhood, and that they had been hosting a Star Wars party to celebrate the day.

“How come we’ve never been to The Royal Albert before??”

“Well, truth be told, I have been there a couple of times, and have told you about it before…”

“Oh, really?”

It’s funny how information, no matter how many times shared, is often passed over and only becomes important to you when it becomes relevant. I’ve been exploring around New Cross and Deptford a fair bit, but when I tell my friends and my brother about the places I’ve been to, I can see it doesn’t really register – they don’t have a particular need to come to New Cross and go to these places because, well, they probably have their own favourite locals and when they do come to New Cross they usually just hang out at ours.

The mean streets of New Cross, as seen from the Royal Albert's terrace out front

The mean streets of New Cross/Deptford, as seen from the Royal Albert’s terrace out front

But we had some friends over that day for a chilled (and chilly) barbecue; as the evening wore on we decided to mix things up a bit by heading on over to The Royal Albert for a nightcap (and a listen to their folk music evening).

It’s a very atmospheric pub with many what seem to be original Victorian fittings around, giving the place an eclectic and busy character. The mood lighting was just a bit dim, but we were still able to navigate our way safely through the comfy chairs to a table in the corner which had its own jungle surrounding it. By the looks of it, this was also the setting for Yoda’s Love Den the night of the Star Wars party; who knows what happened here then…

"Come into my den you will, mmmm"

“Come into my den you will, mmmm”

The folk music and other ambient sounds were not too loud, allowing for some good ol’ chattage to take place.

Anyway, the selection of beer that they have is pretty extensive and constantly rotating – it was a completely different line up to what I had had previously with other friends. So, this is definitely a place for ale experimentation, something of which I am a big fan of. Unfortunately, it being somewhat late in the evening, my memory of which pints I had is somewhat hazy…

I did get a chance to go again the very next day with my brother and some others, for our very first Royal Albert Monday night pub quiz. As far as quizzes go, it was a rather ‘eccentric’ one – with a paper airplane round, a drawing round, a first-up-with-the-answer round – and quite fun. The questions were a good mix of straightforward and challenging; it was just a shame that there was another team that was smashing those questions (grrr).

But now to food. In the run-up to the quiz, I was feeling just a bit peckish and so elected for something off their starters menu. The dish lucky enough to be chosen by my good self was a potato salad with spring lamb belly and mango salsa – something seasonal and something a bit different, no? And as luck would have it, I chose very well that day, for not only was it a very sizeable meal but it was also an extremely well-thought out and creative dish.

Spring lamb belly - spring is in the air!

Spring lamb belly – spring is in the air!

Crisp potato pieces paired up with tender and meltingly-soft lamb belly pieces were flavoured with a none-too-sweet mango sauce, which worked surprisingly well together; here was a good balance of flavours and textures that spoke well of the kitchen’s skill here. To further validate this opinion, our friend asked for her tuna steak to be just simply seared – and it was done as requested, leaving the steak pink on the inside.

Unsurprisingly, The Royal Albert is now my brother’s favourite pub in the area. I’m glad he’s finally come on board to the idea.

VERDICT – Highly recommended. The Royal Albert is a great local pub, but it also transcends that and could even be regarded as a destination pub in its own right. With real charm, great food and a dazzling selection of beers on offer, it really should get a bit more attention. It shouldn’t just have to wait for someone to walk by it in order for it to be noticed. Will you be heading to New Cross any time soon?

Currently listening to: Our Lady Peace – Middle of Yesterday

Categories: British, Pub | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gotta get down on Sunday: A roast for you and a roast for me at The Pig & Butcher

Copyright of Pig & Butcher. Sourced from Pig & Butcher website

Copyright of Pig & Butcher. Sourced from Pig & Butcher website

Cuisine: British

Address: 80 Liverpool Street, N1 0QD

Area: Angel

Nearest Station: Angel/Highbury & Islington

Tel.: 020 7226 8304

Website: http://www.thepigandbutcher.co.uk/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Buzzing atmosphere, Filling meal, Smart-casual dining, Beer selection

“The earliest booking I can get for Sunday Roast is 6pm,” my friend’s message read. This was a perfectly good time for an early dinner – but as a lunch (which was the original intention), this was somewhat pushing it a bit.

The Pig & Butcher in Islington is a popular place, no doubt about it. It was heaving with people by the time I got there, and so it was a struggle to get through the closely-packed tables and the pressing crowd to meet my friend at the bar.

The atmosphere was buzzing, to say the least. The sounds of a thousand conversations reverberated off the wooden panelling, the wooden floor, the wooden fixtures and the wooden furniture, making for an exciting feel but also a bit of loud environment for talking. This was a bit of a shame, as there was a lot of catching up that needed doing.

As we waited at our booth for the others to arrive, I was able to sample the very extensive beer list and display some ale snobbery (I am such a sucker for these). The Hackney Brewery Golden Ale was a good choice, being suited for lovely spring evening – not too bitter, with a rounding and warming flavour that enveloped my tongue in a slight hint of sweetness. Now that I read that last sentence, my gosh doesn’t that sound pretentious? If I ever start carrying around a spitting bucket, please do feel free to slap me.

In any case, the pretentiousness was not allowed to blossom, as the rest of the crew arrived and we got down to the business of ordering. Sunday Roasts all around – what else could it be on a Sunday?

Roast beef - all juiced and raring to go

Roast beef – all juiced and raring to go

I managed to get a good glimpse of a friend’s roast beef, as it was mistakenly placed in front of my salivating eyes. As you can see from the photo, it looked ridiculously juicy and almost creamy looking – it was an enticingly pink colour all throughout, but still had a tasty-looking charred exterior. As it was taken away and given to the right recipient, I could feel the food envy building…

Roast lamb - meek and mild

Roast lamb – meek and mild

But as my roast lamb arrived, the envy dissipated and was replaced with pride. Again, pink all throughout, with a layer of charred fat and skin looking extremely juicy and devilish. But whilst the lamb was juicy and really flavourful, I did find it a bit chewier than expected – it wasn’t as melt-in-the-mouth as other lamb I have had, and so it did put my jaw to work. As for the vegetables, they were cooked just right and had a satisfying bite to them, but could have done with just a smidgen of seasoning to liven them up a bit (my family’s local in Surrey actually goes the extra mile and has a selection of maple-glazed vegetables, usually parsnips, carrots and squash, with lightly-pickled red cabbage). However, the potatoes were superbly crispy, and the Yorkshire pudding was fluffy, doughy and crunchy, all at the same time.

Feeling the food envy come back, I desired to try the beef and so managed to swap some lamb with a friend – and yes, that small mouthful of beef was as good as it first looked. Perhaps next time I will have to go for that.

Surprisingly, we were not all completely stuffed with those hefty roasts: there was still space for dessert! Or some dessert at least – there were six of us sharing three desserts (the girls were watching their petite waist lines; me, not so much).

A sweet way to end the day

A sweet way to end the day

We had the parkin with toffee sauce and clotted cream (a luxurious sticky toffee-type pudding without the dates; the clotted cream added good richness to the slightly-thin caramel sauce), the apple & rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice cream (lots of crumble which I always enjoy, along with soft and sweet apples and rhubarb) and what I think was the malted chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline and milk sorbet (I remember this less well, as it was at the far end of the table).

It was, all in all, a leisurely (and very) late Sunday Roast lunch, perfect for a group of friends to meet and catch up over. We therefore rolled our way out of the Pig & Butcher, big and contented smiles on our faces, ready to face the oncoming night and the dreary Monday morning that it heralded.

VERDICT – A good place. It had a nice feel about it, as befitting a rustic city pub in the middle of classy Islington, and the busy atmosphere definitely contributed to the vibe (if you don’t mind the noise, at least). It was a good solid Sunday Roast, which whilst not the best I’ve had, would be more than enough to tempt people out of their homes and away from their own home-cooked versions. It’s definitely a place to check out for the rest of the week.

Currently listening to: Our Lady Peace – Middle of Yesterday

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