Thursday, August 27, 2009

A tale of two Zeitgeist's, from Lambeth to Kennington

I'm a strange mix I am. One major part of the fact that I am a "rather unusual chinaman" is the fact that I was born in Frankfurt, Germany. My parents, two non-German speaking Chinese Malaysians took the crazy notion that moving to Germany, starting a business and raising kids would be a good idea. That said, my parents made a good fist of it, with my fathers tropical fish industry doing well and my family accepted by some of the kindest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

And the food. Even as an eight year old, I had a mighty appetite and being in Germany, much of this revolved around all things meat. In fact, one of my fondest memories as a child was our morning ritual. First we would go to the bäckerei for our breakfast bread rolls. And then we would go next door to the metzgerei, essentially a German deli, where we would be given slivers of all the sausages to taste before choosing which ones we wanted to have with our rolls. I always knew which one I wanted, but could never resist snaffling as many freebies as I could. Even at 8 I was a foodblagger.

Outside @ Zeitgeist

20 odd years later, I find myself in London, and to cut a long story short, the sausages here just aren't the same. Nothing beats a bratwurst. Or a good gelbwurst. Or even slices of bierwurst. I had been yearning for some good honest German tucker when I noticed the Zeitgeist lunch box (an offshoot of the Zeitgeist pub), a small, unassuming shop displaying its wares in the window. MEAT. And lots of it.

Meat Feast @ Zeitgeist

It had everything. Salt Beef, Leberkäse, Wurst and Schweinebraten to name a few. They even had German potato salad and gherkins. And best of all, proper German mustard, lighter and smoother than the English version. On my last visit, I opted for their lunch deal, choose anything that will fit into a box with a drink for a fiver.

Schweinebraten und Kartoffeln @ Zeitgeist

Wow, this really brought me back. The potatoes, whilst very greasy, were interwoven with strands of sweet onion and salty flecks of ham. Some parts of the potatoes had crispier bits where it had been cooked a little longer, all adding to the difference in textures. I had a bit of roast pork with this and this was also outstanding. Tender pieces of pork speckled with peppercorns, all finished off with a squeeze of that mustard. Easily a fiver of anybodies money.

After this meal, I was due to meet Mr Ed and I thought I would go for the full house and chose to visit the Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardener. The main outlet and claiming to be a German gastropub. The pub itself is very nice, but my day went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The menu contains all the usual suspects, but what I really wanted was the Wiener schnitzel. A breaded pork cutlet, deep fried and smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce. Frankly, this was ok. But really no better than that. I was hoping for some serious German tucker, so good I would regress to the good old days.

Jäger Schnitzel and Creamy Mushrooom Sauce @ Zeitgeist

Regress? I nearly fell asleep. The schnitzel was nigh on tasteless, although, to its credit, grease free. The mushroom sauce was strangely sweet and again lacked flavour. I had to restrain myself from dumping a whole load of salt all over it. And don't get me started about the "side salad". A few brown leaves of iceberg lettuce, two bits of cucumber and tomato, combined with the most putrid dressing I have ever tasted. It was as if the chef had used cooking oil, run out of vinegar, so substituted it with water and then let his hand slip when adding the sugar. Ghastly.

The evening meal was a disaster in my eyes. Even hovering around the £10 mark, this was a total waste of money. It was nice catching up with Mr Ed, but I don't think I will be coming here again. In the future, I think I will stick to the Lunch Box.

Zeitgeist Lunchbox - 141 Westminster Bridge Road,SE1 7HR

Zeitgeist Lunchbox on Urbanspoon

Zeitgeist @ The Jolly Gardeners - 49-51 Black Prince Rd,SE11 6AB

Zeitgeist on Urbanspoon

Website for both


Su-Lin said...

Oh, I wish I worked closer to the Lunchbox! Loved the food when I was visiting Germany. I miss the fried pork knuckles the size of my head. Do they have weisswurst?

Helen said...

Nice! I must get to the lunchbox. I really love German food actually - all that meat. I thought German potato salad always had salami in it. Is that not true then?

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

A reader told me about the Zeitgeist pub, as she knew about my German roots too. I guess I won't bother then!

Dina said...

After I sent you an email I noticed this entry! That's brilliant! A miss German food a lot. It consists of many ingredients you can find in British country food but it is made with love ;)

tehbus said...

(sorry for how late all these replies are)

@SuLin - I don't think I saw any at the time, although they do have a decent selection.

@Helen - Not sure about the salami, I think it's optional. A good option, but not always present.

@Helen YLP - Have heard various contrasting reports and am preparing myself for a return visit. Stay tuned.

@Dina - I love German food too. Especially since I was born there!

Credit crunch chick said...

You might like a new German place that has opened up in London Bridge - Katzenjammers.

My husband is German and said it was pretty authentic. My favourite were the Spatzle.

Anonymous said...

I randomly came across this page and wanted to make a comment. Wiener Schnitzel is simply breaded and deep fried (and if authentic made from veal, not pork), usually served with chips (pommes frites) and a wedge of lemon.
What you're describing is a Jägerschnitzel, which has a mushroom sauce.

Even after living in the UK for 15 years, I still miss "Aufschnitt" (what you were describing, all the various cold cuts). While the Brits have caught up with bread and it's not difficult to find a decent rye sourdough, they still can't make a decent German style sausage.

Anonymous said...

This person does not have a clue about food and culture. Stuck in the past?!?!