We love a newly built swanky restaurant. These newly-born building are guaranteed stunning structures with lots of glass and steel etc. That being said, there is something inexplicably beautiful about a renovated building. The charm and history of its old foundations – once crumbling, now loving restored and kitted out with really impressive modern interiors.
The German Gymnasium, as the title suggests, was the first purpose-built gymnasium in England and was solely funded by the German community in London in 1864. Today, it is the home of a new D&D venture. I’m glad to say, the new owners have nailed the renovation. The building is a colossal space with a soaring triple height ceiling. This has allowed the re-design to split over two levels; a ground-floor café and upstairs restaurant and bar. Each area is beautifully designed and careful attention has been paid to noise levels. Even in the middle of the ground-floor café, the epicentre of the building, you can converse easily and audibly with your companion.
We were sat in the Grand Café next to a stunning floral centrepiece, which is visible from both floors and a real focal point for the restaurant. With the lavish display and beautiful interiors my colleague and I suddenly feel very cosmopolitan and order two cocktails, a German Gym & Tonic (love a play on words) and a Sex and the City (naturally). Both interestingly are carbonated in house, giving them a little fizz.
Bread arrives and it’s the first significant nod to Mittel-Europe. The basket features rye breads galore with salted butter and quark! For those less familiar quark is a mild, smooth curd cheese.
Studying the menu, dishes with obvious Germanic influences – goulash, bratwurst and tafelspritz, sit alongside more modern items such as squid, steak tartare and Tiger prawns. Although an interesting sea bass choice catches my eye, we opt for the traditional Deutsch fare. My starter of Herring “Hausfrauenart” is fishy but fresh, with satisfying chunks of apple and cucumber adding texture and sweetness and a cool yoghurt binding everything together. Following the sea theme my companion orders a brown shrimp cocktail, simple enough but with new elements like mango giving it a modern spin.
With the starters finished and wine ordered (2014 Lemberger) we sit back in our seats and await main courses. As we’d both eaten substantial lunches, we were not prepared for what was to arrive. I’m surprised the waiter didn’t reshuffle the nearby tables to make way for the GIANT schnitzel that was placed in front of me. The vast expanse of veal was served with a pot of divinely creamy mushroom sauce and was in one hand rich and indulgent and at the same time comforting and homely. The second main was an equally not-small Beef Goulash with soft braised short rib that fell from the bone and served with sour cream spätzle. We both made valiant efforts to devour our dishes but alas were defeated. Didn’t stop us making room for dessert though…
I opt for a traditional Apple Strudel complete with cinnamon and raisins flecked through smooth apple filling, encased in a crunchy filo pastry. I drizzle over a generous portion of vanilla sauce, take a bite and I’m taken back to summer holidays spent with my grandparents in Berlin cafés eating strudel by the gallon. A spoonful of my colleague’s Hazelnut Praline mousse with Chantilly cream and caramelised hazelnuts confirm another tasty treat, and somehow we manage to polish off both plates!