Built like a Bavarian weightlifter and dwarfed by a tree whose branches hang full of jewelled baubles, the restaurant inside German Gymnasium at Kings Cross is one of the loveliest places in which to enjoy festive fare right now. An enormous space, lofty with arched ceilings, feels cosy and intimate thanks to the ground floor Grand Café tables which circle the heavy branched fir and the first-floor mezzanine from which diners in the restaurant can peep down into the gentle bustle below. If all you’re after is a drink designed to smooth away the rough edges of London travel, the utterly gorgeous Meister Bar must be one of the prettiest watering holes in the capital, a vision of spotless marble, sparkling bottles and sugared almond chairs.
Service here is excellent from the warm welcome at the front desk – where coats, scarves, wheeled suitcases and snow shoes, all the possible paraphernalia of Kings Cross in December, are graciously and swiftly removed – to the wait staff who sashay so effortlessly between tables you’d be forgiven for thinking they were gliding on steel blades across an icy sheeted floor.
A late lunch booking on the first Sunday in December gave us time to enjoy the brunch menu which is vast but doesn’t feel as though things are on there just for the sake of it. The usual suspects ‘a la oeuf’ are there for the choosing but am I going to barely dip my toe into the waters of German cuisine when I could swan dive in with all the grace & elegance of a lederhosen clad milk-maid? I think you know the answer by now dear reader…
Kasekrainer are grilled pork and cheese sausages. Ours arrive gently curved, gorgeously bronzed and in possession of a beautifully shiny skin that snaps neatly with each cut. Puffs of airy truffled potato puree are cut through by piles of silky, heavy-on-the-tang sauerkraut and a substantial sprinkle of crispy onions is all that’s needed to accompany my giant of the sausage world although the addition of my heavy-handed dollops of hot mustard also go down rather well.
Chicken jager schnitzel is a vision of golden crispiness, pummelled flat and fried to perfection whilst smoked schinkenknacker are a meat-lovers dream of how the world of sausages should be. Washing everything down were tall, foamy-topped beer steins and well-priced glasses of Pinot Noir that were Ribena easy to drink.
You don’t meet up with girlfriends you’ve known for half your life and skimp on dessert. These are the women who’ve held your hair back, who’ve lost hours of their lives with you to ‘Dawson’s Creek’ the first time round (Pacey all the way FYI) and who know the real you inside the supposedly adult exterior. They know the truth and the truth is pudding is a necessity.
Go big or go home has rarely been more appropriate than here where wedges of Sachertorte stand tall & proud, shiny topped and squidgy middled just like me as the last forkful disappeared.
Strudel is crispy edged, softly fruited and puddled with vanilla flecked custard…
…and the Berliner Luft & Rote Grutze is a glass globe filled with sharp berry compote, smooth lemon pudding and, Abigail’s Party staple, a jaunty brandy snap.
It’s not just that the food was superb here and it’s not just that the wine was easily drunk and it’s not just that the service was enthusiastically personal. It’s that all of those things come together in the unlikeliest of locations. Nearby Granary Square may be a Monopoly board full now of first-rate restaurants but let’s face it, mainstream rail station dining is still more often known for draughty Pumpkin Cafes than food you’d actively go back for.
Could I eat like a German every day? Without switching to the sort of stretchy pants that usually only come out around 4.30pm on December 25th, probably not.
Do I want to eat like a German every now and again? Yes. I do. October 3rd is German Unity Day but in the spirit of all things continental, I’d say it’s unlikely I’ll be waiting that long for a return visit to the land of sausage & strudel.