When I sit at the window of Herman ze German it’s hard not to notice the look of passers-by staring at this place, puzzled by the concept of a German place to eat. Central London has more Wasabis, Fives Guys and Wahacas than you can tire of, so “having German” for lunch or dinner is kinda out of the ordinary for those of us that don’t work at the Hamburg branch of Volkswagen. Then again, it may have something to do with their logo. Which is also available as a t-shirt. And tea towel. And has my vote for best logo ever. And it’s nice to know they have a sense of humour.
Nonetheless, full disclosure: I have been going to this place for five years now and love a good Herman ze German. And if the queues are anything to go by, it’s a regular, thriving business. HzG take pride in educating people in food from the Fatherland, and their website proudly boasts: whenever you see a Herman, you know it’s a real German.
My second foray into Deutschland for this blog is a two minute walk from Embankment station. A location that pleasingly bridges between the Southbank and the National Gallery. Other locations are larger restaurants; yet my main Herman haunt is a smaller eatery, with a pretty basic walk-in set up. As soon as you walk in, you’re overcome with the smell of cooking meat coming straight from the grill and spices which draws you in. The décor is dark wood and with the layout and style of a small diner. And naturlich, everything is very clean and sparse. –
The only quirk I’ve not come to grasps with is the seating: One big long table. Folks, you’ll be sitting with strangers. Whether you feel that this is a revolution of a concept that allows you to break down social boundaries or completely off putting because you just wanna eat, is up to you. There’re also a few window seats where you eat with your back to the entire place. So, your choice is communal style dining or munching like a Harlow monkey.
The staff are a welcoming and efficient team, and there isn’t a faster service for food in central London. Along the walls are adverts of the specials, including a lunchtime deal, and a wall of Polaroids of the staff and food to look through while your order is cooked directly in front of you. The music is various pop and rock, kept at a satisfying low volume.
The menu is a basic set up but Herman’s main selling point, and house special, and what you’re here for is the authentic German Currywurst. Before you order you select how hot you want your sausage (oo-er). The heat comes in five different settings; not, mild, hot, burner and the hottest, the eye-brow raising titled– ringer.
I’d recommend going liberal with the heat settings, Currywurst is not really a hot dish so you can afford to push the boat out with heat and spice. And even if it is too hot, what’s a little sinus clearing between friends?
Service is always rapid fire, there’s not much awkward waiting around, and on that point: Remember your order number or better yet keep your receipt, the lunch rush queue gets bust and the staff are quick on their feet yelling out order numbers.
“smokey and spicy. . . it is distinct stuff. The flavouring can quickly becomes your favourite. . .”
The Meat of the Issue
The Black Forest imported sausages are rich and thick, and can be served in a mixture of Bockwurst – smoky pork, which is sweeter and lighter than the Bratwurst – pork and veal – which has a tougher texture. It all comes smothered in Herman’s own smoky and spicy Currywurst sauce. If you’ve never had, it is distinct stuff. The flavouring can quickly becomes your favourite.
If you need a little something-something there’s plenty of toppings available for 50p extra; sauerkraut, melted cheese, bacon slices, crispy onions,jalapenos (y’know, to go with that extra spicy sauce I recommend you order) and regular ketchup, mayo and mustard.
This Currywurst is messier than the one we encountered at Katzenjammers, and comes with lots more sauce. It’s busy food. The sausages come in chunkier cuts. Indeed, Herman ze German’s intention is more street food than restaurant. The food is served in square, oblong containers that can be folded up to take out. It’s grab-and-go territory as you eat with an assortment of suits having lunch, tourists and other curious gastro-explorers.
Luckily, there’s a handy sink and basin to wash out all that spatter and tomato-based stains (incidentally the sauce is a bitch to wash out of red corduroy) and plenty of Herman napkins. All printed with that wonderful logo.
The Currywurst comes with Berliner style French fries; crispy and salted. And for once, these chips are finely made, you’re not just buying a soulless, limp takeaway chips. I don’t know if this is how chips are regularly done in Germany but if so we need more. They go well with the tomato sauce and melted cheese that comes with a Herman’s. The meal all in all is a nice pick-me-up that will fill an empty stomach. Portion sizes are pretty dam generous too.
The drink of the House is German Fritz-Cola, which doesn’t taste so acidic asregular coca cola but still has that crisp fizz and sweetness that cuts through a starchy, carbohydrate rich meal like Currywust. They sell plenty of other fruit flavours Fritz-colas. In the same fridge were packs of sausages and their own Herman style Tomatensaft.
They also do a mean hot dog, and with the speciality sausages if you ever want something quick and easy to eat, it doesn’t get quicker and easier than a delicious wurst roll. And for those that don’t have time for the dog, they sell Bretzels with cheese or ready salted.
I can imagine this being a lovely Friday lunchtime for the busy suits coming and going, or a delicious end to a drunken night out in Central London. Herman’s speciality is the variants in the heat, topping and sides which makes you want to keep coming back for a different meal every time. Herman wins over the reluctant and curious alike coming and going by Villers street. Soon we may all have a German for dinner. . .
Have you had Herman’s spicy sausage? Like your chips Berlin style? Agree or disagree? What did you think? Comment below!