Tuesday 10th March, 2020 – The German Gymnasium, London
This was the last meal I ate out prior to the Covid-19 lockdown kicking in. And it wasn’t planned at all. I’d been in the office rather than working from home, and had walked back to Euston from the City as per usual. I arrived at the station to find it was going through one of its periodic outbursts of mayhem. There were technical problems somewhere round Watford and there didn’t seem to be any trains going anywhere at all. Further enquiries suggested it would be at least a couple of hours before I’d be able to get on a train at all. That meant I’d be lucky to get home before around 10pm.
The only sensible thing was to hunt down some dinner and then try for a train again later. The problem with Euston is there’s very little in or around the station where you can actually sit down and eat, especially if large numbers of other commuters are doing the same. Things are much better over towards Kings Cross and Saint Pancras, and it’s a short enough walk. This was how I found myself standing outside The German Gymnasium, deciding whether to give it a go or not. Some people I know like the place, others suggested they tended to try and shuffle you in and out again as fast as possible. However, the menu appealed sufficiently so I went in and was soon shown to a table in the middle of the restaurant.
It’s a wonderfully spacious building, with a floor to ceiling height of 57 feet (17.3 metres), and it was the work of architect Edward Gruning, who created it in 1864 as the first purpose-built gymnasium in England. It was commissioned by the German Gymnastics Society, a sporting association established in London in 1861. I’m told it cost £6,000 back then, and was funded entirely by London’s German community. As if that was not enough, the National Olympian Association held the indoor events of the first Olympic Games there in 1866. These games continued annually at the German Gymnasium until the White City games of 1908.
Anyway, that aside a study of the menu suggested that they had a good selection of German wines in sensible sizes for one person, and the menu was definitely German/Middle European, full of good tasty things that you might well want to eat on a night when you’ve no idea what time you’re going to finally get home!
Apparently because it was National Butchers’ Week, and as part of their efforts to celebrate that fact, the restaurant had teamed up with the very fine butcher’s, The Ginger Pig, who had created a special bratwurst. The magic words were in front of me on a piece of card, and those magic words were Wild Garlic and Cheddar Bratwurst! It had to be done. I like a good bratwurst, The Ginger Pig makes very good sausages, and I do love both cheddar and wild garlic. It also helped that it was served with one of my favourite vegetables, white asparagus. There was also green asparagus, presumably to reassure the less cosmopolitan diners, sauerkraut, a mustard flavoured Hollandaise, crispy onions and micro greens. I would argue that what arrived wasn’t really a bratwurst, but was rather a pair of “ordinary” sausages, though they were very good. The asparagus had plenty of crunch too, and while I might have appreciated slightly more Hollandaise, it was a decent sized portion for a dinner.
Accompanying it with a glass of Riesling from Weingut Eymann in the Pfalz was a smart move I reckon. It certainly slipped down a treat. I finished it along with the bratwurst and then considered whether I would stay for a dessert or not.
The train app was suggesting that things were slowly coming back to normal over at Euston, so I figured if I stayed a little longer the milling crowds would probably have dispersed and I would be able to get a seat for the homeward journey. And there was a German-style baked cheesecake… This one, in fact, was twice-cooked, and came with lingonberries as well. What wasn’t to like? If I’d realised it was going to be my last meal out for a considerable length of time, I might have also had more wine, but I didn’t know that then. Either way, I enjoyed the cheesecake very much and went on my way at the end of the evening a very happy woman, more than prepared to deal with whatever the transport system could now fling at me.