It is about time that Kings Cross,London, had more to offer in top class restaurants and the star-studded launch of The German Gymnasium has certainly livened up the area.
Gymnasium it is not, other than the fact that it is built on the site of an 1865 original gym which actually hosted part of the 1866 Olympic Games, and the only exercise taken here is the lifting of cutlery and glasses as you plough through the excellent menu by Chef Bjoern Wassmuth (this is where the German element comes in!) The well-restored beautiful building is almost a multiplex of restaurants, with the same Conran-inspired interiors as other restaurants in the D & D group – spacious, modern but with the contemporary grandeur of Central European cafes and brasseries. There are smatterings of discreet gold mesh, fencing masks and a touch of Victoriana as the main features, but with a distinct emphasis on maintaining the original ambience of the building.
There is a choice of the Grand Café, an all day cafeteria serving from breakfast through to dinner. Whilst called a café, the menu choices far exceed that of an English breakfast or the ubiquitous ‘fish and chips’. The main restaurant is housed on the first floor with a dramatic glass front and black walls, where chefs can be seen ‘beavering’ away at a rocket pace in this elaborate and hi-tech kitchen. There are also private dining rooms for small to medium sized groups.There is also no doubt that the large terrace outside will be extremely popular in the more clement months of the year, with people taking a break from the pulsing beat of music from the Meister Bar, where cocktails abound and the extensive wine list adds more alcoholic fuel to your already blazing appetite. The bar stays open until 1am, and will almost certainly become a late night hotspot for locals and tourists alike.
Starting your day is easy at the German Gymnasium – you can go from light and liquid, to a more substantial cooked breakfast, but many items come with a slightly ‘Germanic twist’. Bacon and eggs becomes the ‘GG Breakfast’, with hens eggs, crispy pancetta bacon, seasoned Nernburger sausages and a potato rosti to die for. Exceptionally fresh and fruity juices and smoothies abound with health (try the Tuttiberry Smoothie, full of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, grape juice and cranberry juice). If you have a sweet tooth, there are an amazing array of pastries to try with an equally as large selection of teas,coffees and hot chocolate – if you are a donut fan, don’t miss the ‘Berliner’ or for a sweet and spicy treat, the Sour Cherry and Pistachio Bun – there is a breakfast choice for everyone.
The lunch menu is a much more ‘German’ affair, but if you still fancy a bowl of pommes frites, then so be it! The lighter side provides soups, sandwiches and bagels (all from the in-house bakery) but beware on the soup front – the Truffled Beef Broth comes with ‘earthy’ liver dumplings and will certainly satiate your appetite! Main courses are delicious but not conducive to afternoon sightseeing – Currywurst and fries is exactly what is says ‘on the tin’ – deep seasoned sausage with abundant fries and a rich curry sauce is found throughout Northern Europe and certainly transports you to a German market square. Hearty beef goulash, wiener schnitzel (breaded pork escalope) are also on the main menu, with the same heartiness as their entrée predecessors.
Lunch goes on late into the afternoon, but spot on 4pm – with no variation – a bell is rung announcing ‘Kaffe und Kuchen’, or coffee and cake, a particularly old tradition in German and Austrian coffee houses. German pastry expertise is shown here to its full capacity, with ‘sachertorte’ and apple strudel usually served with a rich coffee (try Black Forest Coffee with whipped cream and kirsch). ‘Afternoon Tea’ much celebrated by the British, takes on a whole new persona at the German Gymnasium.
But what of dinner or supper in the main restaurant? Following on from the wholesome repasts served at lunch, you can expect more of the same. Yes, you can dine lighter (oysters, scallops, halibut and lobster feature on the lighter side), but probably the signature dish of this eaterie is the ‘Tafelspitz’ – a slow roasted rump of beef for 2, with wilted spinach, a clear but deeply flavorsome beef broth, horseradish and apple – served with rosti of course! If you are lucky enough to dine at the German Gymnasium in the few weeks preceding Christmas, do try the goose (for 2), a traditional German dish on Christmas Eve, with beautifully braised red cabbage, dumplings and a spicy orange sauce – delicious!
Finish off with a nightcap in the Meister Bar, very German, very Berlin and very good!
The German Gymnasium, 1 Kings Boulevard, London N1C 4BU. Tel: 0207 287 2000. Opening Hours: 8am – 1am.