Since acquiring the original group of Conran restaurants that took London by storm in the Nineties, our friends at D&D Group seldom seem to let the side down when it comes to relaunching classics or opening new offerings here and overseas, and Elldrew were definitely not disappointed with the newest addition to their collect, the German Gymnasium at Kings Cross.
We had enjoyed a splendid meal at the revamped Quaglino’s last December, and just a few weeks ago had the pleasure of trying the formal but fabulous newly refurbished Le Pont De La Tour. Both lovely and both recommended, both old favourites that have been given a new lease of life…evident by not an empty chair in sight. But there is nothing more exciting than a new opening, especially one close to our part of London, so you can imagine our delight when an invitation arrived in the mail to try out the new German Gymnasium, opening month (spoilt!).
The German Gymnasium is the regeneration and restoration of an 1860’s German Gymnasium (who said “what’s in a name?”). It’s split into several areas over two floors; a grand café downstairs (plus outside terrace seating) framed by two vast staircases leading up to the gallery, comprising of a fine dining area and a bar serving cocktails and lighter snacks. Elldrew are intrigued to see how the bar fits in with the dining area as we were surprised the two share such close quarters, but maybe we can report on that in the future.
It’s a hefty building but the layout seems to maximise the vast open space, ensuring high ceilings and ample natural light provides a warm and inviting atmosphere. Definitely a spectacular and dramatic restaurant that when full we can imagine it will be loud, lively and full of buzz. We loved the design touches; the glass walled cellar under the staircase, the huge staged backdrop behind the bar, the gigantic flower display, the mix of individual and banquette seating, and the quirky use of old fashioned gym themed printed wallpaper in the Gents (someone will have to let us know if the theme runs into the Ladies as well). But a word of warning to anyone prone to a tipple or two (or ladies fond of skyscraper heels (or both)): the staircases are long and visible from every table so there is nowhere to hide if you forget etiquette or were to take a tumble (we would hope not). You would become the star attraction with a high probability of landing in the lap of an unexpecting guest.
We previously mentioned “what’s in a name?”; well the German Gymnasium uses it’s first to deliver a sumptuous menu of German delicacies, but gymnasium seems to have no place on the menu, and we can confer that there is little in the way of gym-bunny friendly food. That’s not a complaint – we struggled to decide what to eat – just an observation so that one doesn’t arrive with misguided expectations. Ell started with the potato & leek soup and Drew the Forman’s London cure smoked salmon served with a potato rösti and horseradish cream. The salmon was huge, a seriously generous portion that he couldn’t finish for fear of not getting through the other courses. The soup was delicious and most certainly not the boring option. It was served with crispy chives, croutons and stacks of flavour.
For mains, Drew had the beef goulash; not the classic cubes of stewed beef but instead two huge short ribs swimming in a thick, rich and flavoursome sauce served with sour cream and spätzle. Ell opted for the traditional veal schnitzel, commenting that it was perhaps the best schnitzel he’d had since Vienna. It was accompanied by a warm vinegary potato salad (seldom found outside Austria) and a lingonberry compote. We didn’t order, nor did we need any additional side dishes.
To complement the meal we stayed on theme and ordered a German white wine recommended by our waiter, Cuvée “Boogie”. At a very reasonable £36 a bottle, it was crisp and dry and we may have had to order a second bottle (just to be sure). We also liked the fact that the label included little people boogie-ing!
We booked a late lunch and were advised to make sure we lingered until 4pm as the ginormous wall clock rings its bells (we swear we heard cuckoo’s) signalling coffee and cake time. We were stuffed but couldn’t resist sharing a slice of the Black Forest Gateau and the cheese selection. The Gateau should come with a warning for anyone with young family members – whilst light, fluffy and delicious, it’s drenched in Kirsch. The cheeses were English, a little surprising when there is such strong Germanic influences, but very tasty and quickly forgotten when paired with a moreish fig mustard side.
Would we go back? Most definitely. In fact we are going back with the family for our Christmas Day lunch (a pretty telling tale). Fine dining next time with a traditional Christmas menu, and possibly a few German twists. With two visits in as many months we might just have to apply for a membership…I know, we were trying not to make any bad gym references but it was too hard…although, if this is the new trend for gyms, where do we sign-up?
1 King’s Boulevard London, N1C 4BU
Tel: 020 7287 8000