German food enthusiast Anne Hovingh reviews Soho restaurant Herman ze German, which specialises in authentic German sausages.
I love German food, but it’s a cuisine which hasn’t quite hit the mainstream like American diner or Asian fusion has. So when I heard about a German restaurant here in London, I was pretty excited to pay a visit and determine just how authentic the food was.
As it turns out, Herman ze German is as authentic as they come; they import practically everything on the menu (even the mustard!) all the way from the Black Forest. The company was founded in 2008 by Florian Frey and Azadeh Falakshahi, two Germans who, after moving to Brighton in 2005, missed the traditional sausages they could get only at home. They started out importing sausages from their local butcher in Germany and selling them at their local pub. The business grew from this, to selling at festivals, to opening a permanent store in London in 2010. Their second store in Soho opened last August, but despite recent growth Herman faces obstacles now in the form of bigger corporations. Maria, a super friendly girl who grew up in Hanover, Germany, and has now been working at Herman for two and a half years tells me: “We’ve been looking around to expand, but it’s hard with the competition from the big companies. We had our eye on a new venue in Shoreditch, which would have been a great location, but we lost the building to Pret.”
I visited their Soho branch, whose interior had a German feel to it, albeit slightly more hip than you might expect. It’s real fast food – you give your order to the friendly staff at the till (half of whom are actually German), you’re given a number, and then it’s just a case of waiting. Herman does all the classic German favourites: bockwurst (smoked pork sausage), bratwurst (a combination of pork and veal), and my all-time favourite: currywurst. For the currywurst, you can pick any type of sausage, which is then covered in the curry sauce, a spicy kind of ketchup. They even do a banging combination of it all in their ‘ze Wilde Bock’, which is a bockwurst covered in curry sauce, crispy fried onions and sauerkraut, served in a crusty bun with a side of fries. It is a haven for meat-eaters. Besides the sausages, they also do meatballs and schnitzels, but let’s be honest; the wurst is where it’s at. To wash your sausages down, Herman ze German’s drink menu is just as authentically German. Proper Paulaner beer on tap and fritz-kola! You’ll find the odd pub that serves Paulaner, but this has been the first place in London I’ve come across so far that serves this ‘grown up’ soda, which is slightly less sweet but has three times more caffeine.
The food portions are massive, and good value (you can get a sausage for under a fiver). When you order the currywurst, you can decide how spicy you’d like your sauce: mild, hot, burner and ringer. We went for hot, but (not trying to sound like a total badass here) it was quite tame. However, the sausages themselves were great – lovely smokey pork with a great ‘snap’ sound as you bite into them. I was disappointed only by the fact that they didn’t do any classic German puddings, although I can’t say there was much room left for a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cake).
If you like eating big portions of meat, accompanied by German beer, sauerkraut and pommes, or if you’re just a German in London who’s feeling terribly homesick, Herman ze German is your new wurst haven. You can find them on 33 Old Compton Street in Soho, or their smaller store on Villiers Street by Charing Cross that mainly does wurst to-go. And if you do pay them a visit, be sure to check out the downstairs; they play German football matches and Hasselhoff films on a big projector. Supertoll!