After a three-course meal at German Gymnasium, you'll probably need a trip to a real gymnasium. The restaurant, located on King's Boulevard in the heart of the King's Cross redevelopment, is divided into a more casual, all-day 'grand café' on the ground floor and a more formal restaurant upstairs, but the menu is on the heavy side even downstairs. On a rainy Monday evening in November, however, German- and northern-European-influenced comfort food was just what I felt like and my mum and I decided to celebrate our respective birthdays there.
The restaurant is named for the erstwhile home of the German Gymnastic Society, which was built on the site over 150 years ago. The building has now been lovingly restored and converted into a huge and beautiful restaurant, which opened up last year. Despite it size — there are over 400 covers — German Gymnasium was busy even on a wintry Monday night. Our table in the grand café was great for soaking up the bustling ambiance and for admiring the architecture of the building and the period features. The structure of the roof was particularly impressive, but the central foliage and autumnal lighting gave the restaurant a warm, cosy feel.
I started with a gin and tonic or, more precisely, a King & Tonic, which was made with a Hamburg gin called Gin Sul, coriander bitters and Mediterranean tonic. I've never tried Gin Sul before but it worked really well with the bitters and I would definitely order it again. My mum's ginger mocktail was tasty and beautifully presented too.
We decided to share two starters. I ordered the smoked salmon with potato rösti and horseradish. The rösti was good but the flavoursome salmon was the real star of the dish. I also tried some of my mum's shrimp cocktail, which, refreshingly, came with melon and cucumber.
I'd thought about ordering something a little more...well, German for my main course but as it was my birthday, I ended up going for a burger. This was something of a risk as I'm quite fussy about burgers these days and usually do extensive research before taking the chance of being disappointed with an inferior patty. However, my concerns were soon allayed because the beef was meaty, juicy and perfectly medium rare, the bacon crispy, and the onions crispier. It was also so big that it had to be served in its own cast-iron skillet.
With a £12.50 price tag, it was very good value. My only criticism was that the 'house sauce' was a little too mustardy for my liking. I also ordered a portion of triple-cooked chips, which can sometimes end up being too dry, but these were crispy on the outside but beautifully fluffy and moist on the inside. Given the size of the burger, I probably didn't really need the side order, but my mum and I managed to eat them all anyway. If you fancy something a little more German or Austrian, the menu also has a few hot dogs, schnitzels and currywursts. The menu is meat-heavy but there are some fish and vegetarian options too.
The puddings sounded tasty — especially the hazelnut praline — but a little too rich and creamy for me, especially after two big courses. I did have a macchiato, though, which was fine but nothing particularly special.
I work in King's Cross and it has been great to see so many new and interesting restaurants opening up in the area over the past few years. The German Gymnasium feels less casual than the others, but it's a great place for a nice meal in a beautiful setting, and I would definitely like to try the schnitzel, if not the currywurst.
German Gymnasium. 1 King's Boulevard, London, N1C 4BU (Tube: King's Cross). Website. Twitter. Instagram.