London has always had a German population, but the numbers began to rise as refugees arrived during the Napoleonic Wars. It's been estimated that around 6,000 Germans* were living in the capital in 1800, rising to 27,000 by that century's end, making this the largest immigrant group from western Europe at the time. Particularly large enclaves could be found in Leman Street, St Pancras (where the German Gymnasium stands to this day) and Charlotte Street. Today, the population of Germans in London stands at 61,000.
Gastronomically speaking, the usual associations with Germany are beer, sausages and sauerkraut. But like any stereotype, that's only a small part of the picture. Here, then, is a guide to German food and drink in London.
Restaurants & Pubs
The Bavarian Beerhouse has two branches: one 'house' is in Old Street and the other one is in Tower Hill. Try the special 'Schnitzel Madness' on Mondays: choose your Schnitzel and wash it down with a pint of German beer for £15 (the beers are especially good). It's set up with Bavarian-style trestle tables and can come across slightly gimmicky, but both venues offer a good mix of events, including Bundesliga football screenings and pub quizzes. Bavarian Beerhouse, 190 City Road, London EC1V2QH and 9 Crutched Friars, London EC3N 2AU.
Bierschenke restaurant in the heart of the City also offers more than food and drink. Beside the rich selection of meals made with German-imported ingredients, pils and a decent range of schnapps (German spirits), Bierschenke offers a plethora of events, including regular football screenings and a Bavarian Oompah-pop band every Saturday. Bierschenke, 4 London Wall Buildings, Blomfield Street, EC2M 5NT.
The Fulham-based Octoberfest Pub brings people a taste of the most famous Bavarian beer celebration of the year. More than football screenings and Bavarian live music, it hosts themed events like its own take on Octoberfest. It's also geared up for all manner of party bookings, with traditional Bavarian costumes and, for those with a Bavarian appetite, the Lumberjack's Double Knuckle Challenge (where you have to quaff two slow-roasted pork knuckles, chips, salad, sauerkraut and a stein of lager in just 45 minutes). Octoberfest Pub, 678-680 Fulham Rd, SW6 5SA
With a name meaning hangover (it literally translates to 'cat's wail'), it should be no surprise that Katzenjammers restaurant next to London Bridge is an exceptionally popular drinking den. All the Bavarian sausages are accompanied by a typical selection of German beers. It has live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in the vaulted Bierhall, featuring a proper German brass band wearing traditional Bavarian clothes. Londonist Facebook follower Lauren recommends 'Katzenjammers and the oompah band on a Saturday night playing Queen' . Things might get a little rowdy, but you won't want to break free. Katzenjammers, The Hop Exchange, 24 Southwark Street, SE1 1TY
Stein's Bavarian Bar and Restaurant can be found in Kingston and Richmond. The Biergarten in Kingston presents a wide selection of typical German dishes with a focus on Bavarian specialities. Pork in different sauces, goulash and Bavarian cakes will make your mouth water. The Richmond branch is on the riverside and offers a menu similar to that in Kingston. 'I am from Munich myself and found the food very authentic' says Julie on Facebook. Stein's Bavarian Bar and Restaurant, 56 High Street, Kingston upon Thames KT1 1HN and Richmond Towpath, Richmond, TW10 6UX
The Zeitgeist in Vauxhall was once the site of the Jolly Gardeners pub which stood for 120 years, was patronised by Charlie Chaplin and was also the setting for two major films. Restored and transformed into the Zeitgeist, the menu offers a special all-you-can-eat buffet on Friday lunchtime for £11, and includes plenty of vegetarian dishes. On the booze front it has a huge selection of regional treasures, such as the Schlenkerla smoked beer, which reportedly tastes of smokey bacon, and Früh Kölsch on tap (which isn't easy to find in London). Ahmed says on Facebook: 'Zeitgeist in Vauxhall ist enfach super!', and although our German isn't top-notch, even we can translate that. Zeitgeist, 49-51 Black Prince Road, SE11 6AB
Ronny's German Delicatessen in Richmond (and their roving Backhaus Bakery Van) bake using only German-originated flours and has a wide variety of products, including flu remedies! If you're visiting the delicatessen in person, we recommend a morning visit, otherwise the best of the pretzels and breads will likely already be snapped up. If Richmond's too far, you can purchase products online. Ronny's, 175 Ashburnham Road, Richmond, TW10 7NR
Not to be confused with the bakery van mentioned above, Bäkehaus has a similar name but it's an entirely different eat-in bakery. Based in Hammersmith, its products include fresh bakery goods like breads, cakes and pastries, plus breakfasts, soups, hot snacks and meaty fleischkäse-filled sandwiches. Bäkehaus, 71 King St, London W6 9HW
Get tempted by German Deli and its wide choice of products. Its warehouse shop is based in Hackney Wick and perfect for picking up a hot lunch or browsing the huge range of German groceries, from meats to cakes. More centrally you'll find a stall serving up sizzling bratwurst in Borough Market (more on that below), as well as a tiny delicatessen just down the road. German Deli, Unit 1, Hamlet Industrial Estate, 96 White Post Lane, E9 5EN and Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL and 3 Park Street, SE1 9AB
Street Food, Take-Away & Markets
Expert baker Klaus from Artisan Foods treats your palate with artisan breads and savoury items from the finest German baking tradition. The cheesecake is also a must-try. Artisan Foods, Balham, Blackheath, Bloomsbury, Ealing, Islington, Pimlico Road and South Kensigton. Check website for more exact trading days and locations
Find the stall of German Deli every Monday to Saturday at Borough Market and you'll be rewarded with meaty bratwurst topped with punchy saurkraut inside a pillowy-soft bread roll. Authenticity is key here, and even the ketchup is German. German Deli, Unit 1, Hamlet Industrial Estate, 96 White Post Lane, E9
Find a taste of the Black Forest at Herman Ze German shop and take-away, with locations in Soho, Charing Cross and Fitzrovia. It has a wide range of sausages (including a vegan wurst) served with your choice of toppings including sauerkraut, pickled onions, curry sauce, crispy onion and more. Bread and pastries are baked fresh every day, and schnitzels make an appearance too. 'By far the best around central!! Imported and proper German food like going home for a few hours' says Johanna on Facebook. Herman Ze German, 33 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JU and 19 Villiers Street, WC2N 6ND and 43 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RS
We should also mention that German supermarket chains, Lidl and Aldi, do sell some some local meats, sweets and biscuits. Lidl stocks slightly more than Aldi.
For when 'that' time of year rolls around...
...when it comes, enjoy a long walk along the Southbank and warm up with some goodies at the Southbank Christmas Market, in which you can usually find plenty of German food and drink stalls to stock up on glühwein, fritters and cookies. The Southbank Christmas Market takes place along the Southbank, starting from the Royal Festival Hall and usually runs from mid-November until Christmas.
To get into a Bavarian groove, find the huge Bavarian Village within the massive complex of Hyde Park's ever-popular Winter Wonderland. Enjoy food, drinks and live performances throughout the opening period. Winter Wonderland takes place inside Hyde Park, and usually runs from the last week of November until the first week of January.
We decided to focus on Germany, although our readers recommended some related cuisines, mostly Austrian:
- Kipferl Austrian bakery and coffeehouse, 20 Camden Passage, N1 8ED
- Speckmobile Austrian take-away, open at weekends at 76 Druid Street, SE1 2HQ
- St Moritz Swiss restaurant, 161 Wardour Street, W1F 8WJ
- Tiroler Hut Austrian restaurant, 7 Westbourne Grove, W2 4UA
*Source: Demographic information from London in the 19th Century, Jerry White, 2007. Note that the territory considered as 'Germanic' has shifted greatly over the centuries.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.