"Zeitgeist" refers to the ethos of a select group of people. It is hard to define but encompasses the idea of time and place in a very Germanic context. No. I don't fully understand it either, but getting back down to earth, I suppose the aim of the German run Zeitgeist within the confines of the former (or is it present) Jolly Gardeners in which it is situated, is to recreate a little bit of "heimat" or homeland in deepest SE1. That is the zeitgeist and that'll do for the philosophy. Let's talk about the pub.
It isn't at all far from the Albert Embankment, along a gloomy road,under a railway bridge and if you don't get murdered on the way, you are there. It's a fifteen minute walk from the Palace of Westminster, to an area which reminds me yet again not all London is paved with gold, but seriously, like Boak and Bailey said, it seems safe enough. The pub is a big, clean, dark walled, open and minimalist place. There is little by way of decoration and a few nice framed posters or brewery enamels wouldn't go amiss, but that's a small point.
The pub attracts a shedload of Germans customers, the staff are all German, all the beer is German and so is the food. German is spoken. It is a little piece of Germany transported to the South Bank.Touchingly, there is a lot of the usual German traits that any visitor, familiar with Deutschland, will know and love. The smiling waitresses - well bar staff in this case. The complete disdain for all attempts at speaking German by non Germans, even though you are trying your best and a remarkable patience with two local scrotes that seemed hell bent on disturbing the otherwise calm scene.
What of the beer. These are pasteurised keg beers, but not at all bad really. They are fairly mainstream German, though draught Flensburger Pils was unusual and satisfying. Koenig Pils provided the hops and confusingly the menu listed both Weihenstephaner and Paulaner as "helles" without mentioning the fact they are wheat beers. I tell you this because I was caught out by it! I particularly enjoyed Gaffel Koelsch which travelled well. On the minus side the Weihenstephaner Pale Weizenbier tasted stale and the Paulaner Weisse was a touch ordinary. I finished on Kostritzer Schwartz which was a rare find and good. Quite a few bottles are available too, including Jever, and, if you must rauchbier. All the beers were around £3.50+ a pint.
We ate too. Perhaps we were unlucky, but while the food was authentic enough, it wasn't that well cooked in my case, with dried out leberkase and burned fried potatoes. E enjoyed her schnitzel which was freshly cooked and tasty. Her chips were a dried out abomination. Not that authentic in terms of portion either. The small plates didn't disguise it was more Southern Jessie than Southern Bavaria. I'd probably not eat here again on this showing.
Overall, this is an idiosyncratic place but it was likeable enough. It was good to hear a buzz of German voices, interesting to watch the odd English person having the concept explained to them and overall a worthwhile visit with some decent and unusual beers. Pick of the bunch for me was the Koelsch and the Kostritzer. I certainly gave it a good go, having around six pints and leaving much poorer than when I arrived ! It isn't a cheap night out.
To sum up if you've been to Germany you'll probably find it wanting. If you haven't, you'll love it. Actually, go there, you'll probably love it anyway!
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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