What Frankfurters and Viennese (yes, pun intended!) have appreciated for centuries is quietly catching on in London: the humble German sausage. Across London, Bratwurst, Currywurst, Leberkäs and Co are capturing hearts and palates – helped along by homesick German expats.
It all started with Kurz & Lang at St. John Street, a small sausage counter suitably located just opposite Smithfield Market, London’s oldest wholesale meat market. The scent of Sauerkraut and smoked sausage greets you as a whole range of sausages sizzles on the grill. Managing director Valentin von Amsberg, an ex-banker, created Kurz & Lang in 2006. “The idea was to try and fill a market gap, to offer an alternative to a sandwich,” he explains. In terms of German sausages, grilled on site, he was the pioneer: “We were the first to offer high-quality hot food on the go,” he says, emphasising that German sausages are made from high-quality meat, rather than the off-cuts that often go into sub-standard sausages. His bestseller is the classic Bratwurst, served, just as in Germany, in a roll or with a side of potatoes and sauerkraut and the obligatory Senf – or mustard – to take away. But he also offers a 100% beef version for non-pork eaters and a ‘gourmet’edition. While the British banger – which differs completely in texture, flavour and composition – is usually confined to breakfast or hidden inside a ‘toad-in-the-hole’ weekday-supper, across Germany sausages have been a staple snack for decades with dedicated stalls in every town, notwithstanding regional sausage variations.
Initially, von Amsberg was not sure if his idea would float, but then football coincided and, all of a sudden, all things German were cool: “That’s the great thing about London: people are really happy to try something new and therefore the reception was 100% positive! But the World Cup 2006 really helped!” Around the same time in Brighton, German photography student Azadeh Falakshahi missed her beloved German sausages. When she moved here with her boyfriend Florian Frey from the Black Forest, the pair stocked up at home and treated their English friends to the real thing. Then followed an invitation to cater at a festival, the sausages were put on the menu at a local pub and out of this, the ironic ‘Herman ze German’ was born which opened its doors in London’s Villiers Street in 2010. “People just loved it,”enthuses Asadeh. “Our logo makes it work: we laugh about the Germans ourselves, we take the cliché and make fun of it.” In July their second London location opened in Soho where Berlin savvy clubbers love the Currywurst, a grilled Bratwurst covered in tomato sauce and curry powder. They recognise it from their trip to the German capital. “It’s our speciality,”explains Azadeh,“we’ve worked on the sauce for such a long time, obviously the Berlin-thing helps!” Herman ze German is also the only one to offer Leberkäs, sliced froma big oven-baked square loaf of sausage. “Leberkäs took some explaining but now we have a lot of regulars,” laughs Azadeh.
In the heart of London’s City, on Cornhill, The Wurst Club Ltd, is doing a brisk lunchtime trade. German ship broker Torben Bedau whose office is just around the corner is a regular: “I come here quite often,” he confesses, “the food really reminds me of home.” His personal favourite is Currywurst. After work, he also likes to bring colleagues here who not only appreciate the sausages but also the German beers that are served alongside them. Nathan Bainton who is serving behind the counter today attests that the Wurst Club has quite a number of German regulars and is popular with surprised German tourists, too. The English are open to grilled sausages but a little careful when it comes to sauerkraut, but once they try the traditional pickled cabbage, they are won over: “They love that we actually sell sauerkraut, and the combination of flavours with the sausage is ideal,”he beams. TheWurst Club is the brain child of André Stubbs, a half-German, and German sausage-bar supremo Peter Romanof. Opened in January 2013, the idea was to re-introduce some hearty fare into the increasingly sushi and salad-dominated City lunch options.
Kurz & Lang,Herman ze German and The Wurst Club all import their sausages from small specialist butchers in Germany for original taste and superior quality. A lot of thought goes into the sausage seasonings, tailor-made sauces and condiments. Other German treats are also on offer: numerous beers of course, pretzels as well as sweet treats like doughnuts. Herman ze German even offers the Teutonic cult soft drink Fritz Limo. All of them have expansion plans and are scouting formore locations. Looks like the sausages are here to stay! Lang lebe dieWurst!
By Anne Krebiehl, published in Discover Germany issue 7 – September 2013 | Photos: Jonathan Banks