Villiers Street, a narrow pedestrianized alley running from Embankment tube to Charing Cross station, is lined with little independent eateries. One of Forks-Up’s firm favourites for a quick bite is the quirkily named Wurst specialist, Herman Ze German and, given our enthusiasm, we thought it was high time we featured it in a restaurant review. It’s a small space, with seating at bar tables for about 8 people, and a window seat that can take another 3, so you may struggle to find space to eat in, but turnaround time is pretty speedy and if you can’t wait, Victoria Embankment Gardens are just a few steps away and make a perfect overspill area on a nice day.
On this visit, my dining partner went for the German classic, Currywurst mit Pommes (sausage with curry sauce and chips). For this, grilled bratwurst is fed into “Ze Herminator”, a shiny, vibrating slicing machine, and the slices are smothered in a thick, aromatic curry sauce. The sauce is available in four different heats, starting at “mild” and running through “hot”, to “burner”, to “ringer” – no need to ask what the last is named for! My dining partner kept it cool with the “hot” sauce, which was just spicy enough to leave a pleasant tingle on the tongue.
Feeling rather hungry, I chose “Ze Wurst Deal” – grilled sausage in a roll, with a large side of Pommes and a soft drink, all for a rather reasonable £7.70. Herman offers three different Wurst varieties – bratwurst (pork & veal), bockwurst (smokey pork), and chilli (pork & beef). All look and smell delicious, and I was sorely tempted to try a bockwurst, but I just couldn’t resist the traditional bratwurst. It’s pale in colour, but intensely meaty in flavour and incredibly succulent. The roll it comes in is freshly baked, with a crisp crust and soft, light white centre. Add a generous squirt of ketchup and mustard, and a spoonful of tangy sauerkraut topping (30p extra) and the best European style hotdog in London is in your hand. On the side, the Pommes are some of the best chips we have ever tasted, which is pretty amazing given that they are proudly advertised as being “fried without fat”. Liberally salted and perfectly crisp on the outside with brilliantly fluffy middles, it’s hard to believe that they’re actually healthy. And dunking them in Herman’s rich mayonnaise still somehow feels guilt-free.
Drinks at Herman Ze German are soft only, but that doesn’t take away from the dining experience by any means. Fritz-Kola, an independent German company, offers a great variety of lightly sparkling, caffeinated drinks that are made with natural ingredients and not over-sweetened. My dining partner thoroughly enjoyed their take on a classic coke, while my Apfelschorle was wonderfully appley. Service at the counter is swift and friendly and while most diners take the trouble to throw their empty cartons and drinks bottles in the bin themselves, the staff regularly pop out from behind the counter to ensure that empty tables are clear and clean. Herman Ze German can’t be faulted on value either – a very satisfying one course meal with soft drinks came to under £18 for two.
From its remarkably phallic moustachioed sausage logo, to the tongue in cheek slogan “everything in life has an end; only the sausage has two” plastered (in German) across the wall, to the comedy name for the sausage slicing machine, it’s easy to see that Herman Ze German doesn’t take itself too seriously. One thing it does take seriously though is its Wurst. Impressively, all three varieties are free range and gluten-free and, whether they’re served whole in a roll or chopped up and smothered in curry sauce, they make a mightily satisfying meal. As a light bite lunch in a popular part of the West End, Herman Ze German definitely merits a full five Forks-Up.Herman Ze German 19 Villiers Street London WC2E 6NE