Heavy handed fare at Munchen - German beer hall
Big is not necessarily better at Munchen.
Traditional German fare, so unfashionably heavy, faces an uphill battle in this health-mad era.
If Krugers Restaurant at the Basin Reserve was short lived, then a German beer hall in Nelson was still shorter – possibly because it was called Krauts. That's like naming your sushi bar Japs.
The new Munchen beer hall down on Queens Wharf, meanwhile, evokes the unsuccessful 1923 putsch by he who must not be mentioned.
Certainly the East Bloc dimensions of the TSB Arena allow for such a Teutonic booze barn: Munchen fills the old Chicago bar quite effortlessly.
Clearly the fit-out budget was never going to extend to vaulted ceilings and gemutlich wooden paneling, so instead they've resorted to covering the walls with references: a map of Bavaria, Duke Wilhelm IV's famous 1516 beer purity law and a row of stereotypical symbols: a feathered hunting hat, a pretzel, a beer stein, a beer barrel, brass band instruments and jackboots (just joking).
Oh, and we must never, ever forget the lederhosen and the dirndls. It's obvious the serving women here have been hired on the basis of their suitability to wear close-fitting bodices with plunging necklines, which is fairly tragic.
Originally from California, ours had come directly from a steakhouse bar in Las Vegas, so she certainly knew the drill: "Now, gentlemen, can I start you with some Hofbrau?"
Don't give them a choice. Brill. Her bosses should be proud.
I obediently fell into line with her strident charm and ordered a handle of Hofbrau Schwarze Weiss, but my guest refused to be so directed, and instead chose a beer chalked up on the board as Rauchbier – Smoke Bomb – which indeed it was. He couldn't finish it.
Excess pretty much sums up our entire dining experience. Too much smoke, too much salt, too much sugar, too many caraway seeds, and hunks of meat so gargantuan, so gross as to be off-putting.
Both our mains – my chicken version of Veal Cordon Bleu and my guest's knuckle of pork – were approximately four times larger than I'd normally eat.
No sooner had our bubbly, obliging server set my platter down, than I warned her I'd be wanting to take most of it home in a doggy bag.
The Cordon Bleu had been made the cheat's way by simply piling the ham and melted emmental cheese on top, rather than by enclosing everything within a crumbed parcel. But for all that, the chicken itself was well cooked, even if its accompanying spaetzli dumplings were leaden, and the mustard-laced mayo bizarrely sweet.
So too was the red cabbage accompanying our pan-fried duck breast, which had been correctly cooked medium-rare but arrived cold.
An excess of salt marred my gravlax, served with a mean scrap of waffle and sprinkled with tiny fragments of rock that I eventually discerned as pumpernickel crumbs. Oddly, the advertised asparagus was not present, yet I know the kitchen had it in stock, since both green and white asparagus came out as extra trimmings for the chicken.
Having over-stuffed ourselves with entrees and mains, dessert was out of the question, which was a shame: I'd been so looking forward to my Black Forest Doughnuts, if only for the excuse to shout out loud for Krapfen.
One Thing to Try
I'm told this whole knuckle of pork, roasted in a rotisserie oven to bubble the crackling all over, is already a customer favourite. And indeed, this very good (if salty) crackling does excuse a multitude of accompanying sins, in our case sickly sweet apple sauerkraut, overly sweet Bavarian mustard and a bland Knoedel dumpling.
6 Queens Wharf
Ph: 979 7386
Open 7 days, 11am until late.
Price range of mains: $23-$37
Cost: $97 for two (excluding beer)
Food: three stars
Service: four stars
Ambience: three stars
Drinks list: three and a half stars