Jokes about GERMAN FOOD are the WURST.
Indeed, as Karen Krizanovich writes in The Civilian publication, “What do you think of when you think of German/Austrian food? Terrific strudels…heaps of whipped cream (schlag)…heart attacks…and a FAT ASS.”
It also doesn’t help the region’s image that, as Amol Rajan of The Independent put it, “Austria produced Hitler, a son that no civilized people would ever want to claim.”
So, starting out in the hole with two strikes against this part of the world, you can imagine what a delight it was for me and Joanne to discover great German/Austrian food at FISCHER’S, a wonderful little neighborhood restaurant and cafe tucked away at the top of Marylebone High Street in the heart of London.
The folks behind this place are not amateurs. Owners Jeremy King and Chris Corbin also created the wildly successful London restaurant, The Wolseley.
Fischer’s represents the recreation of a chic yet casual pre-war grand Viennese café with marble tile flooring…shiny dark wood-paneled walls…antique light fixtures…brass fittings…and large oil paintings of burghers (some in silly hats). I found it very convincing and unashamedly untrendy. The staff is alert and charming. Do not expect waiters in lederhosen slap dancing.
I had read about Fischer’s somewhere, and Joanne and I decided to check it out during the day. I was impressed with the understated class and coherence of the place and we selected our table for the evening (#36, a leather banquette corner table; tables 11 and 17 also have nice vistas of the action in the dining room).
The offerings are extensive: cured fish…fat smoky sausages….schnitzels….herring and strudels. The affordable wine list is “Mittel European” – Austrian, German, Hungarian and Alsatian.
The evening crowd from the Marylebone neighborhood appeared to be mainly professionals. A fair number of them were smartly dressed family folks, but kids were few in number (maybe because buggies and strollers are banned). It also appears to be a safe haven for celebs, as they’re routinely spotted here (see below). Nigella Lawson, the famed London food writer (who got choked by her husband at SCOTTS, as I wrote about in a previous WTF blog post) is well known at Fischer’s. Salman Rushdie dines here, too. So does supermodel Kate Moss.
As Grace Dent of The Evening Standard says, “Fischer’s evokes less of a planned destination….and more of an impromptu amble.” That probably fits well with the $50 average price per person…unless, of course, one gets deeply into the wine.
I love the bread service here. The offerings are chewy, heavy, and molasses-y beyond expectations, and come with a ramekin of incredibly rich paprika butter.
For starters, I opted for Chopped Chicken Liver with pickled cucumbers. Joanne said “Yuck” and ordered the Trio of Smoked Salmon – maple-cured, oak-smoked and beetroot-cured ($15).
Now we were on a roll and decided to order a third starter (Was that the wine talking?). It was terrific: three little open-face sandwiches on rye bread called “brotchen”…one with smoked salmon and goat curd, another topped with beetroot and pickled herring, and lastly an artichoke and caper rendition.
After a tiny (but crispy, spicy and tasty) Arugula Salad, Joanne selected Butter Poached Haddock with Asian-Indian spices ($26) for her main, and was very pleased with her choice.
I was on the horns of a dilemma. What really gets Germans going is their Teutonic dedication to cabbage, potatoes, pork, beer and schnapps. And in this regard, Fischer’s does not disappoint. And boy, was I up for it! They feature “Trenchermen’s Sausage Platters” where one can pick any two varieties – including knockwurst, frankfurters, veal bratwurst, wild boar and Kasekrainer (pork and garlic sausage stuffed with Emmenthal cheese) – along with German Potato Salad and “melted onions” (i.e. caramelized), plus sauerkraut and grainy mustard. All for about $20.
At the same time, the Schnitzel section was calling my name with Brunhildan passion. There was Chicken Schnitzel with “jus Parisienne.” There was the classic veal Weiner Schnitzel with lemon…and finally their house specialty: Schnitzel ala Holstein – veal pounded thin, breaded and fried, and crowned with anchovies, capers and a fried egg (with a half-lemon “bra” for squeezing).
I’m a sucker for wretched excess, so of course I caved and ordered the specialty – defying Mies van der Rohe, who famously stated that “less is more” – except when it comes to food, where “less is just less.”
I’m here to tell you: Fischer’s does PROPER SCHNITZELS.
Somehow I had room for dessert. All along, I had assumed that Fischer’s would offer a Sacher Torte (made famous by the Sacher Hotel in Vienna) – a dense, deeply rich chocolate cake laced with apricot jam and served with a massive dollop of schlag on the side. But it wasn’t to be.
Any disappointment we felt quickly vanished, however, when the server brought our strudels – Joanne’s with sour cherry, mine with apple, and both MIT SCHLAG.
They were the BEST we’ve ever had. As Andy Warhol once said, “A Coke is a Coke, and no amount of money can get you a better coke.” I cannot imagine a better strudel at any price.
And so, the Fat Assed Lady joyfully sings!