Vicky Andrews finds comfort in a grown-up German-inspired beerhall
IF you’ve ever been dragged out on a hen or stag do in the city centre, it’s highly likely that you ended up dancing on top of a sticky table at one of the infamous Bierkellers, pints slopping everywhere, elbows flailing around to ‘umpa-umpa-um-pa-pa’ like a drunk turkey. ‘What can you play?’ sings The Music Man. Well, in my case I played a cocktail straw in the shape of a penis after my friends made a crafty little switch while I was in the toilet. They found it pant-wettingly hilarious. I swore a lot.
Alpine comfort food and Europe’s finest beers without all that ‘umpa’ nonsense. Simply wunderbar.
The good news is that Alberts Schenke is nothing like that.
Named after Prince Albert but with no connection to willies at all, the ‘Bier Halle & Cook Haus’ is inspired by Bavarian beer halls; Schenke means pub or tavern in German. Set inside the historic Casartelli building on the corner of Duke and Hanover Streets, it’s an elevated and cosy spec with vast windows and rustic furniture. Tables are elegantly dressed with pink flowers and candles, next to sturdy benches and bar stools for weary shoppers. There are some über-cool quirks in the haus too; pictures of the Bavarian-born monarch, an upright piano and a centrepiece of hot coals. Imagine a fireside welcome, Alpine comfort food and Europe’s finest beers without all that ‘umpa’ nonsense. Simply wunderbar.
On the evening we visit, the air is filled with sizzling temptation. Cook Haus plates brimming with raclette burgers, flatbread kebabs, bratwurst sausages and sirloin steaks glide up from the kitchen stairwell and are waltzed across the floor to eager diners. Service is as perfect as a Viennese whirl and I’m impressed when our host recommends the last remaining schnitzel royal from yesterday’s daily specials. My first choice would have been slow-roasted pork knuckle, but it’s a decent excuse to come back on a Saturday.
With twenty taps including beer, cider, local cask ales and their own pure pilsner, Liverpool Rein, there’s no excuse to stay dry here until Oktoberfest. Alberts also boasts Alpine wines, Japanese whisky, Audemus pink pepper gin, Fritz Kola and artisan schnapps made on site. If you’re bold enough to order one of those big frothy-headed steins that needs two hands to steady it, don’t ask the staff to top it up. It’s meant to be like that, you dummkopf.
Scottish Thistly Cross ginger cider (£4.80) is as feisty as the name suggests and almost makes up for the lack of a single gluten-free lager. Beer flights are available for all you brew dogs, but a simple bottle of Augustiner Edelstoff (£5.20) is a faultless match for the freshly baked pretzel with Gouda cheese, mixed pickles and sweet mustard (£3.95). I could easily have left Albert’s satisfied after just drinks and snacks if I could guarantee a return visit for what must be one of life’s simplest but greatest pleasures: cold beer and salty, warm pretzels. Pitcher perfect.
Main courses suggest that Angela Merkel should be paying this place for dragging the Black Forest out of the frozen dessert section and into the fine-dining halle of fame. The Black Forest salad with chicken breast (£12.45) is a deep and delicious dish to get lost in. Dry-cured smoked ham lies on a bed of baby gem lettuce scattered with fleshy sweet figs, creamy chèvre and a side of pretzel chips. I don’t know if my mind is playing tricks on me, but I swear I can taste a hint of cherry in the green herb dressing. I need to stop thinking about cake.
That aforementioned schnitzel royal (£14.95) reveals tender chicken breast stuffed with melted Comté cheese and wrapped in that divine Black Forest ham, all pan-fried with a crisp crumb. Potatoes roasted in rosemary and garlic are crunchy on the outside with a fluffy centre that soaks up a silky mushroom and Marsala sauce. Despite disapproving looks, I eat up two whole sticky baked garlic cloves. That should keep the wolves at bay.
In a Brothers Grimm twist, Black Forest gateau is nowhere to be seen on the dessert menu. Neither the ‘gluten-free torte’ nor the home-brewed schnapps can be confirmed free of wheat or cross contamination, so the GFGF (gluten-free girlfriend) has to sup another cider as I devour an apple strudel (£5.95). Smooth vanilla ice cream melts into delicate pastry with a decadent, spicy filling, all showered in cinnamon. It’s as good as any I have tasted in Austria or the world.
Reluctant to step out into the rain, we watch a group of shivering hens in badly judged footwear searching the streets for their next watering hole. I hope Albert’s doesn’t make it onto their list. Queen Victoria would not be amused – and neither would I.
Alberts Schenke, 16 Hanover Street, L1 4AA
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Pretzel, cheese and pickles 7, Black Forest salad 8, schnitzel royal 8, apple strudel 9
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