Open Sun-Thurs midday–11pm, Fri-Sat midday-1am
If you have never sampled the delights of an ‘echtes Oktoberfest’ (‘genuine Octoberfest’ for all you non-Teutonics) and feel regretful that another year with its obligatory October has passed you by without sampling it, feel sorry no more. Thanks to the Octoberfest Pub in Fulham, you can enjoy its beer-y, sausage and sauerkraut, schnitzel and pommes glories all year round!
Boasting the largest selection of German beers in the country (over 60, plus a few highly underrated German wines) behind the bar, plus a slap-up menu of Bavarian goodies, the Octoberfest Pub is the closest thing you will find to a Munich Beerkellar this side of the channel.
On the surface this is a sports bar with a gimmick; large flatscreens showing the football/rugby/poker/pool dominate the drinking spaces, with long wooden tables and benches that seem designed for big groups of ‘lads’ to sprawl across. On the walls you’ll find lists of names for not one but two drinking and eating competitions; one shows the time taken for competitors to down a ‘boot’ of beer, the other is reserved for those who finish the Lumberjack’s Double Knuckle Challenge (two huge pork knuckles, plus pommes and sides, eaten entirely at your own pace but without help). Needless to say, on the latter are only five names out of apparently over 2000 attempts.
But if this all sounds a bit macho and intimidating, curiously—and crucially—it isn’t. There’s an atmosphere of conviviality and laid-back good humour in a good German beer cellar, and the Octoberfest Pub has captured that to a ‘t’. Perhaps it’s the German ‘kitsch’ on the walls, or the bright dirndls worn by the incredibly friendly staff, but this is one of the least intimating drinking spots I’ve visited for a while. It isn’t pretty or elegant, but it is big-hearted, lively and authentic.
It’s a very mixed clientele, but seemingly comprised of either big groups or single drinkers. The crowd when we went were friendly and relaxed, and for a bar this beer-and-sports-driven it’s notably bustling rather than boisterous. While most of the big groups seemed fairly male-heavy, it didn’t once feel ‘laddish’ (in fact I fully intend to have a ladies’ night here in future—I know several women who could down a boot of beer with the staunchest of men).
If you haven’t guessed already, I have a particular fondness for German culture (being half-German helps) so I couldn’t have been more excited to tuck into the Octoberfest Pub’s menu of Teutonic delights. The usual culprits are there, everything from Wurst to Sauerkraut, and while it’s unadulterated nostalgia for me, it’s also pure deliciousness for the uninitiated.
If you want to keep it light—or as light as this style of cuisine gets—there’s a snack section featuring heavenly fresh-baked Pretzels (£2.25) and several varieties of the famous German Wurst (we opted for the tiny, flavour-packed Nurnberger Wurtschen on a bed of Sauerkraut for £4.50).
The mains are for the most part big and meaty; this is certainly not a place to come if you’re on a diet, although vegetarians will find far more options than on the average restaurant menu. I opted for a chicken schnitzel covered in the most flavoursome creamy mushroom sauce, complete with chips (thin and golden like the French pommes frites) for the ridiculously reasonable price of £9.95. My partner braved the enormous Schweineshaxe (marinated pork knuckle on the bone) at £16.50, a masterful combination of soft pork meat slow roasted beneath the crunchiest crackling. It was heaven to eat, but impossible to finish—I felt sympathy for the 1,995 unsuccessful folk who tried eating two!
If pasta is more your thing, there’s also the option of Maultaschen (German ravioli, if you will) or Kasaspatzle (basically mac and cheese), or there’s several larger varieties of wurst or variations on the schnitzel. If you’re too overwhelmed with choice, there are several generous platter options that give you a little taste of everything. And you’re guaranteed a treat for dessert with a traditional Apfelstrudel.
Like the décor, it’s not elegant food or especially refined, but it is homely and wonderful. What could in lesser hands be stodgy or—at worst—bland, is flavoursome and satisfying; you will leave with a bursting waistband and a huge smile on your face!
With over 60 varieties of German beer to choose from, where do I start? How about with a ‘Beer Wheel’ (£15). That’s right, as a French brasserie might offer you a wine flight to go with your meal, the Octoberfest Pub offers you a wheel of eight different beers to sample: from the lightest to the darkest, from a fresh Konig Ludwig to the deep Kostrizer Black. If wheat beers and pilsner are your thing, you’ll be in heaven. If, like my partner, you’re not so bothered, you’ll simply be nice and drunk. Win-win.
The selection is of course inclined to change over the months and weeks, but if you’ve ever enjoyed a Fransiskaner or a Krombacher there are certainly those and more on offer. The wine list is by comparison fairly small, but it’s nice to see a well-chosen Reisling and a Grunerweltliner making an appearance.
In a nutshell
The Octoberfest Pub wears its large heart on its sleeve, and I couldn’t love it more for doing so. It’s friendly, noisy and unpretentious, the staff are warm, the food is delicious, and if you love your German beer you will be able to drink here forever.
Don’t expect glamour or an intimate date venue, but bring a group of friends, pull up a bench and relax. And although we left before the German Oompah band (who play into the wee hours every Friday and Saturday night) began, I’m also fairly certain you’ll be dancing on the benches come 1am if you stay.