By Alistair Martin
I’ve often walked past Walkabout bars and wondered what exactly compelled the Australian clientèle within to travel so far from home just to drink warm Australian beer in an Australian bar with other Australians. Surely they can do that back home for a fraction of the effort?
However, there are certain instances when a collective sense of occasion makes such compatriotic congregations the only sensible option, no matter where in the world you are. Foremost amongst those instances (for every footy fan at least) is the FIFA World Cup – something clearly recognised by London’s German community as they descended, en masse, on Shoreditch’s Bavarian Beerhouse for their county’s opening game of the 2010 tournament, against Australia.
You might think that watching Australia play Germany – a match where the only satisfactory result for a patriotic Englishman like myself would be both teams losing, ideally with every single player sent off – could only ever result in disappointment (the pleasure of an Australian loss ruined by a Germany victory, or vice versa). However, the evening was an absolute triumph, for reasons which, with some German-style organisational logic, I will address one by one.
First was the food: the schnitzel, wursts (both brat and bock), sauerkraut and other Deutsche delights we sampled were all cheap, tasty and filling – the ideal foundation for an evening on the lagers.
Secondly, the atmosphere was amazing. Either watching the game on the giant screen at the front of the house, or in the private booths for hire at the back, the German fans were as riotously vociferous in support of their team as England fans, but with a pervasive good humour that stood in stark contrast to the air of aggression that often lingers over English crowds. Furthermore, everyone – from the waitresses to the bouncing German fans to the poor suffering Aussies – was incredibly friendly. The easy exchange of conversation, jokes and rounds of jager-bombs with all three throughout the match and beyond was a real highlight of the evening.
The third reason to recommend the Beerhouse was the women. German women are hot. Yep, not the most insightful or cerebral of points, but it would be remiss of me not to mention for all the heterosexual men out there that the frauleins supping from their steins in front of that particular game represented a truly impressive array of Bavarian beauty.
Fourthly, although it pained me to see Germany win, after growing up through two decades of Aussie dominance in the Ashes and in all rugby encounters until 2003, it is always a delight to see Australia beaten in any sporting encounter. And they were absolutely destroyed, the Germans dispatching the heinously-monikered ‘socceroos’ 4-0 with typically ruthless efficiency. That the best Australian player, Tim Cahill, was also sent off for no apparent reason was the icing on the cake. Very funny.
The final reason why the night was such an unqualified success was that I got emphatically and hilariously hammered. Inevitable, really, that a gathering of Germans and Australians in Britain – a perfect storm of drinking cultures – would end in an eradication of sobriety as resounding as the eradication of Australia’s world cup dream. The free flow of German beers (surely the best lagers of any nation), schnapps, jagermeisters and other teutonic tipples, saw the evening through to a gloriously inebriated conclusion, the culminating contented wooziness providing a perfect coda to a great night (even if it was less welcome in the office this morning).
In some more pretentious quarters, the Bavarian Beerhouse has developed an unfair reputation for being a rather tacky, Disney-does-Deutschland gimmick that sits uncomfortably next to its uber-cool Shoreditch neighbours. Yes, it is slightly kitsch, but to avoid it on these grounds would be to completely miss the point of a venue where embracing the Oktoberfest drink-and-be-merry spirit cultivates an atmosphere to match anywhere else in the area. Indeed, many of the bars nearby would do well to crawl out of their own arses and sacrifice a little of their ‘cool’ to match the Beerhouse’s boisterous buzz. There are potentially another six matches involving Germany in this year’s World Cup. Make sure you catch at least one of them in the Beerhouse, the City Road’s very own bouncing basement Bavaria.