There is a lot happening in Sydney this month of October 2011.
Not only is the Crave Sydney International Food Festival happening in cafes, restaurants and parks all over Sydney, Oktoberfest is also happening at Bavarian bars, German restaurants and pubs all over the city. It is indeed a great atmosphere if you are caught up having a drink or dining at one of these outlets.
October is also internationally known as Breast Cancer Month and Pink Ribbon Day is on 24 October 2011. During this month, we are also among one of ten food bloggers from around the world competing in the Royal Selangor 30-day ‘Get Your Jelly On’ challenge by posting a recipe each day on their blogs for thirty days to raise awareness and support for breast cancer.
We decided to give our Royal Selangor jelly moulds a small break by visiting one of the many German restaurants where Oktoberfest is in full swing. By far the biggest one in Sydney is Lowebrau Keller at The Rocks and if you want a great Oktoberfest in Sydney, there is no other place like this one!
This restaurant is huge and by that it is spread over two levels where I estimate it would seat almost a thousand people. We arrive at 8.30pm on a Friday night and this place is rocking and in full swing despite the wet and cold weather outside.
I have been coming to this restaurant for years now and it looks like things have hardly changed. Think free flowing beer, loud, crowds, giant pretzels, beer-tasting palettes, oven-roasted pork knuckles every which way you look and you get the idea.
As our table is not ready, we squeeze and worm our way through the crowd until we settle at a spot by the bar.
The bartenders are at full swing and beers are literally flowing non-stop from the taps. Three to four sets of hands are simultaneously working overtime pouring and leveling off beer heads for thirsty drinkers.
It is a spectacle in itself watching all the huge glass mugs being used and replenish as fast as we can count out loud.
We both order the Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Hell, an unfiltered beer (5% alcohol content) that is full of banana and vanilla flavours.
Mysaucepan feels a little peckish so she gets a pretzel from the bar. Not the best pretzel that we have tasted because the dough is very chewy nevertheless a bit of salt and the beers whets our appetite even further.
Hoards of tourists flock to this place to soak up the atmosphere where there is an omp-pah-pah band on each level of the restaurant taking centre stage. Classics like My Favourite Things, Do-Re-Mi and Sixteen Going On Seventeen from the 1965 hit musical The Sound of Music have diners taking to the stage with sing-alongs and dancing.
This restaurant dishes out food as fast as you can count and at each level, service staff are ushering diners to their tables, serving huge jugs of beer and food and resetting tables are we make our way to ours.
When you come to a German restaurant, you really need to order the house specials. These include a Schlachtplatte ($39.50) which is Lowenbrau’s selection of Bavarian sausages, chicken schnitzel, meat loaf and roast pork belly served with mashed potato, sauerkraut, braised red cabbage, bread dumpling and bier gravy.
Mysaucepan settles for the Schweinshaxn, which is oven roasted pork knuckle served with sauerkraut, mashed potato and Lowenbrau bier sauce. This dish is by far the most popular and we must have seen as least a few dozens being served on our way to our table.
The pork knuckle is tasty although the crackling is quite tough and dry. The mash potato is creamy and sauerkraut stock standard. Judging by its popularity, this dish is made in volumes and I suspect quality would suffer somewhat.
The last time we were here was about two years ago and I have my favourite dish and every time I am here, I never fail to order it.
The Zuricher Geschnetzeltes has been truly my favourite dish at this restaurant for many years. I remember this dish used to be about $19.oo way back perhaps ten years ago and I would have married any German girl who would cook this dish for me. Back then, the sauce is thicker, creamier and there were long, tender strips of pan seared veal on one side and golden brown potato rosti on another side of a rustic cast iron pan.
Over the years, I have witness this dish slowly deteriorate to its current state – watery sauce with a small piece of potato rosti floating in the middle and veal meat that has been pre-cooked and broken up rather than veal strips and served on a regular deep dinner plate. Disappointing as it may be as I reminisce what this dish used to be, it is still nevertheless tasty albeit a shadow of its former glory. After tonight’s rendition, I know I am going to prepare this dish for myself at home with proper cuts of veal, freshly grated potatoes seasoned with beautiful EVOO that would come out of my oven in a toasty golden brown.
In having these two dishes tonight, the trick is to use the creamy veal sauce as a dip for the dry pork knuckle meat and the combination of these two dishes together does pan out to be passable. For anyone coming to Lowenbrau for the first time, I would recommend these two dishes as a combination to complement each other.
While we dine, we are also entertained by competitions happening on each floor. The nail-hammering competition pits three men together and the winner is the fastest one hammering the nail into a log of wood.
Women are not left out and it seems the roles are reversed where they compete in a beer-drinking competition.
Although the food is average, I find it excusable because Lowenbrau is a theme restaurant, that is, most diners that come here are also factoring the entertainment value into their dining equation where food is not the be all and end all. Somehow, we find it easy to forgive the average and stock standard food because it does taste somewhat good when you are in a happy mood.
Despite the dry pork knuckle, I still find myself finishing off Mysaucepan‘s leftovers because when it comes down to it, the food is still pretty tasty.
Will I come back again? I sure will but not for a while. And if I have friends visiting from overseas, I have no hesitation bringing them here if they so wish because this is one atmosphere that is worth soaking up.
Cnr Playfair & Argyle streets
The Rocks, Sydney 2000
Tel: +61 2 9247 7785
Open 7 days, 9am till late
Note: Lowenbrau Keller is also in the Entertainment Book where the offer is one complimentary main course when another main course of equal or greater value is purchased up to a limit of $39.00.
Visit the Crave Sydney International Food Festival website at www.cravesydney.com