The beginning of autumn is synonymous with Oktoberfest in Munich, bringing alive age old Bavarian traditions to the many. With the event cancelled for 2020, one of just a handful of times the festival has not taken place in 200-years, one must look closer to home to revive the spirit of Bavaria. Thanks to Bele and Reinhard Weiss, founders of “Stein’s” a trio of German restaurant bars, the cosiness and conviviality of Bavaria plus the flavours of Oktoberfest can be found across London, with a modern twist.
Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder stated "It is the biggest and most beautiful beer festival in the world", he was of course talking about Munich’s Oktoberfest, when announcing its cancellation for 2020, which usually takes place between September 19th and 4th October.
Under normal circumstances about six million visitors from all over the world would be expected on the show grounds during this period, drinking on average a staggering 7.5 million litres of beer. Prior to the COVID Pandemic, Oktoberfest has only been cancelled 24 times in the last 200 years. The causes were mostly due to war and cholera epidemics.
Thus, 2020 plans to visit have been deferred until next year (we hope). As part of a loyal group of Oktoberfest aficionados who try to visit annually, the next best option is to locate a little Bavarian culture in London and there is no better place than Stein’s of Kingston (there is also Stein’s in Richmond which is an outdoor café restaurant and Stein’s Berlin in Kensington which attracts the great and good of the German expat community). Before extolling the virtues of a visit to Stein’s of Kingston, I want to pay tribute to one of my favourite cities in Europe.
Germany's wealth generator, Munich is home to the likes of BMW, Siemens, Allianz, MunichRE and tech employers Microsoft. The Herzog de Meuron ‘Allianz Arena’ attests to world-class football (indeed home of the European Champions ‘Bayern Munich’), while Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, is just one of the highlights of a diverse culture and history dating back to 1158. The Bavarian capital has an enviable quality of life for both work and play; it is a gateway to the Alps but also a city of Green Spaces.
A walk around the Allstadt (old town) is a must, preferably starting at one of the city wall gates dating to medieval times, before going on to admire the neo-gothic Neue Rathaus (New Town Hall) in Marienplatz Square; nearby is the gothic Frauenkirsche (cathedral) and the city’s Church of St Peter, known affectionately as Alter Peter.
If one needs to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Oktoberfest show ground or the quintessential beer halls dotted across the Allstadt, then one of Munich’s best kept secrets is ‘Goldene Bar’ (goldenebar.de), hidden at the back of ‘Haus der Kunst’ – Museum of contemporary art. The candle-lit interior accentuates the golden and wood-panelled artwork by K. H Dallinger dating from 1937 depicting historical maps of alcohol production. Also, one can take a drink alfresco, in between the neo-classical colonnades of the museum, whilst listening to whoops of joy from the surfers riding waves on the fast flowing Eisbach river rapids.
In the northern part of the city, the designer contours of the Olympic Park, were created for the 1972 Games and is worth visiting for the unmistakable tent-like architecture of the buildings and Olympic tower. The gently undulating topography and facilities are home to all manner of recreational activities ranging from roof climbing the Olympic Stadium or a 200m flying fox zipwire to boating on the Olympic Lake or simply visiting the park's Sealife Aquarium. Adjacent to the park is 'BMW Welt' which is a cluster of modernist architecture including the BMW museum and their four-cylinder shaped HQ.
Stein's Kingston, Richmond & Kensington
With Munich seemingly out of reach this year, ‘Bavaria-upon-Thames’, will have German beer lovers keeping their annual date with ‘Oktoberfest’ at least partially. One can either head for an al-fresco drink at Stein’s of Richmond, central Londoners’ can opt for ‘Berlin Bar’ in Exhibition Road, Kensington or as we did to sit by the Thames at Stein’s of Kingston, which offers true Bavarian charm in a stylish and modern setting right next to the River. The texturally pleasing wood clad walls give a warmth and cosiness to the venue, as do a set of ‘Oktoberfest’ clay steins hanging above the bar. An unusual contemporary designer cuckoo clock faces a set of vintage skis which decorate the entrance; all of which fuse together to create chalet-chic and recreate the atmosphere of Southern Germany’s beer culture.
Staff buzz about busily carrying Steins of ‘Paulaner’ and enticing wood platters of Curry Wurst, Weiner Schnitzel and other tempting dishes. But take note, the Steins group of restaurant bars are not for boisterous groups of revellers expecting to sit (or stand) on tables swaying in time to the Ooompah bands and shouting “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit!” (for that you can hire out the restaurant if you wish to create your own bespoke version of Oktoberfest).
All the ingredients of Bavaria are sprinkled between all three locations and the vibe reflects the best of Munich, London and myriad flavours of Bavaria.
For more information go to the Stein's Group of German Restaurants