Essen, a traditional northern European restaurant, was completely packed on the cool Friday night I visited, with couples and large groups all getting into the European spirit and many a "Prost" toast with German beers in hand.
|Glühwein - mulled wine from Essen Restaurant and Beer Café, Broadway, Ultimo|
Sugar is a necessary addition to the otherwise sour drink, as are particularly cold weather conditions ideally. Not even halfway through the citrus and spice infused red wine, I was already warming up considerably.
|'Diesel' (left) and Radeberger Pilsner (right)|
The Diesel isn't actually on the menu at Essen but it was no trouble having it arranged. It tastes like a not-so-sweet cola with a beer-bitter finish and might take several more litres of it before I'm convinced of its merits.
|Knobli Brot - Swiss style garlic bread with paprika and gruyere cheese|
The bread had a soft texture rather than a crispy one, and the combination of smoky spice, garlic and cheesy flavours is one I'll steal for the home kitchen.
|Deep fried camembert with cranberry compote|
Golden crumbed, crispy and uniformly shaped, the gooey innards and shape-holding rind of the camembert made for a rich, albeit happy, start to dinner, while the sweet touch of the cranberry was a perfect match.
Quite unlike any other beer I've had, the Edelweiss certainly had herbaceous notes that rendered the beer mildly sweet in floral rather than fruity notes. It was also probably not the best food-matching beer, compared to a clean, refreshing pilsner.
|Schweinshaxen - slow roasted pork knuckle with gravy, bread dumpling and sauerkraut|
This version of the hefty pork knuckle lacked skin and crackling and probably as a result, the large amount of meat was on the dry side. Luckily there was gravy served alongside to save it as well as a couple of decent deep fried bread dumplings and sauerkraut.
|Ente - oven roasted duck with red wine poached pear and roesti potato|
The duck was well cooked: moist with crispy skin in places; however, just a tad under in overall flavour which made the sweetness of the soft poached pear a very necessary component in every mouthful.
Meanwhile, the roesti potato was all sorts of carbohydrate and fatty awesomeness: the outside browned and crispy all over while the inside starred fall-about shreds of properly seasoned, fluffy potato.
|Jaeger schnitzel - pork schnitzel with a creamy mushroom sauce|
The impressive size of the schnitzel - two pieces, actually - was matched with its admirable golden coat. The Jaeger arrived smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce alongside roesti potato with cabbage salad as a side dish.
Surprisingly, this iconic German dish makes for quite a balanced meal with the tender pork (protein), scrumptious roesti (carb and vegetable) and cabbage on the side (vegetable). And a few more carbs on the side in beer, of course.
|Apfel und birne strudel - apple and pear strudel with vanilla sauce and ice cream|
Smelling heavenly of cinnamon and spices, the shatter of the thin, crunchy layers of pastry confirmed that there was indeed space in my stomach for dessert on this occasion. The soft, just sweet-enough filling was comforting and improved with a touch of the very good vanilla bean ice cream though I left the cool vanilla sauce.
As we concluded the meal, we were witnesses to the 'Schnitzilla' challenge that Essen has, Man vs Food style on the table over. Except I'm not sure this challenge is achievable. 'Schnitzilla' consists of schnitzel, roesti potato and cabbage salad to a total of 3.5 kilograms. The platter with golden schnitzel piled high looked like it could serve at least six hungry people.
No-one has completed the challenge to date with the closest competitor leaving with about 1 kilo of take-home leftovers. Good luck to those deranged and hungry enough to attempt the 'Schnitzilla'. Find more details of the challenge on Essen's Facebook page.
Food, booze and shoes and a guest dined courtsey of Essen Restaurant and Beer Café, with thanks to Wasamedia (some items were paid for separately).