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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

German Club Tivoli

I studied German for quite a while and even participated in a student exchange to Germany during high school. I'm always tickled by a bit of German culture, food, or language. A Sunday lunch outing meant a chance to check out Melbourne's German scene at the German Club Tivoli (291 Dandenong Road, Windsor). (Is it just me, or does the word 'German' look weird when you see it a few times in a row?!)

Growing up with a European-born mother and grandparents meant I was no stranger to the odd hybrid culture of immigrants to Australia. There may be two languages spoken at home; trips overseas or visits from distant family; recipes brought over and reproduced as comfort food; music, attitudes and attributes that only people from the same culture can truly understand. Particularly the older generations seem to seek out the familiar: others who share and celebrate their culture; people who have gone through the same monumental life event of moving to a country on the other side of the world. 

So it was no surprise that the German Club was like a European RSL Club, complete with live folk music, boot-shaped stein glasses on display alongside bridge trophies, and a posse of elderly patrons (we were the youngest there by about 40 years), there for the German society and a hearty Sunday midday meal. You even have to sign in upon entry, like at an RSL, before wandering upstairs past a function room and easy-access toilets to the main dining room. 

The décor is both hilarious and charming: light wood fittings, brown tiled or red carpeted flooring, cushioned dining booths, crested chairs, Presidents' boards, trophy display cabinets, and subtle TV screens. 

On the other side, the bar backs onto another function room which, when we were there, was hosting Angelika's [undisclosed age] birthday party. Grandmas with walking frames, dolled up in their Sunday finest, nod hello to white-moustached chaps in caps and brown chinos. The waitress is a friendly middle-aged woman with no qualms about shouting explanations of the menu to near-deaf patrons, in German or English. It's all very quaint. 

Although on the cheap side, the food and drink prices do not quite match the esteemed prices generally found at an RSL. A schooner of DAB and a glass of wine cost about $15 together. 

The food - in my opinion - is worth it, though: if not for the heartiness, then at least for the novelty. Typical German fare features highly: bratwurst, schnitzel, roast pork, sauerkraut and something called Spätzle, which are best described as fried doughy bits, kind of resembling pasta, served as a side. I first tried them in Germany <cough> 14 years ago <cough> and fell in lurve. You can't easily find them at restaurants in Australia (even German restaurants) - although apparently they are quite easy to make at home. (PROJECT!!!) 

I enjoyed the smoked pork loin (Kassler) with sauerkraut and Spätzle. My dining partner had a Jäger Schnitzel, which, despite the name, sadly does not feature Jägermeister in any form* (at least, not that I'm aware of). It had a mushroom and bacon sauce and was served with fried potato and steamed vegies. Very traditional and molto tasty. The schnitzel, it should be noted, actually featured decent chicken - none of that frozen crap you will so often find in a Melbourne parma. 

Smoked pork loin with sauerkraut and spaetzle

Jaeger Schnitzel with fried potato and steamed vegies

Real chicken!

*Entertainingly, there were several elderly visitors to the bar who ordered and shot Jägermeister several times over.

Sadly, I did not have the opportunity to practise my German besides correctly pronouncing my order (hopefully), and I wasn't game to crash any of the parties of animated geriatric German-speakers nearby. So, too full for strüdel or schnapps, we carried our bellies outta there. I enjoyed the experience and would go again, mainly for the Spätzle and the overall amusement factor. 

German Club Tivoli on Urbanspoon