What’s the difference between ‘Bavarian’ and ‘German’ cuisines, anyway? Well, the team at Zeitgeist puts it this way: when you’re thinking of classic German eats – golden-fried schnitzel, plump wursts, hearty roast pork dishes and potatoes a-plenty – you’re actually thinking of Bavarian food; hearty, starch-heavy eats that traditionally reflect this specific region’s rural landscape and cold climate.
Opening up in the spot formerly home to Bubbly Nation, Zeitgeist is filling the Bavarian void in Shanghai. The space carries some of that rustic European tavern feel with walls lined with firewood and beer steins and cast iron light fixtures hanging from the ceilings. Plus, its logo boasts a stag, which reminds us of the world’s most favourite German thing: Jägermeister. They’ve got that too.
The whole pork knuckle, or schweinshaxe, is the restaurant’s standout dish – the level of perfection to which chef and partner cooks this unforgettable hunk of meat will have you drooling; its crackled skin expertly crisped to form a perfect shell that keeps the pink roasted flesh beneath moist, smokey and brimming with the flavour of a fresh ham hock. On Mondays, you can get the knuckle with cabbage salad and two beers for an awesome 198RMB.
The other offerings here come in hot right behind that luscious pork knuckle. The jägerschnitzel (pork cutlet with mushroom sauce) and weinerschnitzel (the familiar breaded, pan-fried variety) both deliver, as do the Nuremberg sausages and the herb-crusted roasted pork with stewed red cabbage, soft bread dumplings and a savoury boat of lager gravy. And of course, you’ll need something with a pretzel – go for the obatzda mis brezn, a soft salted homemade pretzel accompanied by a zesty Camembert, onion and paprika cheese spread. Shit, that’s good.
Despite hosting a cuisine largely based around pork, Zeitgeist hasn’t forgotten about its herbivore friends, who won’t miss out on the gut-warming goodness with dishes like bread dumplings with creamy mushrooms or Bavarian favourite spaetzle (a handmade noodle-like dish in which the dough gets grated or torn into little strips directly into boiling water), served up gratin style in a cast iron pan with roasted onions and creamy cheese sauce. Think Bavarian mac and cheese – both sinful and divine.
Drinkers won’t be disappointed here, either. The beer is affordable and like any good biergarten, available by the litre for an astounding 65-80RMB. We’re also souped to find that they have some fiery schnapps here; perfecting for aiding digestion of a gluttonous and gut-busting meal. For the less beer-inclined, there’s a radler (beer with Sprite), cola-weizen (beer with coke), several types of spritzes, a full range of cocktails and lots of wines.
Did you think we forgot the apple strudel? We didn’t – it’s great, and so is the other dessert option, kaiserschmarrn with apple sauce and cranberry jam, which is kind of like soft buttery chunks of chopped up pancake. Save your second stomach for one or the other.