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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Lowenbrau Keller at The Rocks, Sydney

pork knuckle

You are either a lover of crackling, or you are... a complete party pooper. For what is there not to love about the earthquake tremor of that first bite, the slight adhesion it creates as dry crisp meets your moist lips, the footsteps on gravel crunch as you disintegrate each mouthful, and the trail of crumbs that inevitably scatter down the front of your shirt.

So when I heard that the pork knuckles at Lowenbrau Keller came roasted and encased in golden pork crackling, I was there faster than a tourist could say "say, could you tell me in which direction is the Sydney Opera House?"

Lowenbrau entrance

Lowenbrau is, of course, down at The Rocks, an area more commonly frequented by American tourists and busloads of Chinese businessmen. I'd been past the Lowenbrau plenty of times, but the idea of lederhosen, busty wenches and Oktoberfest-merriness always seemed to have the words Tourist Trap plastered all over it.

deer head

The place is deceptively roomy. From the outside one cannot begin the fathom the length and breadth of the bier hall within, a dark cavernous corridor filled with wooden tables and benches, decorated with alpine-themed flowers and unfortunate mounted dead deer, and lit above by huge glowing Lowenbrau-logoed light fittings.

Lowenbrau light fittings

Even though it was 7.30pm on a Thursday, the place was fully booked, we heard as we entered. I'd made a booking for nine, and we were tucked away in a corner, behind the main bier hall area with a brick wall separating us from the stage (something I was immensely grateful for once the singing started).

Lowenbrau menus

There were plenty of Bavarian-themed options on the menu: schnitzel, spatzle, sausages, goulash, Bavarian pretzels and more pork than you could ever fit on your fork with pork loin, pork belly, pork schnitzel, pork knuckle.

And there were some distinctly non-Bavarian offerings for those who can't do German --you know, the finicky eaters on any tour group--with pedestrian offerings of chilli calamari with passionfruit sauce, scotch fillet steak and "Lowenbrau's Famous Fish and Chips" (really?)

The heavy meatiness of its menu hasn't been lost on its owners, with the "light" options helpfully highlighted for easy bloat-free reference.

Lownenbrau menu light options

Beers are rather pricy, starting at $6.00 for 300ml but I rather enjoyed my Franziskaner dark wheat beer which had a pleasant robustness imbued with caramel. I wasn’t much taken with the Franziskaner pale wheat bier nor the idea of lemon weizen (wheat bier with limonatta) or mango weizen (wheat bier with mango juice). They also offer Diesel, a eyebrow-raising concoction made from Lowenbrau Dunkel dark lager mixed with Coca Cola!

Franziskaner dark wheat beer
Franziskaner Dark Wheat Beer $6.50 for 0.3 Litres
$9.50 for 0.5 litres, $18 for 1 litre

Nurnberger sausages
Nurnberger $22.00
Traditional Nurnberger sausages

served with sauerkraut, mashed potato and mustard

Kalbsschnitzel veal
Kalbsschnitzel veal Wiener Art $26.00
Milk-fed veal schnitzel with cranberry compote and salad

giant pork schnitzel
Lowenschnitzel $27.00
Lowenbrau's giant pork schnitzel

served with French fries and herb mayonnaise

pork knuckle
Schweinshaxn $29.50
Oven-roasted pork knuckle with sauerkraut,

Lowenbrau bier sauce and mashed potato

I had the schweinshaxn pork knuckle. Three of us did, and none of us regretted it one bit. I dreaded carving into a pork knuckle which was dry and stringy, but cooking on the bone is a wonderful thing. The meat was dark, almost gamey and compact with moisture. The crackling... oh the crackling, it was a skirt to be lifted with utmost reverence.

The crackling was thick, salty and satisfyingly crunchy. There was masses of it too and I'm ashamed to say the generous portion size defeated me. Tender pork, noisy crackling, smooth mashed potato, dark rich gravy, tangy sauerkraut and not nearly enough life-giving salad.

Schlachtplatte platter for two
Schlachtplatte for two $64.00
Lowenbrau’s selection of Bavarian specialities –
sausages, chicken schnitzel, roast pork belly and pork knuckle
served with mashed potato and sauerkraut

The two who opted for the schlachtplatte (and I'm sure it was ordered just so we could practise saying it all night in our best German accents) did a commendable job demolishing most of it. There were three types of sausages and for research purposes only, I tried the pinkest fattiest one (shudder) and the chicken schnitzel.

sausage and schnitzel cross-sections

By the time we’d finished our meals, the main bier hall next door was breaking out into rowdy renditions of all your Sound of Music favourites. The place was packed with men, not tourists as we had mistakenly suspected, but bucks' nights and birthdays. There were nail hammering races and beer skolling competitions, all accompanied by footstamping, grunting and testosterone-fuelled backslapping.

Lowenbrau bier hall

There were desserts on offer: Ofenfrischer Apfelstrudel traditional warm apple strudel; Warmer Dattelkuchen warm sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce; Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte black forest cake and Weisse Schokoladencreme white chocolate and Baileys creme, each $9.50 but we give them a miss this time around. Instead a series of shots of saurer apfel sour apple schnapps tide some over to bedtime, where I suspect there were sentimental dreams of crackling and pork knuckle too.

vodka sour shots
Saurer Apfel sour apple schnapps $7.00

Lowenbrau bar


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Lowenbrau Keller on Urbanspoon

Lowenbrau Keller
Corner of Playfair and Argyle Streets
The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9247 7785

Open 7 days 9am til late
Live entertainment every night from 7pm
Late night menu available every Friday and Saturday 11pm til 2am

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Löwenbräu Keller (Jul10), (Jun09), (Feb09) and (Jul06)

11 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 7/23/2006 08:34:00 pm


  • At 7/23/2006 9:01 pm, Blogger flexnib said…

    My god that looks good! All of it!

  • At 7/24/2006 1:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I went there too, probably a week or two ago.. I love the pork knuckles!!!

  • At 7/24/2006 7:48 am, Blogger Reb said…

    Now I wish I'd come! The SoM soundtrack could have been drowned out by crackle crunch!

  • At 7/24/2006 9:22 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was walking past the Lowenbrau Keller on Sunday, just after going to the Aroma Coffee festival in Rocks. There were heaps of people at the tables outside, and I thought 'Gee, those beers look good!'. Now I know to go soon and have a pork knuckle as well. Thanks for the great photos (meat lovers' delight!).

  • At 7/24/2006 9:23 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Can I get a copy of the pork knuckle photo for my wallet?

    Yes, I am still dreaming about that crackle!

  • At 7/24/2006 3:23 pm, Blogger papa lazarou said…

    yes, another vote for the pork knuckle! i've been before where all six of us diners had the pork knuckle... haha.. lovely pic of the knuckle.. i may have a new wallpaper... :P~

  • At 7/24/2006 10:32 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said…

    Hello Helen,

    I've been visiting your blog for a while now. It's very good. I can't believe the amount of food you go out and eat. Do you do all of this out of interest? Or are you somehow involved in the food industry? I'm hoping to start a food blog too and yours is a very good one to follow.

  • At 7/25/2006 6:11 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said…

    I will try to get my blog up and running soon. I don't think the material will be as good as yours though. How do you find so much time and money to go out and eat. I usually go out and eat once or twice a week. On some rare weeks may go out three to four times. But eating out really gives my wallet a diet, stripping it of large chunks of coloured paper.

  • At 9/30/2006 9:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    When I visited there was a table of nuns & they loved the Sound of Music songs too!
    Btw, I really enjoy your blogs :)

  • At 1/13/2007 7:38 pm, Blogger JD said…

    Dined at this establishment a couple of weeks ago and i must admit i foolishly passed on the pork knuckle. Instead I ordered the Milk-fed Veal Schnitzel with Cranberry Compote and Salad. This was possibly the worst meal I have ever eaten in Sydney, it was greasy, cold and tasteless. It felt like it was cooked some time earlier and had been sitting around for quite a while. I returned it and asked for another, the second one was exactly the same! The service was good and the 2 beers and my colleagues pork knuckle was on the house!

    A much better Schnitzel can be found at the Bavarian Bier Café on York Street.

  • At 1/19/2007 7:59 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My first visit was in 1979 as a single man. My next visit was in 1986 with my wife. It was sooo good, when we finished our meal, we decided since it would be such a long time before we could return, we ordered dinner--again! I would have to say Lowenbrau Keller at The Rocks, Sydney is on my list of top 10 favorite restaurants in the world! It's time to return!


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