The exterior of the German Harmonie Club resembles any local club building. Step inside and regulars sit at the counter, drinking beers and watching a race.
The first sign of the Oom Pah heart beating within these walls is the huge framed puzzle of Neuschwanstein castle in the foreground of a magnificent German landscape.
A wooden sign with ‘Knuckles’ calligraphied onto it heralds the restaurant upstairs.
Long timber tables fill Knuckles’ modest space, evoking a beer hall vibe. Wrought-iron light fixtures hang overhead. Antlered deer heads protrude from the wall. Carvings of deer standing amongst alpine trees complete the Bavarian feel.
It’s nearly 2 pm, the lunch crowd has thinned and the noise level is at a peaceful murmur. Hearty plates of German food arrive at our table and our jaws drop at the entrance of our first dish.
The Ultimate German Experience – a Goliath-sized platter bears a massive Pork Knuckle. Its thick crust of crunchy pork crackling encases the tender shank. Various other German meats and traditional accompaniments fill the rest of the platter.
Amongst all this succulent, salty meat, the pairing of the tangy red cabbage and sauerkraut plus the fruity aftertaste of the red wine sauce is welcome.
Our next plate, the Strammer Max, highlights Leberkäse: German meatloaf. Topped with fried onions and fried eggs, it sits on a bed of mashed potato and German mustard.
I stab a piece of meatloaf together with some fried egg, swirl it into the mashed potato, tangle up some of the herb-fried onions and slather the lot with the German mustard. The resulting taste sensation transforms the humble meatloaf entirely. A surprisingly standout dish.
A rustic plate of spaetzle tossed with cheese and meaty speck arrives, making my carb-loving heart skip a beat. Spaetzle are noodle-like dumplings, short twists of tender pasta. The bite of black pepper cuts through the mellow buttery, cheese and speck flavours.
As expected, German beer features prominently on the drinks menu.
Diners can dial the level of Oom Pah up or down as they please at Knuckles. Half of the menu offers regular Australian club fare.
The German Harmonie Club runs multiple events each week. This affords diners the opportunity to enjoy dinner ‘plus’.
On Thursday night, it is dinner plus musical bingo. Thursday also brings the Knuckle Madness special, where a Knuckle comes with a schooner of German beer for $30.
On Friday night, it can be dinner plus a show and on Tuesday nights, the schnitzels are $10.
The German Harmonie Club provides Canberrans with multiple opportunities each year to indulge in all things Bavarian.
Matthew, the club’s events manager, describes how they transform the space into German Markets each quarter.
Featuring a German deli, a German grocery store and a top Australian Oom Pah Pah band, well-loved cakes and treats are on sale, and a hot BBQ or Knuckles restaurant provide lunch.
As well as hosting Winter Schnappsfest and Beerfest, the Harmonie Club holds Octoberfest in Queanbeyan over three days. This festival draws in over 8000 people. Liter steins are available, although the emphasis is less on copious amounts of beer-guzzling and more on good old-fashioned German fun.
Curious to see a finger pulling competition? Could you pit your beard or muscles against the best in the beardmeister or strongman competition? Do you love the lederhosen and dancing to Oom Pah Pah music? Want to indulge in traditional German food, including soft pretzels?
Then pre-register for Octoberfest for early bird prices!
All the amusement rides are included in the entry price, including the dodgem cars. Sunday is cheap, and the kids get in free.
So many great German events occur throughout our year here in Canberra, but on those other days, Knuckles restaurant happily provides the Oom Pah fix.
Knuckles is located at 49 Jerrabomberra Ave, Narrabundah. It is open for lunch (12-2pm) and dinner (from 5:30) every day except Sunday, when it is only open for a dinner service. Visit their website or Facebook page for more information.