In my younger days when I worked as a Stage Manager, I often visited a little restaurant on Dean Street called Steph’s . It was close to work and stayed open late, so it was a perfect spot to head to after the show had finished . The food and the painted flamingos that decorated the restaurants walls were only part of the attraction, the main event was Steph herself. She was, it’s fair to say, a bit of a character. Flamboyant, friendly, and occasionally on the wrong side of tipsy, she made every visit a bit of an adventure. I love restaurants and cafes that have a bit of character about them. I like visiting places that aren’t simply carbon copies of something else. Happily, I’ve found such an establishment in Walthamstow. It’s called Rainer’s Bavarian Grill, and it is simply wonderful.
Rainer’s is a stall on the St James Street end of the market. Well, I say a stall, it’s actually a giant can with a small serving hatch in it. I think in a previous life it may have been a massive coke can, but someone has since converted it in to a Bavarian grill, you know, as you do. In front of the can/kitchen is a small gazebo which creates a covered seating area. If there were any doubts that this stall sells German food, the gazebo puts them to rest, it has a picture of a man wearing laderhosen on it, and very jolly he looks too. The tables under the gazebo are decorated with a centre piece made of shredded drinks cans, splayed out to make a star burst. At the centre of each shredded aluminium nest is a plastic flower, and the entire thing is waited down with pebbles. It may sound odd to use drinks cans as centre pieces, but when your kitchen is made of a humongous coke can, I think it’s entirely fitting .
Being a Bavarian stall, the food on offer is all sausage based. Which is fine for me, I mean, you can’t go wrong with a sausage can you. Bratwurst, Bockwurst, Currywurst and Sauerkraut are all on offer. We visited on Saturday, and as we stood reading the menu board, Stefan, one of the owners, popped his head out of the can and shouted, hello, come in, make your self at home, and then beamed the biggest smile at us. I’m going to like it here, I said to my other half. We both ordered the Currywurst, which Stefan recommended we should have in the traditional German way, cut up in to small pieces, instead of being served in a bun. We took his advice, sat down, and then the fun really began. Stefan told us there might be a wait because they cook everything from fresh. People sometimes get impatient, he said, but you know, we aren’t McDonald’s. After some activity in the big can, the food arrived, but it wasn’t alone, oh no, it was accompanied by adapted drinks can’s full of mayo and curry ketchup. I love that the can theme is ever-present, can kitchen, can centre piece, can condiments. There is a small chance you might sever of finger when going for the ketchup, but who cares, everyone needs to dice with danger every now and then.
As we tucked in to our Currywurst, Stefan appeared again, this time at the chip fryer that sits in front of the kitchen. Chips won’t be long, he said to us. We were a little confused because hadn’t actually ordered chips, but again, who cares, we just went with it, nodded at Stefan and said, great, thanks. The Currywurst which cost £3.19 per portion, was great. As were the chips, which, incidentally, went really well with the curry ketchup. Stefan and his wife Regina were very chatty, and Stefan is probably the smiliest person I have ever met. They told us about their business, told us that they first just wanted to sell cakes, but someone suggested also serving hot food. They didn’t tell us how they came to own a giant can/kitchen though, which is a shame, as I expect there is probably a fantastic story there somewhere.
When we finished our food and went to pay, there was a bit of a kerfuffle because they couldn’t remember what we had ordered. And after we left we realised we paid for someone else’s cup of tea, but I can forgive them for that. The service isn’t bad, it’s just a little bit chaotic, eccentric even. Rainer’s isn’t somewhere to visit if you are in a hurry. But it is somewhere to visit if you want to be served by a warm and friendly couple, who are clearly very proud of their business. If, like me, you dislike the uniform dullness of places like Starbucks and Costa, I’m pretty sure you would enjoy a visit to Rainer’s. Whilst it may be a little chaotic, this giant can with its laderhosen gazebo has more character than you can shake a stick at. Rainer’s is on the Market on Tuesday -Friday until 3pm, and Saturday until 2pm. Don’t worry, you wont miss them, just look out for 15 foot coke can.