Germany has contributed many things to the modern world, but culinary impact is not one of them. While London has its own dedicated Austrian and Swiss restaurants, there is a certain irony attached to locating the city’s first dedicated German offering on the site of a former gym. Fine dining this ain’t. However, if it’s hearty comfort food you’re after, then the Gymnasium is the place to go. Even without the food, the building is a marvel for any fan of London’s history. Credit to Conran & Partners as well as the D&D Group for transforming the site of England’s first purpose-built gymnasium where some of the indoor events of the 1866 Olympics took place, into a large dining space. Visitors can marvel at the lovingly restored vaulted ceiling, the balcony (where a more restaurant-like experience can be had) and the central atrium, modelled on the grand café of yesteryear. Despite the large space where the owners have seemingly sought cram in as many tables as possible, both my dining comrade and I were impressed by the fact that we could make ourselves heard, even on a busy midweek lunchtime. Service was generally efficient even if a little brisk (dare one say, slightly Germanic?), although the front-of-house arrangements were disappointing. The entrance to the Gymnasium is cramped and does not allow for the efficient passing of traffic. Meanwhile, the welcome definitely bordered on the brusque rather than the effusive. Onto the food, and we are firmly in the territory of carbs combined with pig-based products. Sure, there are other options, but arguably Germany’s best-known culinary export – the wurst, or humble sausage – occupies a prominent role on the menu in multifarious formats. Both my comrade and I leant more towards Austrian specialities, favouring schnitzels (breaded veal escalopes) for our mains followed by a piece of Sachertorte (rich chocolate cake) to share for dessert. Portion sizing was generous and full marks for execution. The dishes – and our starters too – all delivered, even if they did not wow. Maybe this isn’t the point, it’s all about pigging out on comfort dishes; a formula that works particularly well at this time of the year. Pricing is fair, but we are by no means in bargain territory; a Schnitzel at over £25 could fund a two-course set lunch menu at many other more dynamic London venues. Come for the experience, but don’t forget to book your real-world gym session straight after.