Byline: TOBY YOUNG
Here's a word of advice: if you're entertaining a Hollywood bigwig for the evening it's probably not a good idea to take him to the Tiroler Hut.
I stupidly assumed that it would be like all the other restaurants I'm asked to review for this magazine: chichi, expensive and full of celebrities.
Admittedly, it does have rather an odd name, but when I heard it was on Westbourne Grove any doubts I had were laid to rest. I imagined this exquisite little jewel box of a restaurant sandwiched between Nicole Farhi and Bonpoint serving the kind of Austrian delicacies that Sigmund Freud enjoyed at his favourite Viennese coffee shop.
After driving up and down for 20 minutes, and still no sign of it, I was forced to call the Tiroler Hut for directions. It turned out to be at the Queensway end of Westbourne Grove rather than the Notting Hill Gate end and even armed with this information, it was hard to find. The front of the restaurant is located at the top of a steep set of stairs, signalled by a tiny, neon sign, and looks like the entrance to a public lavatory. 'Are you sure this is the right place?' asked Mr Hollywood.
We picked our way past the fag ends and dodgy-looking stains on the stairway and entered what looked like the kind of dive you'd end up in at 3am in a ski resort. A rowdy group of drunk Scandinavian men rose and subsided like the swell of the ocean as a large, red-faced man dressed in lederhosen played traditional Austrian music on a glockenspiel.
'Oh my God,' said my American friend. 'It's like a scene from Twin Peaks.'
After we found the maotre d' - a rosy-cheeked Hungarian girl in a Heidi costume - we were shown to our table, or, rather, our bench. For those fleeting moments when the smoke cleared long enough for us to be able to glimpse our surroundings, I noticed that the Tiroler Hut is tricked out like an Austrian bierkeller, with rows of benches occupied by tall men clutching milk churns brimming over with lager.
The menu is frighteningly authentic and hasn't changed since the Tiroler Hut first opened in 1967: stuffed cabbage, liver dumpling soup, roast knuckle of pork etc. The man behind the glockenspiel turned out to Joseph Friedmann, the owner, and he was a walking Government Health Warning designed to show you what can happen if you eat this stuff. No wonder he wears lederhosen: they are the only item of clothing that can contain his stomach.
To my surprise, Mr Hollywood ordered something billed as 'Tyrolean Peasants' Favourite' which turned out to be a mixed grill accompanied by a large helping of sauerkraut and a glass of schnapps. …