Review: Hans Im Glück
Gourmet burgers with a touch of fairy tale
362 Orchard Road, Singapore 238887
1100 - midnight
Hans Im Glück sits in a quaint spot between two old dames of Orchard Road - the newly refurbished Royal Thai Embassy and the International Building. Serving up casual gourmet burgers direct from Germany, Hans Im Glück was born out of the frustration of one Mrs Gunilla Hirschberger (herself a vegan) at the lack of vegan and vegetarian friendly options at burger joints in meat-loving Germany, a country famed for it’s Bratwurstsemmel and Currywurst. Taking matters into her own hand, she and her husband Mr Thomas Hirschberger, opened the first Hans Im Glück outlet in Munich and 49 others in Germany and Austria. This Orchard Road outlet is their 50th and their first in Asia.
While many tout their burgers as some of the best they’ve ever had in Germany - and that is by no means an exaggeration - I was more impressed by the story (both literally and figuratively) that inspired the name, concept and design of every outlet. Hans Im Glück (english: Hans in Luck) is also the namesake of a Germanic fairy tale recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tale’ in 1812. It is this fairy tale that serves as a taut thread running through the heart of what Hans Im Glück stands for.
The Fairy Tale
After 7 years of working for his master, Hans decided to visit his mother and was paid a lump of gold the size of his head. Exhilarated, he started out running and then walking because he grew tired of carrying the lump of gold. Hans saw a man on a horse and thought how much easier his journey would be on horseback, so he duly traded his lump of gold for a horse.
When the horse rides off, Hans is unable to handle the speed and gets bucked off. That's when he met a shepherd who convinced Han to trade his horse for a cow on the pretext that a cow can provide milk, cheese, and butter. Unfortunately, he would soon realise that the cow is dry and not producing milk at all.
Unhappy and frustrated, he went on his way and met a butcher who suggested an exchange of his own pig for Han’s cow. Hans then continued his journey thinking he had found the ideal travel companion only to be told by a passing countryman that the pig's owner is a squire and that Hans is now in danger of being arrested for taking the squire's pig.
Hans then decided to exchange his pig for the countryman's goose, pleased that it will make a good roast and a source of goose fat. He then went on his way before meeting a scissors grinder who wanted Hans to exchange his goose for a grindstone, convincing him that the grindstone will give him a good source of income. This final exchange done, Hans, now hungrier and that much poorer, sets off once again on his journey to visit his mom.
He came upon a river, where he stopped for a quick and well-deserved drink. As fate would have it, the grindstone fell into the deep waters of the river, never to be seen. But he's now happier, having been rid of the heavy grind stone and free of all worries, and is now ready to recount his tale of adventure to his loving mother.
This tale of anti-consumerism and Han’s eventual relief from the burden of worldly desires and riches forms the backbone of how Hans Im Glück wanted their patrons to feel upon leaving the restaurant; free of the worries of the world, satiated and full from the food and beverages they serve. Their outlets are designed to make you feel at one with the journey that Hans took through the forest as he traded in his riches for what he thought was something else better.
One would be remiss to not notice the careful attention that has been paid to recreate a forest within the confine of glass walls in the middle of the concrete jungle of Orchard Road. Here, Betula Genus (or more commonly known as Birch) tree barks stand guard everywhere your eyes rest, its surface beautifully peeled and weathered to display the wonders of nature - indoors. A flowering pot of Rosemary stands as a centrepiece on every table, symbolic of the flowers and herbs one would see on a leisurely walk through a forested area.
Observe more keenly and you will start to see small images of Hans mid-stride, his duck following close behind, engraved on the most unexpected places; the insides of table tops, the sides of surfaces. Details play an important part of the Hans Im Glück experience from arrival to departure - testament to the level of care the restaurant adopt both in it’s interior as well as its food.
Gourmet burgers take centre stage here, in a restaurant that prides itself on its meat offerings as well as their vegetarian and vegan options. Your food personalisation begins with a choice of three types of buns; sourdough, multigrain, or greens. Each burger is served with aromatic oak leaf lettuce, freshly sliced red onions, sun-ripened tomatoes and only the best ingredients topped with their special Hans Im Glück sauce.
From the vegetarian choices, I tried the Abendrot - German for afterglow (SGD15++): an olive patty with parmesan cheese, grilled vegetable tartare & rocket leaves, its name inspired by the orange tint of the patty.
But, my eyes were sharply drawn to the ingredients listed in their Alsdann burger (SGD17++); grilled pear, mild blue cheese sauce & walnuts. By itself, each ingredient is a culinary experience in and of itself.
The grilled pear brings out the caramelisation of natural sugars in the fruit. The piquant taste of mild blue cheese serves as a wonderful dressing on salads or as a dip. The crunch of walnuts exists as a textural and crunchy snack for the peckish.
But, combined with a moist beef patty, the trio of flavours, taste and texture comes together rather satisfyingly, each bite bursting with the surprise of how well each ingredient complements each other in a symphony of gourmet mastery and balance.
As ubiquitous as salt is to pepper, so is the Süsskartoffel Fritten (Sweet Potato fries) (SGD6++) to the institution of Hans Im Glück. Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato) is coated with batter and then fried to crispy perfection.
Best eaten right out of the fryer, unfortunately, one has to contend with the time it takes for the Sweet Potato fries to leave the kitchen and arrive at your table. It’s edges brown with a slight char, the Süsskartoffel Fritten is seasoned with a light pinch of salt, a culinary trick to enhance the honey sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Here, their portion is generous and hearty - a side dish completely unworthy of its given moniker as an accompaniment to their burgers.
Continuing with their penchant for freedom of choice and (almost) limitless personalisation, the thirst quenchers of Hans Im Glück is an exercise in fruit pairings and clever flavour matching.
The Original (SGD6++)is a liquid concoction that can be ordered with 5 unique pairings. My favourite is the Mint-elderflower, both fresh and floral, a combination best suited for a sweltering hot afternoon.
Their Ice Tea (SGD6++) is served in a classic German milk bottle with a choice of 3 pairings. If you’re a fan of ginger, their mango-ginger pairing is a must try.
With 2 new outlets slated to be opened in 2018 at the Boat Quay and Raffles Place, it’s easy to understand the appeal and culinary craze behind Hans Im Glück. It’s a one stop powerhouse for burgers, ice teas, cocktails, mocktails, desserts and sides. Hans Im Glück is a formidable rival to those fast food giants of Mcdonalds and Burger King, both suffering a noticeable decline in interest and patronage as more Hans Im Glück outlets open throughout Germany and now on our shores.
At lunch, it’s a bright and cooling respite from the outdoors, but by night it magically transforms into a chill-out spot helped by a change in music and the play of lights bouncing against wood. Hans Im Glück elevates the humble burger into a gourmet masterclass with special offerings for everyone in a beautiful space that’s warm and inviting.