She couldn’t find any good German bread in Singapore. So she started Werner’s Oven, a German bakery at the Parkway Builder’s Centre. That was in 1988.
Said co-founder, Nancy Hochbaum, 65, “We could not get good German bread so we started this German bakery. Three years later, we expanded it into a restaurant, because we still could not get good, authentic German food. So we decided to have a good German restaurant ourselves.”
A thriving German restaurant cum bakery
Nancy had set up the restaurant together with her now-retired husband, Werner Hochbaum, 71 – a professional confectioner in Germany and who had come from a family of butchers. Now, 26 years on, Werner’s Oven is a thriving full-scale German restaurant cum bakery at Joo Chiat Place.
Serves authentic home-cooked German food
At Werner’s Oven, Nancy makes sure that she serves only authentic home-cooked style German food, prepared using traditional German methods. She said, “Our German sauce must be very tasty, otherwise my husband will say that it is not German style food! But at the same time, I am also watching my customers’ diets and try not to put too much oil or fat into the dishes, to make them healthier.”
Many of the dishes are made by hand and the ingredients are imported from Germany – to ensure the authenticity of the dish. For example, she imports the casing of her now-famous sausages from Germany and the restaurant then prepares these sausages by hand, using pork stuffing.
Sausages are a specialty item
Indeed, the sausages at Werner’s Oven are one of the restaurant’s specialties – especially the Farmers Sausage, which is a very interesting fusion between Singaporean and German cooking.
Said Nancy, “When my husband wanted to start making German sausages, I suggested an East & West mix. Singaporeans love chilli and garlic so I suggested we make one sausage using these ingredients.”
The Farmer’s Sausage was born – and it quickly became Werner’s Oven’s signature sausage.
I was completely blown away by this moist, juicy sausage ($22.50) and the garlic and chilli flavours blended perfectly in the sausage, creating a scrumptious morsel with a very interesting taste.
In fact, I had actually thought that the Farmers Sausage had tasted even better than my favourite Cheese Sausage ($22.50) that I had initially ordered. While the cheese sausage, also hand-made and fresh, was moist and juicy too, with the very delightful cheese oozing out, when you bite into it, somehow the chilli and garlic herbs in the Farmers Sausage seemed to greatly enhance the flavour – which I really enjoyed.
At Werner’s Oven, the sausage is served with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut – as it traditionally is, in Germany. I thought that this is a good combination of carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables – to form a balanced meal.
Crispy German pork knuckles as another signature item
Besides the sausages, Nancy also highlighted the crispy German pork knuckle ($24.50) as another of the restaurant’s signature items. She said, “I can eat the knuckles every alternate day and can easily devour the whole knuckle in one sitting. I love it with Tabasco sauce and chilli.”
When I took a bite, I found the skin is extremely crunchy with the tender and moist pork, going well with the mashed potatoes and sauerkraut that it’s served with.
Beef Goulash Soup is a top-selling item
Nancy also pointed out the Beef Goulash Soup ($7.80) as another of her restaurant’s top selling items. She explained, “Our goulash soup is top quality, with all the meat and vegetables inside. Everyone who eats it says that it’s so good that you can’t find it anywhere else.”
So it was something that I simply had to taste. And the goulash soup definitely did not disappoint. Cooked with beef, potatoes and capsicum pieces, I lapped up every morsel of the soup. The beef was extremely soft and melted in my mouth, while the potatoes and capsicums provided a really scrumptious flavour to the soup. I thought this was definitely a hearty and wholesome soup.
Ox-Tail Stew was introduced by coincidence
Nancy also highlighted the Ox-Tail Stew ($23.50) as a must-try at her eatery – an item that she introduced by mere coincidence. She explained, “Once, I cooked ox-tail stew for my family, but I used a big pot because I don’t have any small ones. It takes half a day to cook a good ox-tail stew and you need to use a slow fire.
“But since I had so much stew left over, I thought, I must as well sell the rest of the stew. Everyone loved it – and they told me they haven’t eaten such good ox-tail stew before!” And since then, it has been a regular item on the Werner’s Oven menu. It’s a pity I didn’t get to try this, though.
Jägerschnitzel with Delicious Mushroom Gravy
But I did try the Jägerschnitzel ($23.50), which is a deep-fried pork fillet with fresh mushroom gravy and served with French fries and green salad. This too, is supposed to be a traditional German item.
The mushroom gravy was scrumptious and the green salad complemented the dish well. You’ll be surprised at how thick the piece of schnitzel is – unlike a normal one, and the meat was juicy, tender and quite delicious.
Old Fashioned German Fruit Cake – A Satisfying Sweet End to the meal
After the hearty and delicious German meal, I asked Nancy for some dessert recommendations – and she suggested that I try the Altdeutscher Früchtkuchen, otherwise known as an Old Fashioned German Fruit Cake. This is essentially a butter cake, with apple & sour cherry filling. It is served together with vanilla ice cream for dine-in customers.
I’ll say that this cake totally blew my taste buds away. I’ll admit that I had been expecting a rich, Western-style fruitcake full of fruits and nuts, but this cake was so light and fluffy. At the same time, the pieces of apple and sour cherries baked into the cake added a really delicious flavour to the dessert. The cold, melt-in-your-mouth ice cream complemented the warm fruitcake really nicely, creating a scrumptious blend of textures in the mouth.
Doughnuts that are not too sweet
Nancy pointed out that doughnuts are one of their best-selling bakery items. She explained, “Many doughnuts in Singapore are light with plenty of sugar. But ours has fruity fillings, such as apple and banana. In fact, you can have a doughnut with coffee for breakfast and that is just right to fill you up.”
Added Nancy, “For our special doughnut, we have a nice banana doughnut. I got the idea because Singaporeans love goring pisang so I thought, why don’t I make a doughnut and bake a banana inside it? And the result was a very nice banana doughnut – my customers love it.”
Unfortunately, the banana doughnuts were sold out when I visited Werner’s Oven, so I decided to go with the blueberry doughnut – which was definitely delicious. The texture of the doughnut was soft, and this went very well together with the thin layer of blueberry jam flavour inside. It was perfect. Nancy was right in saying that the doughnut wasn’t overloaded with sugar – unlike other doughnuts.
Now I really can’t wait to get my hands on Nancy’s banana doughnuts.
Berliner Jam Doughnut – A special New Year’s Eve tradition in Germany
As well, Nancy also brought to my attention, a special doughnut called the Berliner jam doughnut, which is a traditionally “must” eat item in Germany – on New Year’s Day, as soon as the clock strikes 12. This is sold daily at the Werner’s Oven bakery, and Nancy said that I must try it.
The thin layer of jam inside the doughnut goes very well together with the spongy, light doughnut and it was so delightful that I could easily have finished the whole piece by myself, without my dinner companions’ help.
Delicious fruity muffins
Besides the doughnuts, the Werner’s Oven bakery also has deliciously addictive muffins. Nancy’s favourites are the apple muffins, but unfortunately I could not get my hands on these when I visited her bakery – so I tried the banana muffins instead.
And these are definitely good. The muffin is really light and fluffy and the banana flavour is delicious. It comprises of authentic banana fruits, without a single sign of banana essence.
Banana Bread – A speciality weekend item
Nancy also highlighted the banana bread as well as the wholemeal version – which are special items that are only available during the weekends. She said,
“I don’t put banana essence into the bread and it comes out really nice. It takes time to make though – about two to three hours per batch, but customers really love it.”
Unfortunately though, as this was not an everyday item, I couldn’t manage to get my hands on some.
Filling and satisfying German meal
I definitely left Werner’s Oven full and satisfied.
After all, as Nancy says, her food is so delicious because it is cooked with passion – and she believes that it is the secret ingredient called ‘love’ that makes her food taste so scrumptious! She explained, “Cook with your heart. I have been very passionate about cooking since young. I even used to buy the White Wings cake mix to perfect my baking recipes all by myself as a ten-year-old girl.”
So she has definitely turned her passion into a business – which has flourished spectacularly for the past 26 years. And now, she is happy with what she has.
Dreams of setting up a small hotdog stall
But there is one dream that has been on Nancy’s mind for a while now though – to set up a small hotdog stall in the city, for a quick eat-on-the-go meal for busy executives. She said, “My sausages are so good, right? That’s why I have had this idea – to set up this hotdog stall in town, where people can grab the sausages and run. If I serve this with potato salad and sauerkraut, it’ll be a quick, yet satisfying meal on the go.”
Well, I’ll definitely keep a lookout for Nancy’s small hotdog stall – but in the meantime, I’ll just get my sausage fix from the Werner’s Oven restaurant at Joo Chiat Place!
49 Joo Chiat Place,
Tel – 65 6442 3897
Tuesday to Sunday
8.30am – 10.00pm