Sitting imperially at the centre of Europe the Austrian capital Vienna is enjoying a renaissance in culture food, while becoming ever so slightly hip and fashionable.
Viennese table favourites with a global fanbase include Weiner Schnitzel and one of the world’s great street foods – sausages with semmel (a deliciously sweet bread roll demanding to be eaten fresh), sweet mustard and grated horseradish. Sausages are bought from kiosks known as Würstlstände that offer cheap food from early in the morning until late at night. Favourites include Kasekräiner or the paprika-spiced Debreziner. However, this is all about four of the best fine dining restaurants in the city, in our opinion. They can all be found in the city’s central district, Vienna 1 including Motto am Fluss with its delightful view over the Danube Canal.
Here we look at smart casual dining at the swish double-starred Michelin restaurant, Steirereck in the Stadtpark, at Zum Schwarzen Kameel, Motto am Fluss and the family-owned Plachutta. Vienna’s eating out scene is dominated by family owned restaurants, small chains and a love of sharing Austrian favourites and regional dishes.
This twin-starred Michelin restaurant clad in floor to glass and stainless steel walls is set alone in the popular Stadtpark, which runs along the Ringstrasse to the south of the city. The menus is luxurious with a mix of cutting edge Austrian and central European dishes; think Carp and kohlrabi and an eclectic list of ingredients ranging from roasted hemp seeds with fennel pollen to Jerusalem artichoke braised with macadamia nut oil. Winning a coveted place in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants (it’s in at no. 15!), the kitchen is led chef Heinz Reitbauer, a scion of the restaurant’s family owners. Its signature dish is made with freshwater mountain fish, char, cooked at the table in hot beeswax before being returned on a plate with yellow carrot, pollen and sour cream. Elsewhere, humble kohlrabi joins lamb belly and sea buckthorn in a fusion of technique and tradition, says San Pellegino when describing why the place deserves such respect.
Diners are invariably wealthy, smartly dressed and seated in small groups discreetly placed around and ultra-modern interior.
This restaurant’s signature dish of Tafelspitz, made with boiled beef, is served to locals and tourists whom pack out the tables daily, so making a reservation is highly recommended. Served in copper pots, eat it with rosti (little pieces of friend potato), chive sauce and apple-flavoured horse radish. A family owned restaurant, it’s not cheap but serves a short menu to very high standards.
Here is Planchutta’s recipe for Tafelspitz:
Cooking time: 3-3½ hours, approx
1 onion, with skin, halved
2kg approx, Tafelspitz, rump cap cutlets
3.5kg approx, water
10-15 black peppercorns
250gm vegetables, peel
equal amounts of carrots, yellow carrots, celeriac and parsley root
½ leek, halved and washed
granulated bouillon, as needed
chives, chopped, to garnish
Brown the unskinned onion halves on their cut sides without oil in a pan lined with aluminium foil until very dark brown.
Wash meat briefly with lukewarm water; drain. Bring water to the boil, add meat and cook at a simmer.
Keep skimming off the foam that accumulates, and add peppercorns and onion.
About 25 minutes before the meat is scheduled to be done, add vegetables, leek and, if desired, granulated bouillon.
Remove cooked meat from the broth, cut into finger-thick slices, place on patter and sprinkle with salt and chives.
Strain broth and season to taste with salt.
ZUM SCHWARZEN KAMEEL
Another famous Viennese landmark restaurant, this time serving diners for over four centuries. A makeover around 1902 was done in the Jugenstil style of the time and remains a beautiful environment in which to dine. With a menu full of traditional Viennese and central European food including veal goulash, beef soup, roasted sturgeon and its caviar and for dessert perhaps you could try Kameel Rumpot – ginger bread and vanilla.
Located in the central area known as the Golden Quarter, Kameel has a conventional dining room, bar area and popular outside seating area for champagne, sparkling wine and oysters. Over the Christmas period, a smaller room is completely tiled in ginger bread and deliciously-spiced served mulled wine.
MOTTO AM FLUSS
Eating traditional Viennese dishes including schnitzel on the terrace or warmly tucked in behind huge windows that overlook the Danube Canal, Motto am Fluss is designed to look like a speed boat, as it doubles up as mooring point for river cruise ships sailing to and from ports such as Bratislava in neighbouring Hungary and Germany to the west.
A resident DJ keeps the evening atmosphere moving, just as well as the place is quite narrow with space dedicated to wood panelling, black and white floor tiles, huge cylindrical metal struts and the lovely raked floor to ceiling windows. It’s interior is described as flawless 1950s with a modern twist. With a mixed crowd from trendy hipsters to celebratory family groups, Motto is a great place for a romantic meal!