Vienna: Imperial pleasure

Nov 14, 2008

by STEPHEN BROOK

Vienna is a grand imperial city. All it lacks is an empire. Domains that once stretched from Spain to the Russian border ceased to be Austrian decades ago, leaving modern Vienna as the capital of a small landlocked country in central Europe.

It’s also a city where it is quite possible to enjoy five meals a day. First, a leisurely breakfast at a coffeehouse; then a gabelfrhstck (fork breakfast), which is a kind of “elevenses” as the Hobbits say, involving some morsels of tasty offal or sausage; a capacious lunch; a jause (snack) at teatime, usually consisting of rich pastries at a konditorei; and finally dinner. If you’re still feeling peckish, you are rarely more than 100m away from a wrstlstand (sausage stall).

Of course, gorging on this scale is not compulsory, although the Viennese capacity for doing so is remarkable. The choice of liquid refreshment is also vast. Excellent coffee, first brought here in the 16th century by invading Turks, is available everywhere, and wine cellars are scattered both among the vineyards within the city limits and in the city centre. To cater to this great appetite, the Austrians developed the coffeehouse, usually rooms with comfortable banquettes and newspapers; you can linger for hours. The larger coffeehouses serve food, too.

The Viennese are also devoted to their beisl, or local inn, where the atmosphere is cosy, the food Austrian, the portions generous and prices low. Traditional Viennese cooking reflects an imperial past: the schnitzel is of north Italian origin, while dumplings are Bohemian.

On the city fringes, 700ha of vineyards produce mostly white wines. Since 1784 growers have been allowed to sell their wines at their own inns (heurigen) along with self-produced food. There’s no better way to spend a warm summer evening than snacking and drinking at a favourite heurige. An autumnal specialty is sturm, cloudy and still fermenting young wine. The grape varieties you are likely to find include grner veltliner, welschriesling, riesling, chardonnay, weissburgunder (pinot blanc), and local reds zweigelt and St Laurent. But the real Viennese specialty is gemischter satz, made from a field blend; this is how vineyards were planted 50 years ago, so many of these wines are made from old vines.

But beware: not all heurigen are authentic. Many, especially in famous villages such as Grinzing, are no more than restaurants catering to bus-loads of thirsty tourists. All the heurigen mentioned here are genuine: serving good wines and home-cooked food. You can order glasses or mugs of open, quaffable wine, or of better-quality bottled wines, which are usually worth the extra cost.

Stay

Do & Co
12 Stephansplatz.

Hotel Rathaus (Wein & Design)
13 Lange Gasse

MyPlace
3 Vorlaufstrasse.

Palais Coburg
4 Coburgbastei.

The Ring
8 Krntner Ring.

Das Triest
12 Wiedner Hauptstrasse.

Eat

Gmoakeller
25 Am Heumarkt.
+43 1 712 5310.


MAK (Museum Angewandte Kunst)
5 Stubenring.
+43 1 714 0121.


Meinl am Graben
19 Graben.
+43 1 532 3334.


Naschmarkt

Ofenloch
8 Kurrentgasse.
+43 1 533 8844.


Pfarrwirt
5 Pfarrplatz, Heiligenstadt.
+43 1 370 7373.


Schnattl
40 Lange Gasse.
+43 1 405 3400.


Seidl
63 Ungargasse.
+43 1 713 1781.


Steirereck im Stadtpark
2 Am Heumarkt.
+43 1 713 3168.


Vestibl
2 Dr Karl Lueger Ring.
+43 1 532 4999.


Zum Schwarzen Kameel
5 Bognergasse.
+43 1 533 8125.

Cafes

Cafe Central
17 Herrengasse.
+43 1 5333 76426.


Caf Landtmann
4 Dr Karl Lueger Ring.
+43 1 524 1000.


Cafe Museum
7 Operngasse.
+43 1 586 5202.


Caf Prckel
4 Stubenring.
+43 1 512 6115.

Konditorei

Demel
Kohlmarkt 14.
+43 1 535 1717.

Drink

Christ
10-14 Amtstrasse.
+43 1 292 5152.


Mayer am Pfarrplatz
2 Pfarrplatz 2.
+43 1 370 3361.


Theatercafe
6 Linke Wienzeile.

Vis-a-Vis
5 Wollzeile.

Wein & Co
Various locations

Wieninger
78-80 Stammersdorferstrasse.
+43 1 292 4106.


Zahel
9 Maurer Hauptplatz.
+43 1 889 1318.

Source: Qantas The Australian Way December 2008

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