"It's not much but it's ours"

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Walk around collecting Turkish union dues
They will call you sir and shine your shoes

According to the firm Mercer Consulting, Vienna is one of the most liveable cities in the World. In fact, it’s equal third with Vancouver but behind Zurich and Geneva. The index used looks at factors such as safety, political stability, blah, blah, blah. After my weekend break I think they hadn’t taken into account a couple of factors that may make the city less tolerable: the Viennese love of smoking and their apparent disinterest in decent food.

The Viennese smoke like chimneys. They love smoking. Everyone does it with an intensity and joi de vivre that seems strangely absent from other parts of their lives. If you don’t smoke, tough. It may have been because the ban on smoking in London has been active for a while that I wasn’t prepared for the solid fug of smoke that greeted me in my first bar. I coughed my way through a couple of half litres of beer before retreating to the fresh air.

I tried an American Bar nearby but they wouldn’t let me in without checking my jacket so I left and found another American Bar called Loos Bar. Designed by Adolf Loos in the early 20th century it’s compact and very bijou. I managed to snag a seat and had time for a little DM action before my meal. Shame it wasn't as nice as the surroundings.

My first meal of the visit was real car crash stuff. Österreicher im MAK is a restaurant in the Museum of Applied Arts run by a famous Austrian chef Helmut Österreicher. It’s pretty nasty. Smoky, loud music and what was a probably a decent room ruined by inappropriate décor. It’s main claim to fame is that is has a chandelier made from bottles (Wooo- Hooo).

After sorting out my table – they kept trying to seat me in the bar area even though I had a reservation – I had along wait before anyone even came with a menu. In hindsight I should have walked then.

The USP of the place is that you can choose from old classic Viennese dishes or have chef’s updated interpretations. I went for the old school though I suspect you’d lose out whichever menu you chose from.

A duck-liver parfait with smoked breast of duck and red cabbage salad was way too cold, the parfait when it had thawed was unremarkable. Even worst was the Zwiebelrostbraten. This is roast beef, covered with crispy onions. I got two flat tasteless disks in a stale tasting gravy. The sautéed potatoes were barely cooked through and the advertised mustard pickle non-existent. I left most of this garbage and my plate was taken without comment.

I decided to go and try and find another place to eat but got knocked back at one place ("sorry, private party sir") probably because I was an inebriated Brit with a problem (several since you ask). I'd lost the will to do any more walking so I ended up having an excellent double espresso and a grappa in the Kleines Café which I liked so much I repeated my order. It killed the hunger pangs anyway and sent me back to my hotel in a better mood.

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