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

Friday, February 29, 2008


You climb a flight of twisted stairs
Some cat says buddy

Thanks to my relative abstinence the previous night I was all bright and breezy in the morning. The sun was shining, record temperatures were forecast so a nice walk seemed like the thing to do before lunch. While nervously holding on during my ride in the Riesenrad I’d noticed a cluster of tall buildings to the East. A quick Google and I discovered that this was Donau City, a complex of offices and residential units built around the UN centre which sits on the Danube. Also, nearby is the tallest building in Vienna, the Donauturm. I like tall buildings and the more pointless they are the better.

I found Donau City a rather bleak place, rather like Barbican but with less charm. The Donauturm was ace though with great views all the way up to the Northern suburbs where the vineyards and Heurigen can be found. It’s situated in a big park which was full of families though I noticed despite the ease of access by public transport most people had come by car. After a little stroll along the Danube it was time for lunch at yet another Viennese institution: Plachutta.

Plachutta is a small chain of restaurants originally started by a chap named Ewald Plachutta. I know this because the first thing you see when you enter the restaurant are piles of his book Koch Schule. There was another cock-up on the reservation front (they’d lost it) but after a bit of dithering they sat me at the worst table in the house - by the door and near one of the waiter’s service stations. It allowed me, though, to watch the comings and goings.

The nearest equivalent to Plachutta I can think of is La Bola in Madrid. They are both touristy but they’re also frequented by the locals. I think it’s just something you do on a Sunday if you’re Viennese. They both have a dish for which they’ve become famous. In the case of Plachutta this is Tafelspitz. The name actually refers to the cut of the meat used. For Tafelspitz read rump. There’s a number of other cuts you can get, presumably prepared in the same way which is essentially to boil it up with some root veg.

The dish is a starter and a main course as the cooking broth serves as a first course. This comes with a marrow bone and some rye bread toast for spreading the marrow on. I don’t as a rule usually order soup in a restaurant. It loses any interest for me after the first couple of slurps. This one was ok. The marrow though was better and I ordered a couple more bones.

The beef itself was a bit disappointing. I mean I know it’s only boiled beef but I’m sure it can be better then the sad little piece I had. Or maybe it doesn’t. A sort of rösti wasn’t really improved by being served in a broken-up form. The little boats of sauces – one cream and chive, the other horseradish and apple – were quite nice though.

I had the impression that they don’t really want you to linger here as my meal was served and finished well within the hour. I needed a bit of a break though so I ordered a coffee and went to go and admire the photos of celebrity visitors (no Billy Jeff though – that can’t be right). When I returned the dithering FOH was clearing my table and resetting it, even though my stuff was still on it. Luckily, my waiter came over and told her off and then offered lots of apologies before bringing me a schnapps on the house. So it wasn’t all bad.

A walk though the park and then, after a little doze a wander to find supper. I was still digesting my lunch and couldn’t really face anything substantial. I tried a few Wurst stalls but as it was Sunday night they were all shut. Eventually, I found a decent brew pub, 7 Stern Bräu which did a good range of beers. I had a little schnitzel snack and some of their interesting beers while watching a very dull Carling Cup Final.

An early night and a little wander to collect my thoughts. Vienna is a decent enough city. It’s attractive, civilised, clean, safe, and chock full of history. Undoubtedly a pleasant place to live. However, whenever I visit somewhere I’m always evaluating it as a place I could live. At some point in the future I’d like to revisit Vienna – maybe visit a few Heurigen, experience a bit more culture, and try and dig a bit deeper into the heart of the couture but as it stands there’s something that’s not clicking between me and the city. I don’t think I could live here. And for that the Viennese should be eternally grateful.

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