Vienna has it all. The former home of Freud has richly stocked museums, and vast and varied galleries, and, apparently, still remains the playground of international spies. The city is a hub that blends so many cultural influences together, and as a result the range of cuisine on offer is huge.
Despite this melting pot of cuisines, there is an old guard protecting Austrian fare that keeps it classic and traditional, and it’s all the better for it. Having lived there for years, I can confess that like a true glutton that I am I ate my way around the capital extensively. On the upside this means I am equipped to guide you on your merry way around Vienna; avoiding tourist traps, dud meals, and soulless bars.
Vienna is up there with the coffee and cake capitals of Europe, and could easily go head to head with Paris for great coffee shops. They take coffee seriously, very, seriously – even the most basic of bars will have a great coffee machine, serviced and cleaned to within an inch of its life. But why go to an average bar when you have so many splendid, opulent places to try?
Café Central , corner Strauchgasse/Herrengasse, 1010
Café Central is the best. You walk into the room and you are met by the sounds of a grand piano being played, and a sense of history that gets under your skin. With about 30 different cakes and tortes on offer, all of them looking as pretty as a picture, you’re guaranteed to find a new favourite cake.
Lunch in Vienna is outstanding value, the ‘mittagsmenu’ (set lunch menu) found in many ‘gasthauser’ ( a casual, simple eatery) is usually 2 courses for just €6-7!
Restaurant Konstantin Fillipou, Dominikanerbastei 17, 1010
Konstantin Fillipou is an absolute bona fide gentleman, and the force behind his Michelin starred restaurant. Some of the best food in the city is served here. Their business lunch menu sets you back around €30 for 3 courses, not including wine. But for that 30 bucks you’ll get faultless cooking and slick service that will stay with you for a long time.
Café Oper Wien, Opernring 2, 1010
This café is an institution; situated in the Opera house it has great views of the architecture that Vienna is famed for. The lunch here is great, and the owner and staff being true foodies will happily instruct you on where to go, and what to do whilst pouring you a glass of champagne that wont break the bank.
Café Ansari, Praterstraße 15, 1020
Café Ansari, ah man, Café Ansari. I would give anything right now for some of their kinkhali (curd cheese dumplings). This place is a Georgian influenced café, with an Egyptian chef who cooks Middle Eastern food as though his very soul depended on it. The salads are the brightest, freshest and most colourful in the city.
Mochi, Praterstraße 15, 1020
I’ve already admitted that I’m a greedy guts, and once I left Ansari after eating lunch I walked right next door into Mochi, a Japanese Restaurant, for lunch round two, and neither was small! Have the soft shell crab and the gyu tataki. They do a superb set lunch menu too.
Tancredi, Große Neugasse 5, 1040
Tancredi is another cracking spot. Austrian cuisine takes centre stage here, but the menu can take you to other parts of the world seamlessly. The food here is cooked with Peter Neurath’s health conscious hand, and is completely natural.
Shoot me, two Irish pubs are on this list, but they’re not your typical paddywhack joints with fake shamrock and diddly eye music on all day. These places serve up some of the best food in the city, and better Irish cuisine than you would find in most Irish pubs in Ireland.
Charlie P’s, Währinger Straße 3, 1090
This is the only Irish pub in the world with a ‘haube’ from Gault Millau, the German version of the Michelin guide, but not only is the food cracking, the cellar is home to one of the best places to party until the wee hours too. They have a great beer and wine list.
O’Connor’s Old Oak, Rennweg 95/2/1, 1030
O’Connor’s Old Oak is a pub, not an Irish pub, just a quality pub that you’d find in Ireland, a proper boozer. They have great quality food, and some of the friendliest bar staff in the city.
Il Mare, Zieglergasse 15, 1070
Ask anybody in the food industry to list their top five places in Vienna, and Il Mare will be in the top three! This is the best Italian food in Vienna. They will hand-saw your steak off the bone right in front of you, before putting it into their wood fired oven until it’s just perfect. The spaghetti vongole will make you daydream that you are sat on a Italian beach in the sun. The walls are adorned with celebrities who have visited, and the rumour goes that if you make the wall in Il Mare you’ve made it in life.
Meixner’s Gastwirtschaft, Buchengasse 64, 1100
This is Austrian cuisine at its best. Meixner’s Gastwirtschaft, or gastropub, has been here for decades, and has great beer on tap. Try the tafelspitz – a braised beef dish with consommé, vegetables and usually a potato rosti; heaven.
Weinhaus Artl, Kainzgasse 17, 1170
Weinhaus Artl is another true Viennese spot. It sums up the city’s traditional food culture perfectly, and arguably has the best schnitzel in the city. Walter Leidenfrost heads up the kitchen, and has a deft hand for cooking, ensuring great flavours find their way onto every plate.
Bernhauers, Pfeilgasse 2, 1080
One of my top three meals that I’ve ever had was in Bernhauers. Great champagne is always on offer, and this place is home to the best foie gras dish I’ve ever had. The tasting menu is euphoric. Finish off dinner with a gin from Das Torberg around the corner – they stock over 400 gins and 21 tonics, just don’t ask them for Gordon’s.
Vienna has 24 hour drinking, they make the Irish look like amateurs, and you can buy alcohol almost anywhere, anytime, and rather cheaply. It’s still perfectly acceptable to drink a couple of pints at lunchtime before heading back to work, this freedom has led to a calm, relaxed, tolerance to drinking that ensures a smooth, safe night out. There are hundreds of bars spread across the city, bar staff will usually have a drink with you, and a lot of places have great ranges of beer.
Brickmaker’s Pub & Kitchen, Zieglergasse 42, 1070
Brickmaker’s is a fairly new spot with huge tanks of beer right above the bar. The food is top notch too, with the famous chef Peter Zinter heading up the kitchen. Brickmaker’s definitely has one of the biggest range of craft beers in the Vienna.
1516 Brewing Company, Schwarzenbergstraße 2 1010
1516 might be the only true brew house in Vienna, and is certainly the original and best. Tap after tap of beers are brewed on site, and also houses a huge selection of shots, as well as serving cracking bar food; making this this the best late dinner and drinks venue in the capital. Nobody has come close to serving me ribs as good as their St. Louis Cut Ribs from German rare breed pork.
Cafe Anzergruber, Schleifmühlgasse 19, 1040
Anzergruber is a Croatian owned, family run spot that serves great Croatian food until late. You’ll need that food to soak up all of the frothy, cold and perfect beers served up by Tommy; everybody knows Tommy. You will too by the end of the night, and there will be hugs.
Wolke, Kärntner Ring 10, 1010
For the late night drinkers amongst us, you should know that there are several bars that only open from around 2am. If you stumble into Wolke you’ll find the staff from all of the places listed above coming for their pints after work. Then the party really starts, and continues until you fall out of the bar at midday, wondering what have you went wrong with your life!
Gareth Smith recently returned to Ireland to join the Kinara Restaurant Group after 6 years in Vienna, where he transformed the pub dining scene there whilst in Charlie P’s and O’Connor’s Old Oak, working tirelessly to put Irish cuisine on the map in Austria.
Having stints in the Chart House in Dingle, Chapter One, Restaurant 1014 and Ely CHQ and stages in The Ledbury in London, but still describing himself as “not a cheffy chef” shows a very modest side to his cooking.
Originally from Wexford, Gaz has a country boys instinct for forming great relationships with fishermen and butchers and suppliers meaning that in Michael’s he gets the best of Irish produce, and serves it Mediterranean style that the restaurant is being applauded for.