Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
Special occasions ought to be celebrated with a special meal. In 2014, I went to O Bar and Dining for my birthday, two years before that I went to Rockpool on George. I knew that we were going to be Vienna for my birthday in November 2015, and so I booked K and I in for a fancy birthday lunch at Restaurant Steirereck, named at number 15 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
I didn’t know much about the restaurant’s ethos prior to our meal, and really only knew the basics from its blurb on the World’s 50 Best website – farm to fork eating, modern Austrian cuisine, chef and owner trained by Joel Robuchon. What I didn’t expect was to have a mind-blowingly amazing meal, on par with my experiences at The Fat Duck Melbourne and Sepia.
It started on arrival as we were shown in and seated at a table that had a subtle “Happy Birthday” message under the tablecloth – a nice little surprise. It continued with excellent service, immersion of the diner into the meal, a slight touch of theatre, and true attention to detail. Sometimes it’s the little things that really enhance the experience, like how Steirereck places a little card describing the upcoming course to you, allowing you to better appreciate the origins of what you’re eating.
What I loved most about Steirereck was its traditional service, an interesting choice in what is otherwise a very modern building. A highlight of this traditional service was the use of specialised ‘carts’ to accompany different parts of the dining experience:
- An aperitif cart for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to accompany your meal (wines are offered separately)
- A bread cart, featuring 30 different breads from seven different bakeries located around Vienna. Choose as many or as few as you want!
- A cheese cart, featuring 55 different cheeses from a variety of different regions. The selection of smelly cheeses is particular impressive and
- A tea cart, featuring not only a number of canisters of dried tea leaves from around the world, but also a number of pot plants grown on the rooftop of the restaurant. On request, the waiter could create a custom blend of tea with snippings from these pot plants.
- A petit fours cart mimicking the structure and sounds of a bee hive, in line with the honey theme of all the petit fours.
- A digestif cart which we didn’t take part in, but which featured a number of bottles of liquors to suit any taste.
What I also liked is how they catered to those who don’t drink alcohol. I’ve already mentioned how disappointing it was that a restaurant like L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon didn’t offer a good range of non-alcoholic drinks, so it was a pleasant surprise that Steirereck is much more thoughtful in that area. When I initially turned down the aperitif offered by the waiter, he followed up with “I do have a non-alcoholic option if you prefer?” and made me a fantastic spritzy berry aperitif.
Along the same lines, the tea trolley was one of my personal highlights of the meal. I was a bit surprised when the waitress asked if we wanted tea or coffee to finish the meal, then walked away after I asked for tea. Was she going to just give me a generic tea without asking what specific tea I would like? Imagine my surprise when the sommelier rolled up the tea trolley and proceeded to give us a sniff sample of each of the pot plants – the chocolate mint plant was particularly delectable, but I opted for a more refreshing citrus blend instead, including sprigs of lemongrass. That attention to detail, and commitment to the freshest ingredients for a fantastic individualised experience is simply superb.
The dishes were, naturally, simply delectable. My personal highlight was the Char with Beeswax, where a piece of char is cooked right in front of your eyes through ‘baking’ in hot beeswax, which leave the piece of char with a glossy firm white flesh. I also loved the look and subtle taste of K’s Chioggia Beets, with its delicate combination of colours and flavours. The dishes were simple in the sense that they used simple, homegrown or otherwise locally sourced ingredients, but each dish was exquisitely put together with both visual and palate appeal.
I can highly recommend Restaurant Steirereck as an amazing restaurant for a fantastic dining experience. We went for a special occasion and had a larger lunch menu with more courses, but it looks as though they’re very open to having people go in for casual one-course lunches, as there seemed to be a number of people who go in for shorter business lunches for only an hour. Steirereck is one in a million, and completely deserves their ranking in the World’s 50 Top Restaurants list.
The Lunch Menu
- Appetisers including marinated celery in shoyu, cucumbers in eucalyptus powder and sour cream, baby sweet corn, fried soy milk
- First Course: ‘Schwarzauer’ Mountain Trout with Melon, Cucumber and Etiolated Pea Shoots AND Char with Beeswax, Yellow Carrot, ‘Pollen’ and Sour Cream
- Second Course: Chioggia Beets with Roses, Porcini Mushrooms & Verbena AND Gulash from Alpine Beef with Leek-Bread Roulade and Pickled Vegetables
- Third Course: Venison with Squash, Baby Artichokes & Orange Blossom AND Cat Fish Poached in Coconut Milk with Coconut Farina, Porcini and Water Chestnuts
- Fourth Course: Quince with Burnt Milk & Lavender AND Apricot Soufflee with Amaranth and Lemon Verbena
- Petit Fours
Restaurant Steirereck is located at 2A Am Heumarkt im Stadtpark, Vienna.