I was lucky enough to be sent to Vienna for a week for work, and even luckier that the weather was damn near perfect all week. Unfortunately, I was the only one sent over and the local office is more or less staffed with married guys so I was left to my own devices during the evenings. The good news was that being on my own, I got to choose where to eat!
The first night, I went for dinner at Plachutta Woizelle, so named because it’s part of the Plachutta family of restaurants and is situated on Woizelle St. It had a reputation for being a bastion of traditional Viennese cuisine and was also just around the corner from the office. It’s not cheap – a starter, main, and glass of wine cost me €50 – but it does seem reasonable for the style of the place and quality of food. This is the kinda place you need a dress shirt to feel comfortable and a jacket wouldn’t go amiss either.
First off, you need to book in advance for this place. Turn up at the door and they will most likely turn you away. This isn’t due to any snobbishness, but more to the fact that they are booked solid every night. I reckon they do keep a few tables in reserve for VIPs, wealthy bankers, and dignitaries from OPEC (the OPEC foreign investment fund headquarters are also around the corner) but regular chums like myself have to play by the rules.
If you have a choice (and the weather cooperates), sit outside in the massive al fresco dining area. The open air brings the noise down to a low hum and atmosphere is a bit more relaxed – still posh, mind you – than the starched interior. It’s also worth keeping in mind that this is Vienna and service is a bit different to what I’m used to in the US or London. Basically, they won’t rush you which is great if hanging out with friends but terrible when you are trying to pay the bill. They don’t seem to mind if you prompt them (or they hide it well) so you as the diner are really in charge of the pace of the meal.
Plachutta Woizelle is known for its Tafelspitz – basically a slow-cooked boiled beef in a rich broth with a few root veggies thrown in for good measure. It’s served with a tangy applesauce, a creamy chive sauce, and some oil heavy fried hash brown style potatoes. Naturally, looking to try traditional Viennese food I went for it in a heart beat.
Before we get into it, a quick line or two about my starter. I opted for the spicy steak tartare which I’ve always loved in France. The Viennese version is slightly different. Yes, the finely minced fillet was ridiculously tender and slid smoothly over the tongue. But that’s where the comparison ended as the seasoning was non-existent to say the least. No egg, no horseradish/mustard, in fact very little of anything. The “spicy” bit came from a few thinly chopped chillis on top which, while normally a good thing, overpowered any hint of meaty flavour from the beef. Poor show, Woizelle, poor show
The kitchen did redeem itself to some degree with the Tafelspitz. A ladle of broth is poured over a bowl of thin noodles in a Viennese version of ramen. The noodles were fine (although I later discovered I could have got dumplings instead!) but the broth was an absolute winner with its rich meaty flavour taking me by surprise. It was so good, I ladled myself up another bowl to enjoy. Next, I fished out the marrow bone and spread its oily goodness over some toasted rye bread. Marrow is a bit of a guilty pleasure and a surprise element to the dish. Finally, you carefully extract the thick slice of beef from the pot. I say carefully as it will fall apart at the slightest provocation which can only tell you how tender the meat will be. Again, it was tasty but under seasoned – although this may have just been in comparison to the awesome full on taste of the broth.
I fully intended to have dessert, but at this point I was fed up with the service. It took ages to flag anyone down to order a glass of wine despite being next to a wait station and the meal had taken almost 2 hours so far. By the time I got a dessert menu I was ready to take a nap and opted to call it a night. Plus, they didn’t have sachertorte or kaiserschmarn – how can you miss those traditional desserts!
Was it worth the money? If I head back, I’d probably just go for the Tafelspitz and pass on the rest. The starters seemed a bit overprices at €12-15 for the size and taste while the Tafelspitz at €20 was decent value (although the tiny bowl of noodles was €3 extra!). Keep in mind that service is included in the price but they will be cheeky and hand you the card machine with the “add a tip?” option waiting.
Verdict: Tasty food, a bit overpriced, and terrible service.