Sacher Café, Café Imperial and Figlmüller, Vienna
November 8, 2011
We had not been back to Vienna for several decades, so it was like first time tourists that Linda and I went from September 12 to 15, 2011. Two hours after our arrival we found ourselves at the counter of the Sacher Café. Having skipped lunch due to our airplane flight from Nice, I ordered a piece of the famous Sacher Torte mit Schlag and a Sacher Kaffee, which is an Einspänner, coffee in a glass with a hefty dollop of Schlag (whipped cream), plus Sacher’s apricot liqueur.
The chocolate cake with apricot jam is a bit dry and definitely needs the unsweetened whipped cream with it. It was a treat to have it in its namesake café, but I don’t think it was as good as some I have had elsewhere.
Linda had a piece of Apfelstrudel and an espresso which she thought were very good.
The place was packed with tourists like us, both inside and on the terrace outside. Sitting at the counter, we didn’t see them and could enjoy the interior ambience and watch the efficient serving staff. Been there; done that.
That evening we were going to a concert at the Musikverein and so met Alice and Folker for a very early dinner at the nearby Café Imperial in the Hotel Imperial, built in 1863 as the Vienna residence of the Prince of Württemberg. It was transformed into a hotel for the world exhibition in 1873.
We ordered a bottle of Zweigelt, a good Austrian red wine. Linda and I started by sharing a salad with shrimp.
She continued with Kalbsrahmgulasch.
She enjoyed this Viennese version of a veal goulash with cream and spätzle.
I had, of course, on our first day, a Wiener schnitzel.
A veal escalope, pounded very thin, is breaded with flour, egg and breadcrumbs and fried in a pan with lard fat. It was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, I think, an excellent example of what it should be. The wedge of lemon added a needed bit of acidity. The boiled potatoes and the salad of potatoes and greens that came with the Wiener schnitzel were typical.
Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to try the famous ‘Imperial Torte,’ a chocolate, almond and marzipan creation which was initially made as a tribute to Emperor Franz Joseph.
The next day, continuing our exploration of Vienna’s classic restaurants, we went to lunch at Figlmüller. In Johann Figlmüller’s former wine tavern, founded in 1905, there is no beer, fruit juice, coffee or pastry on the menu. There are only twelve classic Viennese dishes.
However, we had no reservation at this flagship Zum Figlmüller restaurant on the Wohlzeile alley and so went to the larger Figlmüller restaurant opened in the winter of 2001 on Bäckerstraße 6 nearby.
This restaurant has a larger menu, serves beer and pastries etc. We were warmly welcomed and seated at a table in the front room where we could watch people come and go. They were by no means all tourists; many local people seemed to be regulars.
We ordered a bottle of the house Grüner Veltliner 2010.
Refreshing and good.
Our starter was
Blunzn-Strudel mit warmem Speckkrautsalat
The warm shredded cabbage with bacon was classic and nice. It offset the quite rich blood sausage in flaky strudel pastry.
The main course was
Erdäpfel-Vogerlsalat mit steirischem Kernöl
Figlmüller’s Wiener schnitzel is famous. It is made from very thinly pounded pork, which they claim the Viennese now prefer, but a classic veal version is also available only at the new restaurant at a higher price. Since I had enjoyed an excellent veal Wiener schnitzel at the Café Imperial the previous evening, we ordered veal sweetbreads, cooked in the same style. We enjoyed them a lot. The classic accompaniment is potato salad with mâche dressed with Styrian pumpkin seed oil, a popular oil in Austria. The portions were large and we did not have dessert.
Having enjoyed our introduction to classic Viennese cuisine, we were looking forward to an updated, Michelin two-star version that evening at Steirereck.