Many luxury hotel restaurants present menus too sophisticated or too international, ignoring the simple, authentic and delicious flavors of local cuisine. As a food enthusiast passionate about culinary traditions, would I only taste authentic recipes in humble eateries such as a trattoria in Italy, a kafana in Serbia, a bistro in France or a heuriger in Austria?
I had this question in my mind for quite some time and it popped up again during my stay in Tarvisio, a little town on Austria’s border with Italy. Could I find the same authentic culinary treats in Vienna’s luxury hotel restaurants some 235 miles away?
My mission began and, to my surprise, after a little research and driving to the Austrian capital, I found six high-end accommodations boasting superb reception, impeccable service, comfortable rooms and upscale suites. Along with all this panache, they proved to excel in keeping Austrian culinary traditions encased in a colorful palette of local specialties, either traditional or revisited.
The Ring in Ringstrasse
During 2015 Vienna is celebrating the 150th birthday of Ringstrasse, considered one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world. The restaurant At Eight, located in the trendy hotel The Ring, is right there. Soups are popular in Austria, so I tasted the rich beef consommé with mushroom and the typical rote rubensuppe (beetroot soup) served with sour cream and cured ham.
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Looking at the menu, my attention was caught by the Wiener Schnecke, vineyard snails served with lettuce, carrots and chickpeas. The escargot has history in Vienna dating back to the Middle Ages. At his 400-year-old farm, Andreas Gugumuck produces escargot caviar. I tried it: It tasted herbaceous with hints of earth, mushrooms, cabbage and clover enclosed in those very small white eggs.
Original Sacher torte
In 1832, Prince Metternich appointed the 16-year-old apprentice chef Franz Sacher to create a dessert. Sacher made it with chocolate, apricot jam and whipped cream. Today this cake stands as one of Vienna’s best-known symbols.
It is made in 34 steps, from the crack of the first egg to the final packaging. You can taste the “original” Sacher torte in one of the four sumptuous restaurants located in the world-renowned Hotel Sacher. Their menus are a tribute to the Austrian cuisine.
From the Sacher-goose liver tart to the rücken un backerl (saddle and cheek of Iberico pork with chicory and chestnuts) to the celebrated tafelspitz (boiled beef with apple, horseradish and chives sauce) the favorite dish of Emperor Franz Josef.
Tafelspitz and free wine
The Hotel Guest House is a boutique hotel with no-attitude reception and a lot of cozy details in the rooms like a free selection of sodas, beers and wine (yes wine!).
Its restaurant is called Brasserie & Bakery, known for the huge choice of home-baked Austrian bread. I obviously went for Viennese food — a tasty soup with egg and an avant-garde version of the classic tafelspitz, featuring a variety of boiled meats and vegetables.
Get “your” knife between a choice of many offered by the hostess at Dstrikt Steakhouse. Here meat is the emperor: beef filet, T-bone, rump and flank steak, ribeye and, of course, Her Majesty, the world famous veal escalope Wiener schnitzel.
The steakhouse is located at the prestigious Ritz Carlton, a mix of historic charm and modern elegance, several suites and the breathtaking presidential suite with fireplace, library, kitchenette and powder room.
The breakfast served in the lobby was full of gourmet treats and surprises like the honey spilling down from a waxy apiary; it was probably the sweetest honey I have had in my life.
You will be surprised by the traditional fare in one of the most luxurious hotels in Vienna, the glamorous five-star-superior Palais Hansen Kempinski. Built in 1873, it captivates visitors with its historic architecture and its contemporary luxury. The restaurant Die Küche is ideal for those who appreciate down-to-Earth goodness, enjoy traditional cooking and value contemporary presentation
Here the iconic käsekrainer (smoked, boiled and roasted pork sausage stuffed with aged Austrian Emmenthaler) receives a special appearance as Chef Philip Vogel’s signature dish. “I am convinced that this tasty Austrian trademark deserves to be served to our guests,” said Vogel, explaining his choice.
Oval windows and privileged delicacies
Topazz is a sleek boutique hotel in the heart of Vienna, steps from St. Stephan’s Cathedral. It does not have its own restaurant. Guests are invited to dine at the adjacent Café Bar Bloom.
So why is it on my list? Because, besides being pampered by a classy atmosphere and a super comfortable stay, I was granted to access the private Privileged Club. It’s a cozy lounge room that offers a complimentary beverage service including wine and spirits as well as small delicacies, desserts and a variety of Austrian hors d’oeuvres, including a delicious pumpkin seed puree. It is open day and night, and it was a blast to pick up some goodies, a glass of wine and snuggle in bed while enjoying the city view magically framed in my oval window.
My visit ended with a note: Vienna surely allows visitors to taste tradition in beautiful surroundings. Mission completed!
Main photo: The original Sacher torte. Credit: Hotel Sacher