Vienna hosts some truly spectacular restaurants and we were spoilt for choice on our recent holiday. However, there was one place we just had to try – Steirereck. Widely applauded as being one of the finest restaurants in Central Europe, Steirereck holds two Michelin stars and was hailed as the 11th best restaurant in the world 2012 by Restaurant Magazine.
Trying to secure a booking at such short notice I did not hold much hope. Sure enough there were no dinner spaces available for the entire week at any time. However, we secured a table for midday on Wednesday. The restaurant is located in the beautiful Stadtpark, only a 15 minute walk from St Stephens Cathedral. The restaurant is surrounded by a tabled terrace, which unfortunately was not in use on the day we dined – it would have been nice to have sat outside on such a glorious day.
The dining room is subtly opulent. The ceiling is covered with plaster moulded foliage, giving the impression of an enchanted forest and the tables are very generously spaced. There is a big emphasis on provenance and quality of ingredients at Steirereck. Many of the vegetables and herbs used in the restaurants dishes are grown in their own gardens – they were recently awarded the Slow Food UK Award.
We were shown to our table and were presented with the first of a series of canapés – an assortment of small variations of beetroot (one with confit duck leg) and other preparations of garden vegetables. The next canapé could have perhaps been the simplest but one of the most delicious dishes I ate during my time in Vienna. The dish was entitled ‘clothesline’ and consisted of a strip of air-dried ham topped with dehydrated watermelon, strung up on a mini clothesline. Truly delicious, simple and refreshing.
The food at Steirereck is intriguing. Underused and different ingredients are well employed and are prominent in all the dishes we were served. There was barely a course arrived which did not contain something I had not previously tried. Some dishes are not wholly what you would expect; the wild lettuce for instance tasting headily floral and pleasingly bitter. There is clearly much time and effort spent on adopting new cooking techniques. But these techniques are cleverly employed and appear only to be used if they will give real benefit to the finished dish.
Every course was enjoyable, some standing out more than others. The Iced Pericon with Bee Balm was unlike anything I have tasted, the texture of the ‘ice’/meringue was phenomenal. The use of bitter/sweet apricot and sweetcorn with the Venison was inspired and well-balanced. The cherries were paired with hay polenta – it would be worth returning to taste that dish alone. There really was little to fault. The quality of food was matched by the service which was unobtrusive and friendly.
The differentiating factor of all the dishes we tasted were the use of herbs grown in the restaurant’s garden. Many of them are obscure varieties which are tediously difficult to grow in the Austrian climate. But all without exception elevated the food to an entirely different level. Fundamental to every dish, their unique flavour was prominent and memorable. Please be sure to try the tea trolley – where a blend will be made to your taste with a selection of herbs from the garden (pineapple sage was amazing).
It was refreshing to be served dishes which excited and intrigued in wonderful surroundings and I urge you to try and visit.
Restaurant Steirereck, Stadtpark, Vienna
Food (For Two): €138
Dress Code: Smart