This review of a Vienna restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage.
Vienna, for most people, conjures up images of fat cakes, waltzes, prancing horses and perhaps a grand, but fading neoclassical imperial capital. If all of that leaves you panting for the cheesy artifice of Las Vegas, then Eisvogel could be just the restaurant for you. Located right next to the Riesenrad ferris wheel in the Prater city park, the original 19th century Eisvogel was destroyed by fire in the last days of the Second World War. The current building is therefore a reconstruction, but the half-hearted, unaged appearance combined with the advertising hoardings for the Madame Tussaud’s next door and the adjacent fairground ride are reminiscent more of Sin City than the stately metropolis of Freud and Klimt.
Inside, Eisvogel is much more sedate and plainly decorated. As expected for what looks like a tourist trap, there’s an English menu and all the staff speak excellent English. Although polite and friendly, the staff did seem to disappear at odd intervals which made ordering dessert and settling the bill more of a trial than they should have been.
I opted for the three-course set menu and my meal got off to an interesting start with the bread basket. The brown, chocolate-looking bread with its sweet taste will have the most widespread appeal, but I was more intrigued by the fluffy, salty pretzel-ish bread that cropped up again and again during my visit to Vienna. The aniseed-like flavour was odd and won’t suit everyone, but I liked it.
Veal lungs with dumplings may not sound like an appealing dish, but it’s like a magnet for my novelty-seeking brain. Resembling a ragout, the sliced and diced bits of lung had a sweet and offaly taste that went well with the dumplings (just visible in the corner of the photo). Although somewhat similar to English dumplings, these dumplings were sweeter and fluffier with a slight tang. A good start and, according to my waiter, a classic Viennese dish.
If veal lungs doesn’t appeal to you, then neither will catfish served on the meat of calves’ head. It’s worth trying though – the crispy exterior of the fish gives way to a surprisingly succulent slab of meat with a salty, herby, mushroom/fungus-like taste to it. It was complimented well by the thin slices of fatty meat underneath, but the polenta was a bit too refined – I would’ve preferred more of a gritty coarseness to it. It was tinted green with lovage, but this didn’t make much difference to the taste.
Eisvogel faltered when it came to my dessert of Scheiterhaufen, a classic layered dessert found in many Central European countries. The upper layer had a fluffy marshmallow-like texture to it and an odd tang which I couldn’t quite place, while the cake layer beneath resembled strudel. The accompanying apple and quince compote was dominated more by apple than quince and was a bit too overcooked for my liking – the chunks were generally too soft and not sharp enough, so there wasn’t enough contrast in taste when compared to the strudel-like cake layer. An interesting dessert, but ultimately a flawed one.
If you’re in the mood for Austrian food that isn’t too pricey and doesn’t involve Wiener schnitzel and want accommodating service to go with it, then Eisvogel’s set menu is a pretty good bet – as long as you can put up with the horrifically touristy surroundings.
Address: Riesenradplatz 5, A-1022, Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 1 9081187
Restaurant Opening Hours: seven days a week. March-September 11.30-22.30. October-Feburary 11.30-15.00 and 18.00-22.30.
Reservations: probably a good idea.
Total cost for one person dining on the three-course set menu but excluding tips: €47 (£40 approx. at time of writing)
Rating: ★★★★☆ (set-menu specific rating)