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Boiled beef and carrots 09/08/2004 (TNB)

I will remember Vienna for a couple of good meals on a recent trip, otherwise mainly devoted to work. The first of these was Saturday lunch at Plachutta in Wollzeile near the city centre. This is very much a Viennese traditional establishment and so I selected the Tafelspitz, a sort of thinking mans boiled beef and carrots and one of the most famous local dishes. I would recommend this to anybody who doubts that boiling is a good way to cook fine cuts of beef; this had been simmered gently in a fine stock until meltingly tender and flavoursome. You do need some accompaniments - in this case a delicate horseradish and some lovely white beans with dill among other garnishes. With those, it is just as distinguished a dish as rare roast beef. I drank a lovely Gruner Veltliner from Knoll which didn't go too badly in fact, despite the fact that I chose it with little regard to matching the food.

My other treat was dinner at Steirereck, Vienna's most famous gourmet restaurant with a Michelin star and prices to match. Some of the food here was excellent: a lovely piece of melting goose liver with beetroot jelly for example and an imaginative combination of lobster with peppered fennel. Some of it was not so exciting - quail with scrambled egg was a bit heavy and a dessert of apple and poppy-seed cake a bit dull. These were all parts of the "Free Style" menu (as opposed to a more Austrian alternative) but even so I felt that the weaknesses - a tendancy towards heaviness and a lack of clarity in flavours - owed a lot to central European traditions. My verdict is that probably Michelin stars are easier to get outside France, but I don't (quite) grudge Steirereck's although they ought to be a long way from getting another. The wine list is huge and has some pretty serious stuff, but at pretty exhorbitant prices I couldn't find any one thing that I wanted to drink and so I settled for a set package of a glass of a different wine with each course and was rewarded with some pleasantly drinkable stuff. One is invited to look round their cellars under the restaurant which are quite enormous. There are a lot of bottles there that I would happily drink although the buying in some areas (Burgundy, for example) looked to be a bit uninformed.


Article added to Fine Wine Diary 09/08/2004   Return to top