There’s one concert every year that we never miss. No matter where we are, no matter how good New Year’s party was and how capable (having had far too many glasses of wine) we are to listen to classical music. It’s New Year’s Concert in the Vienna Musikverein. Yes folks, it’s on New Year’s Day usually around 10 am. One might think it’s a torture to wake up so early on bank holiday, especially after all night’s party – it is worth it! Believe me.
This is over 75-year old tradition and every year the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra plays under different baton. This year, a young (the youngest-ever conductor) Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel took the spotlight. Under his baton, the orchestra played the vast repertoire of the family of Johann Strauss and its contemporaries. But it wasn’t a concert like others, Mr. Dudamel gave it a new dimension – it’s hard to describe: it was dynamic, joyful, yet subtle. We’d love to hear an orchestra he conducts live one day (already on our to-do-list). Our endeavour did not end there. If you watch the concert on TV, it usually features places and landscapes from Austria and this is what planted a seed. We’ve been to Austria a few times and we always enjoyed their food and during our second visit discovered their wines. We started to crave for Austrian food and wine ‘sofort’ (German for right now).
So there we were in the first week of 2017 thinking how to get to Austria, to Vienna to be precise, to indulge ourselves with schnitzel or würstchen with sauerkraut. The continent (that’s what Brits call continental Europe) was a distant land for us for the next few months (due to some other arrangements) but the appetite for schnitzels was growing. London definitely must have restaurants serving Austrian food we thought. It does ☺ and a week later we were having a lunch with our lovely friends from Brighton in a lively, busy Viennese café The Fischer’s in the heart of Marylebone. The Fischer’s (https://www.fischers.co.uk/ ) takes you to Vienna of early 20th century. The interior is small but reflects Austrian style cafes with tiles, paintings and some hunting trophies on the walls. If it wasn’t for English spoken by all around us, we would have thought we were in Vienna. The menu isn’t too long (which I think is a positive thing) and actually we went there for 3 things: schnitzel, würstchen and regional wine. We had it all and a bonus as well 😉
Traditionally, Wienerschnitzel is a thin crumbed slice of veal (the Fischer’s also offer a chicken version) fried in oil and served with lemon, and often German Potato Salad or boiled potatoes with parsley and butter. How long it’s been a part of Austrian diet? Good question. According to The Horizon cookbook and illustrated history of eating and drinking through the ages (1968) “Wiener Schnitzel and its Italian counterpart, Cotoletta Milanese, involved two Hapsburg domains in a culinary quarrel. Both branches of the family, Austrian and Italian, claimed credit for the invention of the dish, the latter branch tracing their claim all the way back to a banquet given in 1134 for the canon of Milan’s St. Ambrogio Cathedral.” It looks impressive on the plate since it’s huge size – in some Viennese restaurants we had ones that were as big as pizza ☺
All photo credits to fischer.co.uk
We did expected generous portions, hence we decided not to take any starters as we were also looking at desserts.
Impatiently we ordered schnitzels and würstchen with some sides of sauerkraut, potatoes puree and spinach. This time, to be on the safe side, we decided to order ½ portion, which was really good idea as desserts were still to follow. The schnitzel in a pool of meat reduction, was soft and tender and sauerkraut was a nice side but I’d like it a bit sourer.
The wüstchen came with some roasted potatoes and sauerkraut and tasted the way they should. Well spiced, meaty and not too fatty.
And now the wine: we went for Burgenländer NV Pittnauer red wine from Austria made of Pinot Nior, Blaufrankish and Zweigelt grapes. It turned out to be a nice wine with cherry and blackberries notes and a smooth finish. It was a good table wine – this is what we expected from Austrian red wine which accompanied our veal and pork lunch (not too sophisticated for the quite simple dishes we had). It did, though, wake our carvings for a good bottle of Austrian Zweigelt. Although Austrian wines are not easily found on UK wine shops shelves, we manage to order it online. And a few days later we were tasting Heinrich Burgenland Zweigelt from 2014 from Heinrich winery based in eastern Austria, which uses indigenous grapes such as Blaufränkisch, St Laurent and Zweigelt to produce their wines. The wine we ended up with had a nice violet-reddish colour and smell of plums and spices, which only gave away a bit of its rich character. We could taste black cherries, lingonberries, plums and hints of dark chocolate at the end.
And I nearly forgot – the desserts. Although we had better strudels in our lives Apfelstrudel (apple and cinnamon served with whipped cream) and Topfenstrudel (crisp pastry with a cream cheese filling and with crème anglaise) with a cup of Musetti coffee are the best way to finish lunch or dinner there.
All in all, if one wants to get a taste of Vienna menu (and is London-bound) – he or she will not be disappointed: the Fischer’s gives a good intro to Austrian cuisine.
Of course, we still want to go to Vienna. Do keep your fingers crossed for us as we did apply for 2018 New Year’s concert tickets draw. There are currently nearly 240 000 people in the draw. Hope we’ll be the lucky ones ☺
50 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 5HN