We had heard many good things about this gem of the Viennese culinary scene, but somehow only managed to visit for the first time yesterday. In typical Viennese form, the waiter who guided us to our table did not go to extreme lengths to make us feel welcome, but that’s what you expect in this town. Vienna is our favourite city in Austria and we do love the locals, but it has to be said: they are sometimes a bit rough around the edges, and that’s fine.
I’m from Bavaria, which borders to Austria, and we are said to sometimes lack the effort to go the extra mile too. One of the most popular Bavarian jokes goes: A traveller is strolling through one of the local towns and politely approaches two passers-by, saying in fluent German (Austrians as well as Bavarians speak German as their first language) “Excuse me, is there any chance you could point me towards the train station?”. No reaction. He tries again in French, English, Chinese, Japanese, and various other languages. In the end he gives up and walks away. Says the one of the two locals that had just been approached to the other: “Seemed quite an interesting, widely-travelled, well-educated feller, that stranger, didn’t he?” Says the other “True, but did it get him anywhere? It didn’t, did it.”
Austrians, even more than Bavarians, truly value their visitors, embrace their tourism industry and are very good at hospitality in broad terms. It’s just that sometimes being friendly all the time can be a bit much for them, I’m guessing. Being grumpy every now and then is fine, as long as everyone gets the best possible holiday experience, including great food, most of all, and Plachutta sure as hell did not fall short of that.
As any self-respecting guest would do, we ordered the obligatory “Tafelspitz”, boiled prime beef that comes with instructions on a piece of paper on how to handle the food and eat it. As our second main we ordered the staple of Viennese cuisine: a Viennese schnitzel, battered veal escalope.
It did not take long and the ceremony started. At first a little stand was placed on our table, then a huge chromed brass pot containing the boiled beef and our side dishes of spinach and pan-fried potatoes were placed on the stand.
Following the written instructions, we took out the bits of bone from the pot and extracted the bone marrow, spreading it as evenly as we could over the lovely toasted rye we were handed. The taste was outrageously good. We then poured most of the stock from the pot into our bowls and ate it (also delicious!). In a final step, we lifted the strips of beef from the pot and placed them on a plate, pouring the remainder of the stock over it as a kind of sauce.
I have been cooking Tafelspitz myself many times (as did my father and his, I’m using their recipe, for some reason it’s more of a male dish, perhaps because it’s not pink or particularly pretty-looking), but I have to say this came nothing short of it.
The schnitzel was equally among the best we’ve had. The potato salad (literally just potatoes in a citric bath with some sugar and salt) didn’t look like much, but ticked all the right boxes.
The waiter seemed to warm up to us during the meal and started to make a few pleasant remarks and jokes, smiling a bit more, which was nice.
When we went to wash our hands, we saw all the photographs (about two hundred, I’m guessing) of all the famous people who had visited this restaurant: Christoph Waltz of James Bond and Tarantino fame, Mikhail Gorbachev, Buzz Aldrin, Pele, Helen Mirren, Hilary Swank, Catherine Deneuve, Paul Bocuse, you name it, if they’re famous and have ever been to Vienna, chances are they will have enjoyed a Tafelspitz at Plachutta. It’s hard to imagine otherwise. On my way, next to all those photographs, I overheard a gentleman talking to a waiter trying to hand over a framed photograph of his master shaking the hand of Plachutta’s owner and saying that it’s free and would make Mr Soandso (I know the name but some privacy has to be afforded here) a very happy man. The waiter was not making any effort of pretending that he was going to oblige. The photo wall is only for true A-listers, it seems, not just any high-ranking local politician. Hilarious.
We’ll definitely be back soon. 5 out of 5.
Looking for more Viennese restaurant reviews? Try Café Englander, Café Central, or Esterhazy Keller. More geographic diversity for you? Why not check out our posts on Lafleur, Frankfurt, Pachamama, London, or Gruvelageret, next to the North Pole (in Spitsbergen)?