We had only a couple of days in Vienna and I needed to find a great place for dinner. On my last visit, we ate at some touristy places that were recommended by hotel (first mistake) and then we tried to find a place to eat after the opera (second mistake – everything was either sold out, or closed).
This trip, I turned to the trusty list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We were very pleased with their selections in South America (Gustu, Central, Maido, Astrid y Gaston) and Asia (Nahm, Gaggan), and Vienna is home to number 10 on the list of the World’s Best. Not only does it make the top of this illustrious list, it has also earned two Michelin Stars. We were sold.
Steirereck im Stadtpark is a modern and innovative restaurant located in Vienna’s city park. The building is sleek and modern – the photos made me think it had a fully mirrored façade, but it is actually stainless steel surrounding the windows. It is truly a beautiful building. It looks like something Gehry created.
Surprisingly, we were able to get reservations without a problem for 20h00 on our first night in town. Our second would be spent at the opera and the third would find me in a plane back home. The timing was perfect.
I stopped by the restaurant late afternoon to snag a few photos in daylight and was surprised to see a pretty full space – do the Austrians eat lunch at 16h00? Or was that someone’s dinner?
I researched the attire before we left for Austria and I found that for dinner jackets weren’t required and even nice jeans were acceptable. I did get thrown for a bit of a panic when I was reading more about the restaurant before dinner, when the more recent articles said men were all in jackets, but ties were not required…and no one wore jeans. I packed my clothes in a carry on bag and didn’t have space for a tux (opera), a sport coat and other finery. I was nervous as we approached the restaurant.
We were definitely the most underdressed. We were dress shirts, jeans and my casual Hugo Boss shoes. While we didn’t look like everyone else there, we didn’t feel out of place. People didn’t stare. The servers did treat us like we didn’t belong.
Before we even arrived, we knew we’d be doing the full tasting menu in lieu of the a la carte dining options. This is likely a once in a lifetime dining opportunity, and I wanted to see exactly what the chef could do – I didn’t want to risk accidently picking the three worst things on the menu (which I’m sure were great, but would leave me underwhelmed).
The seven-course tasting menu was 152€ + 89€ for the wine pairing, which included a class of wine for each course. Of course we did the wine pairing – is this your first time reading about my travels and dining?
Before we get into the pictures, let me start by apologizing for not getting a full and proper photo of the menu – everything was a bit of a whirlwind when we arrived. I also have a couple of issues with some photos – specifically, my notes were unclear on a couple of the courses, so you’ll have to forgive me.
On to the meal!
The dinner ended up taking about four hours from the time we sat down until we stepped outside, with full bellies. It didn’t feel like there was a long gap between courses, nor did it feel like the courses were overly complex, taking longer to eat.
Our servers were quite personable and didn’t hesitate in conducting the full meal in English as my German can get me around the U-Bahn and maybe the zoo, but not a hospital or fine dining restaurant.
We had a couple of hiccups on the wines where I’d ask a question – usually about geography as I’m not very familiar with the wine regions of Austria. Now I’d rather someone tell me they don’t know the answer and step away to find out than tell me a lie, but twice during this dinner the server stepped away to ask a question about the wine (again, mostly geography related) and just never returned. Now it’s not like the knowledge that he was going to impart upon me was going to change my meal or my enjoyment, but it surely was curious – especially for a restaurant ranked number 10 on the top 50 list in the world.
Honestly, the two parts of the meal that stand out most to me were the enormous bread cart that came by a couple times during the meal and the most magnificent cheese trolley towards the end. There were at least two dozen bread options, each sounding more delictible than the prior and the cheese trolley at the most beautifully runny and ripe époisses de Bourgogne – my all time favorite cheese.
I’m really happy we at at Steirereck im Stadtpark, but I would not return. The food was interesting, but it wasn’t all that memorable to me. The price point was at the highest end of any of the 50 Top Restaurants in the World that I’ve visited and I think I’d rank it the lowest of them all. The space was beautiful and the experience was truly once in a lifetime, but, I cannot see myself returning. For a meal experience (and it was that, an experience, not just a meal) for a price of about 770USD, I want more “WOW”, more interest, more invention and innovation.
What did you think of Steirereck? Was I just there on an off night? Did you have a phenomenal time and think I should give it another try?