Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper: Walfischgasse, Vienna, Austria
It has the feel of somewhere more contemporary, more modern than its Viennese surroundings of pale painted houses and narrow streets. Outside, a mix of Americans, Austrians and Germans sit under heated parasols in a Summery al-fresco setting while inside, diners relax in a cream and pale grey interior and staff seem to appear and vanish noiselessly in an already peaceful room.
I often complain of the noise in restaurants, of tables being too close together and the light either being too harsh or too low. Here, while the tables were pitched cheek by jowl, the chatter didn’t seem to travel; perhaps the Austrians are quieter than my fellow English foodies. The lights extended from the walls over your table so you could not only adjust where the light fell but it always fell straight onto the table, where you need it, while the rest of the room remained in tranquil duskiness.
The staff were adept at seating you and bringing drinks – the atmosphere of a pre-theatre restaurant slapped all over the clean white walls. It was a little distant but with that professionalism so you don’t mind so much and the staff were far from unfriendly too. Bread was already on the table in a neat little bag; the salted variety proved a little overpowering but definitely something I’d like to eat more of. To start we shared a tomato and onion salad along with cucumber in soured cream. The first was over-salted but the red onion delivered a jab of welcome spice to the tomatoes while the latter dish was refreshing and great piled high on morsels of the tasty Viennese bread.
The mains took an awful long time to arrive. The restaurant hadn’t gotten any busier so we had a tough time understanding what the problem was. When they did eventually arrive, it was all a bit of a shock. Fried calves liver was a vast demon of battered meat that spanned the plate, the half-lemon like a speck of colour beside it. The meat, however, was cooked perfectly and was of a superb quality. The potato salad accompanying it was rather bland and a little bright in its yellow colouring. Calves’ liver having the richness that it does, this dish was just too big.
Beef goulash with dumplings was also hearty but beefy too. Hunks of shoulder hid under the tomato sauce, creamy in consistency but without the tartness that tomatoes can sometimes have. The dumplings, more like potato cakes in England, could have been browned a little more to add some colour but the texture was fine. The beef was sweet and tender though some slivers of fat and gristle sneaking around weren’t exactly welcome surprises.
The sirloin steak with chanterelles was served on the edge of medium, slightly underdone but none the worse for it. It was thick slab of meat, the creamy sauce with the chanterelle mushrooms just right and the potato dumplings cooked and coloured well.
The desserts were pricey, knocking around the €7 mark and we opted for peach tartare with homemade sorbet and pistachios. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t laugh out loud when it arrived. It looked like someone had been sick on our plate, smoothed it into a circle, topped it with a scoop of pale pink sorbet and dropped a leaf on top. We tried to forget first impressions as we got stuck in. The diced peach topped with pistachios was sweet, almost like a chunky compote, though the pistachios were getting soggy in the moistness of it all and going soft. The sorbet, a weak raspberry flavour, was creamy and soft, not at all icy, and complimented the sweetness of the peaches well. All I can say is that it wasn’t worth €7.90.
The menu seemed to be traditional Viennese (schnitzel, goulash, boiled beef, cabbage pasta) though it felt simplified, perhaps for tourists, and when served lacked finesse or elegance, or even accompanients such as vegetables or salads and looked brash, comical even, in the stylish surroundings. The big portions cover the inconsistencies of the menu and it’s disappointing that the food doesn’t live up to the expectations when you are first whisked in by attentive waiters that soon decide you are secondary now that you are seated.