Friday, December 21, 2012

Cafe Prückel, Vienna

Morning dawned, and we kinda slept through it. Going to sleep at a reasonable hour only to wake up at 12:30 with der jettischelaggen will do that - we got back to sleep and kept it up until 9. Then a bit of time in der gymnasium to work off the intended Topfenstreudel, and it was time for lunch.

I'd already identified Pruckel as the cafe nearest to our hotel that was also of some repute. It looks reputable, doesn't it? If anything, it looks a bit big and stolid to be much fun, but the same could be said of...well, Germany, and by extension Austria. Seriously, they're not that welcoming or funny, are they? Pruckel sits on the ring-street that defines the old part of Vienna, and it seems to take itself seriously as a cafe that inhabits a street more normally filled with grand palaces. They have a book about their history and all.
So you can almost guarantee they'll be stuck in the past, and I assume that will be part of the attraction if you decide to go. Waiters in suits serving your coffee? Crystal chandeliers with Christmas wreaths underneath? Ancient cigarette machines? Faded sofas redone no later than 1976? All jammed together with simultaneously too much and too little room? That's ambience. That's fun. Or what passes for it in Germanic countries.
Jaaaaa, with that we got into more of the standard Viennese food groups. I had been strangely interested to try a Frittatensuppe, which is beef broth with strips of crepe in it. This was warming and soothing and all. I'd eat it again. Just can't shake the feeling that there may be freeze-dried versions of this in the Wienersupermarkts that taste exactly the same.
And someone helped things along by getting gulasch, another thing that appears on every single menu in Wiener. You may be thinking, like I used to, "Gosh, isn't that a Hungarian thing, or at least Eastern European?" I'll invite you at this point to see how close we are to Czech, Slovakia, and Hungary. In fact, we may well take a train to one or more of them, just so's we can say we done it.

By the by, this was really tasty. I couldn't shake the feeling that the Campbell's soup of Vienna (or Hungary) might taste just like this, but there's nothing wrong with that. This was sweet and spicy and hard to define, and either of us could have eaten three of the smallish bowls that soup comes in here (again, nothing wrong with that since it's EUR 4 per bowl).

With those cleared, the waiter seemed to warm up a bit when he said "Now is time for ze coffee?" and we agreed. Taht's the order of things. The plan had indeed been to order light so we could have coffee and cakes and not overdo it. The coffee, as I was afraid might be the case, was distinctly mediocre. The Viennese 'melange' is a cappucino sort of affait, in this case with a bitter coffee and very light foam that came together to avoid only narrowly a 'terrible' label. The silver tray and glass of water for every drink are very civilized touches that make the lack of excellence quite forgivable, don't you think?

I'll tell you what's NOT forgivable, and that's the fact that we ordered from the pastry menu without looking at the case. Trap for young players, I reckon, and I shan't be making that one again, no sir. While we had two of the top three desserts in Classic Viennese Cuisine (so defined because it's the same dishes that appear on every menu, and you can get used to me saying that right now, because it's gonna happen a lot) (and Top 3 defined only by me, unscientifically and without any background at all before this week), they looked in retrospect to be the weakest in the display case. What the?

The first is Topfenstreudel, which is filled with Topfen, also known as quark, also known as fresh cheese. It was glazed with apricots, I think, and acceptable if not outstanding.

Palatschinken is the other - crepes, if you will, of an interestingly thin and chewy consistency. These are more properly Marillenpalatschinken since they were filled with a lot of apricot jam. They were indisputably average, which I was holding off on saying until someone looked over my shoulder and I asked her and she said it too.

Am I trying to sound bitter? Not at all. A very pleasant place. Nice atmosphere. Interesting waiters and patrons. Interesting and somewhat attractive kitchen and bathroom stairs (the stairs to the bathroom are in a large opening that descends through the front of the kitchen, so you can't help jockeying with waiters for position, and at the same time you can't help enjoying the flowers painted on the pale green staircase). A place that's worth going once.

Which we've now done. If you go, for goodness sake order from the dessert case instead of the menu.
Tel.: +43 1 512 61 15

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