Monthly Archives: June 2019

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Salzburg

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If you are anything like me you will have become aware of Salzburg due to its association with one of the most famous and most head-poundingly awful movies ever committed to celluloid. Now, as this is not a blog about movies and I’m trying to keep swearing to a minimum in these posts, all I will say is that the movie in question – featuring singing nuns, Julie Andrews and seven of the most detestable children in cinema history – is the only film I have ever watched in which I actually hoped the Nazi’s would win to stop the horror of idiots dancing in gazebos and schnitzels being teamed with noodles. If you can somehow overcome these faults and the nausea that often results from viewing the film, you may notice that the location itself is actually rather beautiful. The dramatic splendor of the Eastern Alps and the towering fortresses cast a shadow over this compact, pretty, thorough charming city, and whilst many visitors are drawn to the Mirabell Palace in order to dance around the fountain humming do-re-mi, I came for powerful scenery, great food and the chance to have a nosy around Mozart’s kitchen. I can tick all three objectives off my bucket list, though my quest for authentic delicacies would have mixed results.

*****

Sternbräu

(Griesgasse 23)

Carrot and tomato soup with ginger (4.50 euros) Original Bavarian veal sausages (8.30 euros). It rarely happens that I am frightened by food. I thrive of the weird and wonderful, eager to embrace new flavours and smells and textures to broaden my palate and expand the boundaries of my culinary landscape. Yet somehow my desire to sample this traditional Austrian delicacy was tempered as soon as I saw it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but bloated white sausages swimming in a bowl of tepid water definitely wasn’t it. It also struck me as a bizarre combination. Just what does one do with a sausage and a pretzel? Do you nibble one before nibbling the other? Do you cut them with a knife and fork? Do you somehow balance the sausages on top of the pretzel as the world’s least successful hot dog? The taste of the meat itself isn’t bad, but it isn’t good enough to overcome the horror of peeling off the thick skin of each bulging meat balloon only to watch it float in the water like a used condom tossed into a puddle. I manage half of one sausage, which actually felt like a personal triumph, before pushing them behind the menu so I wouldn’t have to face them again. Sorry, Salzburg. I love your history and your desserts are the stuff of wet dreams, but these sausages will haunt my nightmares for a while to come. Still, top marks for the gorgeous carrot and tomato soup and for all the pictures I took once I was able to stop dry heaving.

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Café Mozart

(Getreidegasse 22)

Marillenknödel (7.50 euros) Tea with rum (5.50 euros). Ahhhhhhhh… this is more like it. I had been searching for Marillenknödel since arriving in Austria but was thwarted by… well, all the other food I was eating. Now came my chance to try this charming dessert. Served warmed with a pool of molten apricot at their center, these delightful dough balls are traditionally boiled in salt water before being coated in a sandstorm of breadcrumbs and powdered sugar. The result when fried are the most tender, sweet and adorable dumplings I’ve ever encountered. Accompanied by a strong cup of Earl Grey and an even stronger glass of rum, providing an extra level of delight as I drizzled a spoonful both into my tea and onto my last remaining knödel. The results were, needless to say, impressive.

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Sabroson

(Linzer G. 27)

Spaghetti all’ Amatricana. After my run-in with the monster sausages that had come close to putting me off all foodstuffs for life, I retreated into the open arms of my all-time favourite meal, pasta. Convention tells us that when in Rome we should do as the Romans do (preferably avoiding the whole killing Christians thing) but when a restorante is put in my path it simply isn’t possible for me to remain on the Austrian straight and narrow. A busy trattoria with interiors and an atmosphere that I can barely recall, I was soon tucking into a large bowl of Italy’s greatest export filled to bursting with bacon, pepperoni, anchovies, capers, olives, tomato’s and peppers so hot that sweat beads started popping on my forehead and running into my eyebrows. I just dabbed them away and kept eating till by mouth was numb and my stomach could take no more. Gorgeous.

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Fortress Hohensalzburg

Treating myself to a refreshing green tea and a couple of the edible/drinkable treats picked up at Mozarts Wohnhaus. The chocolates are quite nice with a marzipan filling (never a bad thing in my book) and the thimbleful of creamy chocolate liquor was a particular delight. All this with wonderful views overlooking the city.

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 Panorama Restaurant

(Fortress Hohensalzburg)

Salzburger Nockerl (17.50 euros). As a fan of Man v Food, the TV show where a man eats his way to Type 2 diabetes, I have often marveled at food being consumed not for pleasure but for the challenge they represent. Like the search for Atlantis, the quest for the Holy Grail or the hunt for someone who has successfully sued for PPI and received all of their money back, people seek out the most difficult, bonkers tasks imaginable so they can feel a sense of accomplishment when – or indeed if – they conquer them. And so we have the Nockerl. Meant to represent three of the hills surrounding the city (there are technical names for these but for the purposes of this blog lets refer to them as Huge, Gargantuan and Blimey Charlie! Look at the size of that!) this regional specialty is a daunting prospect for even the most dedicated foodie. A mix of egg white, vanilla and a plantations worth of sugar, this surprising light and fluffy delight is served warm with a center oozing red currants, raspberries and a host of other seasonal fruits and berries (the outer layer also developed a skin that tasted rather like an unseasoned omelette. I found that this – when mixed with the juice of a hundred squashed blackberries – went down a treat). There was never any chance of me being able to finish it all, but there was the tempting prospect of seeing just how much of it I could finish before keeling over. This turned out to be less than one mountain. This is a dessert to share between at least two people – or, ideally, a family of six over the course of a long weekend – but I gave it my best shot and went away knowing that I hadn’t missed out on this unique, overwhelming and delectable delight. That I was able to indulge in such a treat whilst staring out over the majestic landscape of the Eastern Alps only added to the pleasure.

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And so we say a sad but fond farewell to Salzburg, a lovely city filled with tradition and warmth and amazing food. Come back soon for more highlights from Vienna as I head back to sample more delights from the coffee capital of Europe. Till next time, folks xx

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Bratislava

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A one hour journey by train from Vienna stands the Slovakian capital on the banks of the Blue Danube. Actually, on the day I visited it was far from blue. If anything is was ditchwater colored, but Strauss jr. wasn’t in the market for factual accuracy, and his music wouldn’t be nearly as celebrated if his compositions had included the words ‘sludge’, ‘grimy’ or ‘murky’ in the title. I immediately headed for the old town, having little interest in modern office blocks and Communistic architecture (if I wanted imposing buildings with no character I’d do my daily shop in Croydon town center. Either that or move back to Stoke). This is where the history and soul and spirit of the city resides, so it stands to reason that I would aim for this compact yet charming area to seek out quality food and delightful desserts. I was not to be disappointed.

*****

Ashoka Indian Restaurant

(Hodžovo námestie 568/2, 811 06 Staré Mesto)

When considering where to go for traditional Slovakian food, an Indian restaurant located in a Crowne Plaza resort doesn’t immediately spring to mind. This was a case of necessity over want. Trying to walk from the train station into Bratislava’s old town I was caught in a rainstorm of Biblical proportions (I had to ring out my tights in a restroom sink) and dived into the nearest hotel that offered hot tea and sanctuary. I had been saving myself for Bryndzové halušky, a dumpling dish I had read about which closely resembles gnocchi, but the allure of meat and rice and spices was too tempting to resist, and when I discovered that a certain dessert was on the menu I soon dumped the idea of dumplings into the dumpster (always avoid alliteration by backside!). There was a warming cream of mushroom soup to start, the perfect dish for someone damp from the nostrils down. This was followed by a flavourful chicken biryani and poppadums that was easily enough for two people to share, but the pièce de résistance for me was the stunning Gazar ka Halwa, a dessert of mashed carrots and milk filled with sultans and cashew nuts. All washed down with a cup of green tea with honey and ginger to keep any pesky colds at bay. Outstanding food and at only 24.20 euros great value for money.

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Cajovna v Podzemi – Underground Tea Room 

(Ventúrska 265/9 811 01 Staré Mesto)

With the tagline ‘Have your tea in a bomb shelter’, this was all the sales pitch I needed. Divided into different ethno-themed sections, this is a cafe where it is possible to take tea in the middle of the Serengeti, inside a Bedouin tent, or crossed legged on cushions in a Japanese tea house. I opted for the latter option, as to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is a long held ambition. Of course, this is not going to replicate the same level of spectacle, but the amount of care taken to create a unique and joyous experience made this one of the stand-out moments from my entire trip. Curled up in my little nook I decided to go all-out and order the special Tea Around the World option (17.50 euros), a selection of six teas to try from around the globe starting with a creamy Taiwan Gaba and finishing with a smoky American Mate Rancho with stops in China, India, Japan and Africa along the way (I also indulged in a separate pot of Rum Cream fruit tea, a marvelous melange of berries that blended beautifully with the rich alcoholic taste of the rum). Each tea comes with a card detailing its origins and the various tastes and aromas one can expect from each brew. The presentation is beautiful and each jug holds a surprisingly large amount of tea to satisfy even the most hardened teaholic. I adored it. From the taste of each tea (brewed to perfection during the 15 minute prep time advised on the menu) to the decor to the general sense of fun, I passed a happy two hours sampling teas from around the world, eating walnut orechovés and soaking up the unique atmosphere. The only down side was an elderly Englishman who came in, stared at me on my cushions as though I was a living display in a museum, pushed back a chair and told the staff that ‘we English only ever drink tea with milk. Fetch me a proper cup of tea with milk!’. I left a tip large enough to show my appreciation and to apologies for his ignorance. Apart from that, a wonderful experience.

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Zeppelin cafe and souvenirs

(Sedlárska 364/10, 811 01 Staré Mesto)

A vintage tea room selling a vast array of tourist tat, Zepplin is a cosy nook with comfy chairs to collapse into and a good selection of cakes and coffee to tempt the tired traveler. Charming, reasonably priced and with banging selection of 80’s tunes to hum along too.

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GREAT 

(Suché mýto 4808/6, 811 02)

Naming your restaurant Great isn’t always such a great idea. Great is setting the bar high, and can lead one to question whether the name is ironic if their experience wasn’t as great as the Great in the name implies. Personally I thought it was fair. Good, even. Great would be stretching a point. The tomato and Parmesan soup was rather nice, and the tagliatelle carbonara was nicely cooked, but the sauce was too rich and after a heavy lunch it seemed that my stomach wasn’t prepared for something so dense and creamy. Even so, this is a trendy, vibrant place and if my eyes weren’t quite as big as by bulging belly I’m sure I would have enjoyed it far more.

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And so ends our brief tour through Solvakia’s beautiful capital. Of course, there is only so much grub one person can eat in one day, and obviously a longer stay would reveal more of this city’s glorious food and national dishes, but for a whistle-stop visit I would highly recommend this charming place and its diverse selection of restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes and budgets. Pop back soon when we will be heading back to Vienna and taking a calorific trek through Salzburg, a place where the mountains are big but the desserts are much, much bigger. until next time, folks xx

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Vienna (part 2)

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You always know that you have eaten too much when you have to upload your gorging in installments. I consider this to be an achievement and a sure sign that my travels have been nothing short of magnificent (bad weather and rip-off currency exchanges aside). And so we return to Vienna for more of their exceptional food and a few treats along the way.

*****

Kaffee Rösterei Hawelka Wien (Dorotheergasse)

Not to be confused with the family-run Café Hawelka nearby (I did, though on balance I would classify this as an happy accident), this modern and urbane cafe serves a wide variety of coffees and teas as well as a small but well thought out selection of cakes and charming petit fours. Sleek, elegant and really rather lovely.

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Café Diglas (Wollzeile 10)

I do love a culinary detour when I’m traveling. Not content with the Austrian classics on offer and the vast array of desserts for my delectation, I was overcome one afternoon by the urge to sit down to a steaming bowl of Bouillabaisse, suddenly craving the taste of Marseille whilst those around me sat in shorts rubbing ice cubes on their thighs to cool down (a rare glimpse of summer in a week of downpours and strong wind; the latter in no way caused by my overeating). Filled to the brim with salmon and pawns and accompanied with grilled bruschetta bread, the taste of this superb stew lingered long after the memory of the ho-hum café had faded, though I was privy to a conversation between an Australian couple who were fearful that they would get lost in the fog if they dared to visit London. As reasons to not visit my hometown go this was by far the most moronic.

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Demel (Kohlmarkt 14)

Goulash soup and apple strudel. Famous for its battle with Hotel Sacher for the right to use the label ‘The Original Sacher Torte’ (a battle it lost, forcing it to adorn their version of the cake with a triangular seal declaring it to be the ‘Eduard-Sacher-Torte’. If the case had gone before Judge Judy I’m sure she would have dismissed both claims and advised each establishment to find better things to do with its time) this elegant salon is brimming with charm and old-world Viennese style. A large cafe with numerous seating areas (all of them full when I visited, though queuing allows plenty of time to observe trays of cakes being wheeled around the kitchen) I was eventually settled at a table in the upstairs dining area and promptly ordered a large bowl of goulash soup, despite being full from a breakfast of various hams, a selection of cheeses and three bowls of juicy peaches in syrup. However, I am not one to let a little thing like not being hungry stop me from eating, and I assumed that soup would be a safe option that would leave plenty of room for the dessert I was determined to enjoy. More of a stew than a soup, this gorgeous mixture of diced vegetables and thick chunks of beef put me in mind of the stews my mother used to cook when I was a child, the only difference being that this tasted… well, nice (sorry, mum, but your potato to meat ratio was way off, and why did you think spices would detract from the taste of the beef? Even you knew it tasted like saddle and old boots). This was swiftly followed by a large portion of warm apple strudel, up there with Waltzes and the Anschluss when it comes to things that Austria is famous for. Loaded with apples, sweetened raisins and served with a huge dollop of whipped cream, this is pure indulgence and is exactly what people picture when they think of Austrian cuisine. Also, a big thumbs up to Demel for including a sugar stirrer with each hot beverage. I didn’t use it to sweeten my tea but I did enjoy it as a lollipop whilst walking around Mozart’s apartment.

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Be sure to pop back soon when there will be more delights from Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg to salivate over. Till next time, folks xx

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx

Scones in Another City: A Glorious Glutton’s Guide to Vienna (part 1)

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Hello fan. This is Vienna calling. No, not the less successful follow-up to Falco’s ‘Rock me Amadeus’, nor is this a reference to the yearly embarrassment that is The Eurovision Snore Contest, a competition in which we Brits recently pulled off the marvelous trick of not only coming last, but actually coming even more last than the last we had anticipated when five of our points were deducted after a technical error was discovered with the voting (like descending all seven circles of hell only to find that there is a basement, but due to Brexit and British judges failing to award any points to ABBA in 1974 we are reaping what we sow). No, folks, I am talking about Austria’s most famous city, home to Freud, Sachertorte and those powdery whirled biscuits that no one really likes. More than any other trip this was to be a true foodie adventure, Beisl’s and kaffeehaus’s and konditoreien’s (bakeries) taking up nearly every position on my list of must-do’s whilst in the Austrian capital (there was a nod to Klimt, a thumbs up to Mozart and a salute given to the The Third Man, but these were often a delightful amuse-bouche rather than the main course of the trip). With the help of the Internet, my trustee DK Eyewitness guide and my own innate ability to find the most calorific food at the most incredible prices, I set off to discover Austrian cuisine at its finest and a few unexpected treats along the way. Man cannot live by strudel alone – and wouldn’t live very long even if he tried given how quickly his arteries would clog with cream – so there were occasional diversions, but my aim was to discover the country through its food, to eat as the Austrians eat, and to watch my waistband expand to the point where my pants were digging into my stomach. I feel an intense frustration towards travellers who don’t engage with the cuisine of their chosen destination. That anyone could visit a country sprinkled with the most fantastic eateries to suit any budget and deliberately seek out a MacDonald’s or a KFC is anathema to me (though a bag of hot wings goes down a treat when you’re waiting for the 159 night bus to Streatham), so the next few posts will be a celebration of the glorious food and delectable desserts available not only in Vienna, but also in the glorious city of Salzburg and the charming old town of Bratislava, a short hop across the border and a must for the dedicated teaholics amongst us. And so, lets begin at the very beginning, which as Maria once sang in The Sound of Mucus, really is a good place to start.

*****

Café Mozart (Albertinaplatz 2)

Tafelspitz (24.00 euros). Daunting in its size, Tafelspitz is rather like a traditional Sunday lunch. Consisting of thick slices of tender boiled beef in a light stock, it comes with a tart apple and horseradish sauce, a large potato dumpling, creamed spinach, root vegetables and a delicious leek and chive sauce that worked beautifully with the meat. This is comfort food at its most satisfying, served in smart surroundings at Café Mozart. This was exactly the sort of place I was hoping to avoid for my first dining experience in the capital. From its name to its connection with The Third Man I expected it to be touristy, overpriced and overcrowded. I was partially right on all counts, though this didn’t detract from the high quality of the food or the charm of the dining area. There may be more authentic spots off the beaten track to indulge in traditional fare but as an introduction to Austrian dining this was a pleasant and enjoyable start.

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Freyung Passage (Herrengasse)

BB Detox tea (3.90 euros) — A elegant walkway reminiscent of London’s Burlington Arcade, this stunning gallery of high end shops and charming cafes is the perfect place to stop, take tea, and frown at the occupant of the next table who has just decided to light up a cigarette.

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Hotel Sacher (Philharmonikerastrasse 4)

Sachertorte with whipped cream, choice of non-alcoholic hot beverage & Römerquelle mineral water (16.90 eurors) Once upon a time there was a man named Franz who made a cake. This cake was so wonderful that a war broke out between the place in which Franz originally made the cake and the place where Franz eventually moved to, taking the recipe for this wonderful creation with him. The war lasted many, many years, each side eager to lay claim to the rights of this most indulgent of cakes. Eventually, the mythical land of ‘Sacher’ won the right over the noble realm of ‘Demel’ to claim the cake as its own original creation. This consisted of them placing a small card on the side of a plate proclaiming each slice to be ‘Das Original’, thus ensuring that pudding purists around the globe flocked to their dining room as opposed to the hundreds of other cafes knocking up sachertortes by the truckload. So popular was this that queues formed up the street, people salivating onto the pavement in their desire to spend up to twenty euros on one slice of cake, a cup of tea and a bottle of mineral water. Or maybe this was just me. The torte — far from being the dense doorstop that I had imagined — was a surprisingly light chocolate cake without being overly rich or sickly. The presence of a thin layer of apricot jam gives it a pleasantly fruity tone, while the whipped cream adds to the air of overindulgence. It is a delightful dessert served in delightful, opulent surroundings, even if you do have to queue outside in the rain with people hitting you upside the head with golfing umbrellas.

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Be sure to pop back soon when there will be more delights from Vienna, Bratislava and Salzburg to salivate over. Till next time, folks xx

Feel free to share stories, views and tips in the comments section below. Always fun to hear from fellow teaholics xx