Steirereck has a long history, having opened in 1970, though in a different location in the city. In 1996 the owner and chef at the time (Heinz Reitbauer) also opened a casual country restaurant called Wirtshaus Steirereck Pogusch in the province of Styria in southern Austria, and put his son, also called Heinz Reitbauer, in charge. The junior Heinz Reitbauer had spells at restaurants abroad including a year with the legendary Alain Chapel. Finally the reins were passed across the generations, and the younger Heinz Heinz Reitbauer took over the Vienna-based Steiereck. The restaurant found its current home in 2005 in the leafy setting of the city park of Vienna, and earned its first Michelin star in 1986. It had a major futuristic refurbishment in 2015, with the dining room now snaking out in glass-enclosed fingers over the landscape. Beneath it is a casual sister restaurant Meierei, which looks out over the Vienna river (the “Wienfluss”) which at least at the time of my visit had a very low water level and looked more like a large stream than a river. Steirereck has had two Michelin stars since 2010, and the front of house is run by his very capable wife Birgit, who speaks fluent English. The name of the restaurant is a derivation of “Steire” (man from Styria) and “eck” (corner). The restaurant offers tasting menus at €149 (£130) or €165 (£148), as well as an a la carte selection. Tables were very well spaced and were covered with particularly fine quality and perfectly ironed white linen.
The wine list was vast, and included references such as Michael Wenzell Vogelsang Furmint 2015 at €79 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €26, the lovely F.X. Pichler Loibner Loibenberg Riesling Smaragd 2003 at €99 compared to its retail price of €50, and Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape at €119 for a bottle that will set you back €44 in the high street. Those with deep pockets could indulge in prestigious bottles such as Domaine Arnaud Ente Meursault 2011 at €590 compared to its retail price of €534, and Coche-Dury Meursault 2015 at €540 for a bottle whose current market value is €631.
One feature of the restaurant is the impressive bread trolley, a term that barely does justice to the huge contraption that hoves into view, groaning with a vast selection of loaves that are prepared to order for Steirereck by no less than ten separate bakeries. Amongst the many fine breads were a sourdough with walnut and a particularly good black pudding bread. The trolley is cleverly designed with a tray for cutting the bread that allows the inevitable crumbs to fall into a container, with the crumbs later being used in the kitchen.
An array of canapés was presented to start the meal. Forono beetroot (an Italian variety noted for its superior flavour) was served with sour cream, lemon balm and a gentle hint of spice from mild chipotle chilli. A fluffy yeast dough dumpling called germknödel came with poppy seeds, walnut apple and salted plums. Blattl is a sort of puffed up fried bread that is often served with sauerkraut, but here was accompanied by a dipping sauce of cabbage flavoured with paprika. Cylinders of “melothria” (creeping cucumber, which has a slightly sour flavour) had rosti wrapped around them, flavoured with onion cream. Finally, a little wooden spoon had broccoli prepared with fermented Mayer lemon, walnut leaf oil and walnut. These were unusual and interesting nibbles, the beetroot having particularly good flavour, the broccoli also being very good (17/20).
Although I didn’t order it, I should mention that there is a quite theatrical signature dish here that my dining companion tried. A fillet of char is lightly salted and placed in beeswax within a frame, then cooked at table in a warm sauce. The waiter turns over the frame and removes the now hardened wax, the fish reappearing in a neater form after a brief visit to the kitchen. I had a dish of eel from Lake Neusiedl on the Austro-Hungarian border. The eel was smoked and then flamed and served with carrots, black kale and an heirloom carrot called oxheart. The dish was completed with pickled onions, soured buttermilk and Meyer lemon cream. This was a lovely dish, the carrots having unusually good flavour, their earthiness going really as a contrast to the richness of the excellent eel (18/20).
Next I had goulash, or “gulash” as it was termed here, this version more of a spiced beef ragu than the traditional Hungarian gulash stew with paprika. It was made from slowly braised Alpine beef cooked with peppers and spices, and served with pickled red and yellow peppers and shallots. Finally there was a toasted bread and leek roulade. This was a refined take on a classic dish, the vinegar from the pickled peppers providing some useful balance to the richness of the meat, though even so this was an undeniably hearty dish. What I really liked was the depth of flavour of the meat, which was impressive (18/20).
I stayed with the “hearty” theme with my next dish, a wiener schnitzel. This is about as local a dish as I could wish for, since it was invented in Vienna and the name itself means “Viennese cutlet”. I was intrigued as to what the restaurant might do to elevate the dish to a higher level, and it was interesting to see that they kept things simple. The breadcrumb coating was delightfully crisp, the thin layer of tenderised suckling veal inside having excellent flavour, the dish accompanied simply by parsley potatoes and a thick slab of lemon to squeeze. There were no obvious cheffy flourishes here, but the dish was none the worse for that; just a classic dish made very well (17/20).
The cheese trolley had a vast selection from a range of countries, even including Stilton in amongst the classics from around the continent. A strawberry and pear dessert arrived as two elements. One was a mousse, the fruit having a texture contrast provided by little pieces of hulled wheat (emmer), which brought a texture contrast. There was also a dish with the fruits accompanied by a coulis, along with a few almonds and a little basil, whose influence was fortunately very subdued. This was a refreshing and enjoyable dessert (18/20).
Coffee was from a local roaster called Marco Salvatore, and very nice it was too, using beans from El Salvador. Petit fours comprised violet almond biscuits, range blossom cream, sweet potato chips filled with caramel malt and quite fragrant rose, as well as home-made ginger beer and medlar with pecans and elderflower granite.
Service was impeccable, the waiters attentive, charming, patient and friendly. The bill, with plenty of excellent Austrian Riesling, came to €251 (£226) per person. If you had the short tasting menu and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might come to around £165. This was a lovely meal, the overall experience at Steirereck being impressive. The menu is appealing, the setting lovely, the service silky smooth and the standard of cooking high. It was nice to sample dishes that clearly had at least some connection to Austria, in an era when a lot of high-end restaurants feel “international”, with dishes that could be reproduced anywhere. If you come to Vienna then Steirereck seems to me to be the restaurant that is setting the standard in the city.
Further reviews: 01st Oct 2009