Monday, 30 August 2010

Lou Loves Travel: Schone Pearl

My favourite food stop during my whirlwind tour of Vienna was the humble Schone Pearl, tucked away in the outskirts of the city centre in the 2nd District. Retaining its name from its previous incarnation as a Chinese restaurant, 'The Beautiful Pearl' has the look and feel of a simple canteen, with rows of benches and an open kitchen.

The menu of the modest Beisl offers all the traditional Austrian cuisine from Weiner Schnitzel to meaty stews. Hearty food with which vegetables are a mere afterthought, in the form of a few salad options, and is generally limited to potato. Schone Pearl prides itself on its food all being organically sourced, with a menu that changes with the seasons, and daily.
Arriving fresh from the airport and faint with hunger, we ordered a sausage and potato goulash and tafelspitz mid g'roste from a sweet and smiling waiter who resembled an even more jovial and equally bandana-d Captain Pugwash. We also ordered a trout salad to satiate my vegetable cravings.

The salad arrived first and was accompanied by a bowl of beautiful chunky bread that fell somewhere between a loaf of ciabatta; white dough and a soft, glossy brown crust. The salad was substantial and uncomplicated- generous slices of undressed trout, thick wedges of soft goats cheese sculpted by a serrated knife piled onto a mound of iceberg lettuce, dressed in a creamy, tangy, mustard dressing.

The goulash was equally fresh and wholesome; a deep bowl of sausage, potato and rich, red creamy stew. There was nothing so fancy as pepper or tomato, to complicate the flavour of the meat (or the potato), though there may have been the odd rogue onion.
It was good. It was very good.

The tafelspitz turned out to be boiled beef . With much being lost in translation, ordering was out an act of faith, but the plates brought to the table proved to be markedly more palatable than the name suggests. It came served traditionally, with fried potato and a sauce of apple and grated horseradish.

My one piece of advice for travellers wanting to experience Viennese cuisine would be to shun any of the fancier restaurants run by the big name chefs as sited in many of the city guidebooks (Ossheriester, Time Out, I'm looking at you) and stick to what Vienna does best- coffee, cake and good, wholesome traditional meat based dishes.

If you're looking for traditional and simple Viennese food, cooking with fresh organic ingredients, then this atmospheric and low-fi biesl may appeal to you too. Writing this, I really miss this place!

Schone Pearl, Gro├če Pfarrgasse 2, 1020 Vienna


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  2. When I was in Vienna recently, we were taken for breakfast to a place called Cafe Korb, which we were promised was the best breakfast in the 1st district. It looked a little drab and old fashioned, but the ham and eggs were more than superb. And when the proprieter found out we were visiting muso's, he insisted we try the strudel. I didn't have a whole one, but our drummer did, and it was inspirational. Also it has some interesting designer "Art" toilets. We later found out it's owner was a famous Viennese actress, and apparently the place is frequented by artistes and actoorrrs. Anyway, that to is recommended....

  3. amazing pics here as usual :)