Vienna is an imposing, formal city with a price tag to match, although generally speaking it’s not hugely on the food radar for a lot of travellers. The most surprising thing about Vienna though, is that smoking is a long way from being banned in restaurants and bars. Having enjoyed a smoke-free environment in Australia for several years and also throughout Europe so far on this trip, it’s a shock to the system.

While restaurants over a certain floor size are required to have non-smoking sections, they are tiny. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband found themselves shunted into the broom closet of an Italian bistro (well, virtually) and so approached a recommended terrace restaurant, overlooking St Stephen’s square in the heart of the city, with some trepidation.

We ventured to Do & Co, a hotel chain with outlets throughout Austria and Germany as well as New York, London, Istanbul and Milan. Its website states three main areas of expertise – accommodation, restaurants and, gulp, airline catering.

The big attraction of its restaurant in Vienna is the view from the 6th floor terrace and the fact that it is open on a Sunday (something not to be sneezed at in this town). The prospect of a company publicly touting its expertise in airline food and the likelihood we’d be smoked out of existence by giant cigar chomping locals (SPOILER ALERT: One particularly revolting smoking story comes later in this blog) didn’t give us any great hopes, however we ascended in the elevator and headed out on a narrow balcony dotted with tables and shady umbrellas.

Gluttonous husband, having developed a taste for white wines during a sampling in the depths of Buda Castle in Budapest a few days earlier, ordered a glass of crisp Austrian white while Greedy Girl opted for a Kir Royale. Perusing the menu showed a wide variety of cuisines – everything from asparagus in a French style to sashimi. Having only a few days in Austria, we opted for local dishes – wiener schnitzel for gluttonous husband and a different veal dish, minced and formed into hamburger patties, sitting atop a paprika cream sauce with mashed potato and onion rings.

Before that came along, however, gluttonous husband started with a carpaccio. Razor thin slices of beef from Uruguay (of all places!) were lovingly placed on a plate and drizzled with a truffle mayonnaise. The dish, described as ‘new carpaccio’ also somewhat incongruously featured a dollop of pickled red onion and a tempura king prawn on top. Having said that, it was absolutely delicious. The meat and mayo combination was incredible – soft, tasty, tangy.


An extraordinary carpaccio

And so to the main course. The wiener schnitzel was pounded thin and coated with golden crumbs. It filled the entire dinner plate. It was served with three accompaniments – savoy cabbage, cucumber in a light yoghurt and dill and an amazing cold potato salad with red onion. Greedy Girl’s veal hamburgers were also very tasty – the onion rings were very thin, small slices of onion deep fried until crisp.

It was an excellent dish but would have been perfect for a miserable day in the depths of winter. In the blazing sun (the shade from the umbrella notwithstanding) it was way too heavy.

We asked the waiter for a recommendation on what to drink. For Greedy Girl, who asked for something ‘light’ he brought a Zweigelt classique pockl 2010 while gluttonous husband had something ‘stronger’ – a Cuvee Heideboden-Nittnaus 2009 which is from the largest wine growing area in Austria. Apparently when one asks for a ‘light’ or ‘strong’ style of wine, the waiter infers you are talking about the alcohol content. Something to file away for future reference.

Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband had so far been absolutely untroubled by any smoking on the terrace. No-one in any of the surrounding tables was puffing away so, emboldened, we ordered a dark chocolate fondant dessert to share and gluttonous husband sipped a glass of sweet wine. It came accompanied by a pillar of frozen mango yoghurt and a sugar basket of mango and macerated strawberries. Greedy Girl put down her fork after a couple of mouthfuls. Actually, more than a couple. She looked up, over her groaning belly, to see a huge cloud of smoke wafting on the breeze. Another giant cigar, two tables down. Time to wrap things up.

It was very pleasant whiling away a couple of hours. We dodged a bullet, having enjoyed a non-smoking environment for the most part. It was a nice change from the evening before where, in the quest for a cocktail, we stopped by a bar on Tuchlauben where the bar seats were largely deserted. Ordering a very impressive-looking strawberry daiquri, we avoided the plumes of smoke for the most part until another pesky giant cigar appeared and we changed seats to try to be ‘upwind’ of the acrid smoke.

That put us across a table from a middle-aged couple sipping on glasses of white wine. The ‘he’ was a smoker too, but we figured we were close to being upwind of him too. He opened his pack, took out a cancer stick and then performed one of the grossest things Greedy Girl has ever seen. He licked it. All over. With considerable relish. That was it for Greedy Girl. She downed her daiquri, exited, stage left, with an ice headache and made gluttonous husband go forth to deal with the bill. Ewwww.

Apparently the right to smoke in restaurants/bars continues to split Viennese society with the result that the government has yet to follow the lead of other EU nations (including, amazingly, France) and ban the practice in public areas. According to various web reports, if everyone in a given workplace agrees to allow smoking in an office, then, so be it.

The public health debate and the ability of non-smokers to enjoy dining out in Vienna still has a long way to go.

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