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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Drinks with Colleagues - Eulennest in Vienna, Austria

A few years ago, I lived and worked in Vienna - present-day Austria's capital and the historic imperial city of various empires (Austrian, Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian). It's a beautiful place and at the time was undergoing something of a quiet, steady revolution, and transforming itself from a sleepy, time-warped, patrician capital into a vibrant and sophisticated city.

It was the type of place where amongst the imposing Gothic cathedrals and sprawling Imperial palaces of old Vienna, you would find sophisticated wine bars and fusion restaurants of new Vienna; a great place to try Austrian wines which have improved dramatically since the anti-freeze scandal of 1980s.

Austria is in almost every sense wedged between Germany and Italy - it has a Germanic thoroughness, precision and obsession with process, yet a decidedly Italian sense of well-being, lifestyle and of life lived out outdoors (at least during the long, hot summers). It was also a regular meeting place for the spies of east and west and has a Balkan love of spicy foods, strong liquor and scandal, but those are different stories.

At the time, Vienna had a number of restaurants which in my youthful naivete, I thought were rather good; now older and wiser, I realise they were brilliant and worthy of at least a Michelin star, in some cases more.

Occasionally, I would get a visit from someone from our London head office and since the best work conversations are had not over the phone or in meetings, but relaxing out-of-hours, I would arrange a meal in one of my favourite restaurants after which we would head off to chew the fat over a few glasses of something local at a wine bar.

My favourite was always Eulennest - the name means Owl's Nest and the cosy interior is decorated with owls of various sorts attached to the rafters, with a few seats outside when the weather is good (basically April - September) and an ever-changing range of wines by the glass or bottle.

I became enough of a regular there to get to know owner Florian Deutsch, a very welcoming and genial host, and we would always chat for a while about the new wines he had in the shop and which to try first.

Florian does meet-and-greet with great charisma whilst wife Andrea Papez Deutsch oversees the deli counter stocked with Italian prosciutto and salamis, Austrian and French cheeses and also makes light pasta dishes and tapas.

Official opening hours always seemed more of an aspirational guideline than a strict formality (again the Italian winning out over the Germanic) and when the conversation was flowing, as often it was, I often watched Florian gently encouraging some of the more talkative regulars that it really was time to be heading off before quietly admitting defeat myself and wandering back home.

The wines stocked at Eulennest change regularly and seemed to come from the smaller independent Austrian producers, as there was rarely anything I had tried before.

In late 2008, Eulennest opened its second branch just off the ring on Operngasse.

Eulennest: A-1010 Wien, Himmelpfortgasse 13, and A-1040 Wien, Operngasse 30


Eulennest - http://www.eulennest.at/

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