If Heinz Reitbauer is the scholar-chef, then Birgit Reitbauer acts as the bridge that transports her husband’s research-driven ingredients and dishes into a wonderful dining experience. Steirereck, like all great restaurants, thrives on its team dynamic, but the couple heading this team in Vienna strike a great balance: between art and science; nature and technique; research and taste; knowledge and fun.
Despite being located in the centre of the Austrian capital, the restaurant manages to retain a countryside feel through its adjacency to the city’s Stadtpark and the river Wien. The oldest part of the building dates back more than a century, but it is complemented by a futuristic mirrored-glass extension. In summer, the glass walls magically sink into the ground to give the feeling of dining al fresco.
Diners might be greeted with a trolley proffering 25 different bread varieties, ranging from the perfect baguette to home-made black pudding loaves. Heinz Reitbauer’s exceptional tasting menu then ensues, focused on rare Austrian produce he has largely reared, grown or cultivated himself, but still with an international culinary bent.
Few chefs have devoted themselves to the detailed research of the interconnection between agriculture and taste, resulting in meticulously and lovingly developed dishes such as carp ribs with ground cherries and currant tomato, or veal from Pogusch cooked over charcoal and served with braised cabbage and artichokes. (Herbs and vegetables are even grown on the restaurant building’s rooftop, sitting alongside its own beehives.)
The cheese selection is delivered by trolley, with a sprawling selection of cheeses from Austria, France, Switzerland and Italy. When it comes to desserts, another project close to Heinz Reitbauer’s heart comes through: the preservation of long-forgotten fruit varieties. The finale is made up of dried, wafer-thin slices of various citrus fruits from the orangery at Vienna's Schönbrunn Palace, along with numerous petit fours.
Throughout the meal, Birgit Reitbauer is a knowledgeable and omnipresent host overseeing every details of the immaculate service. There is no product on the plate or in the glass that she or her well-drilled but personable team cannot explain in detail if required. A small card accompanies each dish with information on the ingredients and their unique features for diners to peruse as they wish. And the wine list is a godsend for the curious and connoisseurs alike.
Steirereck has been in the family for generations, but under this duo’s stewardship, it has truly cemented its position as the finest in Austria, and among the foremost dining destinations in the world. Unflappable and charming, this team provides the sort of memorable and welcoming experience that truly merits the Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award, alongside the restaurant’s enduring and elevated position in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking.
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