When friends heard we were visiting Vienna, Steirereck's name came up in every conversation as being a must go-to dining destination and thus, go we did.
A beautiful contemporary structure set in Stadtpark, we entered happily and with the complacent air of world travellers expecting to be very well taken care of. Our expectations immediately fell short. We were welcomed by a distracted, aloof young man and taken to our table. Everything I write in this review, though I'm choosing my words thoughtfully, may come across as a tad "precious" and I probably would not have been so particular if we were not dining at what is supposed to be one of the world's great restaurants and paying accordingly too.
It was a good several minutes before any server came to our table, gave us a rushed explanation of the restaurant's dining philosophy and then left us again. We waited for several more minutes then flagged down a waiter to ask for menus. It was lunch time and though the restaurant rapidly filled up later, at that time, it was quiet so we were rather bemused by the lack of service.
The maitre'd noticed our raised eyebrows and us having to flag down a waiter and then service progressed much smoother. A group of well-heeled Austrians entered and were welcomed with much ado. Perhaps regular clients and it was lovely to see the bonhomie. The rest of the tables seemed to be full of tourists, many with a bewildering array of expensive photography paraphernalia, who took more time photographing their food than eating it. Each to his own though.
Regarding the food itself. Inventive? yes. An homage to Austrian cuisine and heritage? yes. Delicious? hit and miss. Many dishes failed to amplify in the palate. The Char with Beeswax was stunningly presented but tasted utterly bland. Its accompanying sour cream, char caviar, basil cress, etc. failing to provide any lift but the Viennese Wedding Soup's consomme was perfectly made; hence, even though it tasted bland, it could not be faulted. The Poppy-seed 'noodles' with damson ice-cream sounded divine but utterly failed to live up to their promise. The noodles were stodgy and sank in the stomach. The Medlar, Violets and Crepes were fine though not memorable enough to return for. The Sunflower Seed Souffle though was superb! Now that was a dish that hit all the notes, that created a symphony of taste and sensation in one's mouth.
A very pleasant waiter talked us through the Marie-Therese dessert experience with humour and affable professionalism. His was the only world-class service experience we had the entire time. The girl who brought round the bread trolley was so bored and boring in the way she rattled off the variety of the breads' names that we refused to reward her disinterested patter with our attention and skipped the bread trolley. The Marie-Therese creations were a perfect summation of the Steirereck experience. Excellent build-up that failed to deliver on taste.
I can easily see why tourists will continue to flock here with their cameras but for those of us with a discerning palate who want food to taste as good as it looks and who are used to being treated a certain way (as we delightfully were from the moment we entered Silvio Nickol the following day for dinner), we do not recommend it nor shall we ever bother returning.