The mind behind Vienna’s Brass Monkey is a real whizz-kid: Athina Zoi is both a qualified mining engineer and sculptor, has started studying architecture, makes a mad coffee, and bakes killer cupcakes for a living.
While she probably won’t plan a tunnel for you or sculpt you out of granite, you can enjoy two of her other skills at her own little café. Including heavenly, creamy cupcakes.
“We’re listening pretty closely to what people tell us. That’s how the vegan cupcakes came about in the first place. We figured that it’s always a good idea to cater to a wide range of people, plus it made working with the well-known recipes a bit more interesting.”
And Athina knows her way around recipes. She’s been baking and cooking since always, with friends and family telling her how damn’ good her cakes and cupcakes tasted. So when she moved from Athens to Vienna nine years ago, she considered starting her own business while studying at the TU.
Almost three years ago, that plan took shape in the Gumpendorfer Grätzel (translation: neighbourhood) – and soon after that, the Brass Monkey became so successful that Athina asked her brother Spiros to move to Vienna as well to help her out in the shop. This makes Brass Monkey one of the few locations in Vienna where you’re served by two academics (Spiros is a qualified physicist).
It’s really a no-brainer why this place receives so much love from the people: the compact dimensions instantly make for a homey feeling, with the unusual mobile of old-school lamps hanging from the white ceiling, filling the room with a warm glow. The counter, fitted with Moroccan tiles, faces the large wooden table that encourages food and conversation with new friends to be shared. But all of this is just a setting to devour the creamy, buttery beauty that lies within the display cabinet – their cupcakes and cakes. Every day, there are at least two vegan options.
We order two vegan cupcakes – a chocolate one, soy-free, with a peanut butter crown, topped with blueberries, and a Sachertorte one, filled with a layer of marmalade. When our teeth sink into that mix of soft, moist cake dough and the smooth, almost perverse buttery topping, there it is: a new level of bliss, paid for with yet another addition to our love handles. After a few seconds of silence, just one thought takes shape: Damn, it’s worth it.
The coffee is famed as one of the best in Vienna. From experience, we’d go along with that. This is partly owed to the machine (an old La Marzocco from Florence), the coffee beans by Greek roasting house TAF, and the training that Athina and Spiros took with six-time Greek Barista Champion, Stefanos Domatiotis.
So whenever you stroll along Gumpendorfer Straße – or anywhere near it – do make sure to pay the two academics and the damn fine Brass Monkey a visit.