Midi is the French bistro serving fast, quality, light lunches attracting all types of people, even urologists.
“You see that guy over there, he’s a famous artist,” a man sitting next to us with circle eyeglasses tells us while pointing to a bearded man in the back. “It’s popular with all kinds of people, including famous people.”
This is one of the first things you notice at the little French bistro, Midi positioned at Vienna’s Hoher Markt square in the 1st district – the eclectic range of lunch diners. There’s an older lady drinking red wine with her lunch, a bunch of young pretty people at the back, and a businessman who’s having trouble keeping his tie out of his soup.
However, the very first thing you notice when walking in is the strong smell of home cooking. Oh, and then there’s the little French guy (an original illustration named Uncle Jules) with his phallically placed baguette pictured on the tiles. Ok, so let’s settle for the fact that when you walk into Midi, your senses are delightfully bombarded by the little details that make people romanticise the French.
The bespectacled man tells us with a devilish grin that he’s a urologist. He’s just one of the people passing through for lunch that join our conversation with the owners, Pessah and Guilhem, who have matching smiles plastered on their faces.
Midi is one of the fast and fresh lunch spots popping up around Vienna. It combines the tasty cooking the French are famed for (besides their kissing) – with the fast and fresh lunch culture which is seeing more and more people eating lunch hunched over a reasonably priced plate of light, healthy food, rather than a computer at work. And mumbles of Midi are spreading around town fast as people discover the talent of its French cooks.
“We’re creating modern adaptations of quality and authentic French food for a quick lunch – this is the kind of place you’d find in modern Paris nowadays,” Guilhem tells me. By modern, authentic French, Guilhem is refering to the French kitchen of today which incorporates a range of international spices and dishes from French colonies. The sweet potato, cauliflower and tofu curry I try is an example of this. “That’s the best thing about French cooking – it adopts all of the best things from different nationality’s kitchens.”
Guilhem is also a quality authentic product of France, who is, along with Pessah, incidentally one of the favourite parts of Midi for the customers of the well-thought through concept behind the charming place. There is a strong personal and familiar relationship there with the customers who move in and out in a hurried, yet relaxed manner.
“We’re here everyday and we love being here because it’s simply fun,” Pessah tells me. I’m also having plenty of fun slurping at the creamy, well-spiced pumpkin soup as my starter – its consistency makes it perfect for some chunky slurping. The birth of this little French bistro in the middle of Vienna began with a phone call from a Las Vegas hotel room, Guilhem and Pessah quitting their jobs, and the realisation of a dream between the two, that constantly banter with each other like a married couple.
“We always threw around the idea of opening a French restaurant with a laugh for a while, and then we both came to a crossroads in our lives which would have seen us leave Vienna,” Pessah explains. “But instead we finally made the decision that we were going to do it during this phone call, and now here we are in Midi.”
Pessah and Guilheim have brought their highly analytical minds from their academic backgrounds and applied them to the concept, and running, of Midi. Everything has hours of invested thought behind it, from the clean pricing (7.90 € for all dishes), the sourcing of all of the fresh ingredients, to the interior’s details.
The weekly changing menu sees two different dishes served daily (one vegetarian and one with meat) from the cooks current 80 dish repertoire. It’s self-service, in which you grab one of the pastel blue trays and select from the steaming dishes behind the counter. These see Midi’s French cook from Brittany and his assistant from Senegal up at 6am cooking away in an offsite kitchen, where they also produce the French pastries and tarts. The chocolate mousse and the tarte au citron are of the high standard surprisingly hard to come by in Vienna.
“When people ask us if we buy our pastries somewhere, we answer that we wouldn’t know where to buy them in Vienna if we wanted to,” Guilhem says.
A range of salads are also packaged to grab and go in a fridge cabinet that also houses a few French drinks. The cosy, pastel-coloured place housed in a building dating back to the 16th century has limited seating, however never fear, people eat and move on quite quickly, and there’s also a takeaway option if there’s no seat to be seen.
Midi is an example that when passionate people meet and get hold of an idea, joie de vivre happens (yes, we are showing off the only French we know).