Many restaurants tend to come and go in this city with the passing foodie trends, however classics like Restaurant Eckel live on as pillars of Vienna’s culinary scene, being passed down through the family, with love. Our visit to this Austro-French culinary classic gave us an insight why a place like Eckel becomes loved, and continually manages to grow a loyal fan base.
As soon as we opened the door, we were greeted with a familiar welcome, the one you only expected to see from friends when hosting a dinner party you were invited to. During our stay at Eckel Restaurant we realised, that’s the only way the waiters know how to greet someone, especially since the large majority of the customers here are regulars.
The tradition of this Austrian fine dining place in Sievering started in 1952, when great-grandfather Julius Eckel settled here with his culinary experience and passion for Austrian cuisine. This tradition persisted for 4 generation: great-granddaughter Christine Mueller-Zarl is managing the restaurant today, tending to the guests and helping out where needed, while her parents both keep busy in the kitchen. Her mother is the master chef behind the dishes served up her while her father is responsible for supplies, especially the wine that he carefully selects from surrounding vineyards. So you get the point – it’s a family affair.
The menu is exactly two pages long: one, listing the all-time favourites, available all year round, and one listing the specials of the day. A good variety of Austrian specialties are listed next to some international suggestions, inspired by the French cuisine, which is no coincidence. Before Julius Eckel opened his first restaurant, he worked as a chef at the Bristol Hotel in Vienna, in a time when fine dining was associated almost exclusively with la cuisine française.
Therefore, their “classics” are a good mix of Austrian and French dishes, from Schnitzels, Gulasch and Tafelspitz over to Beefsteak Tatare for starters, lobster “thermidor” for mains, or Omlette-Souffles (a type of fluffy egg-pancake) for dessert.
Their daily menu is just as generous as the yearlong one, featuring fish, seafood and steaks dishes (along with some other exquisite creations we had to google from under the table).
While looking at the menu deciding what to get, we were served a basket of fresh breads, accompanied by fluffy butter. Then we decided to go for a classic “Butterkalbsschnitzel” (a soft minced paddy with mashed potatoes) and a daily special – the duck breast on orange sauce, croquettes and red cabbage.
After we’d elegantly nibbled on our food (with raised pinky fingers as the place inspires) we just sat there sipping on our coffee and watching the other guests (sounds creepy, but we were harmless, we promise!)
Even the coffee has a story and a tradition in this place. They buy it from Naber, have done so for decades ever since grandfather Eckel selected it. And it is served with true Vienna coffeehouse etiquette: with that little glass of water and sugar cubes on the side, by a waiter in a tuxedo with a smile placed above his bow tie.
While looking around, we got the feeling that everyone knew everyone here, a hunch that Christine later confirmed: “We have mainly regular guests, families that come here for generations. Some of the guests know me since I was a little girl”, Christina explains, stretching her palm next to her thigh and smiling.
They hardly get any tourists to that area, still the restaurant is often booked out, so reservations are required, especially in summer, when they open the garden – “the heart of the restaurant,” as they describe it.
This is the place for a real, authentic, exquisite and somehow fancy (but affordable) Austro-French experience in Vienna. Special enough for occasions, cosy enough for the everyday diners.