“You brought pizza?! Come on David! What did you bring pizza for?” We’re standing there, pizza box in hand, head almost hung in shame, laughing nervously. We hadn’t meant to stay. We’d just quickly stopped by to grab a few photos of the new bike store and bistro, Velobis, and the owner, Anthony Chiras, is disappointed in me for coming in with pizza.
“That’s your body, you should only feed your body good stuff, David,” Anthony says, in a caring, fatherly kind of way. He’s like that to all of the guests – caring and warm.
Anthony’s fit physique reflects that he’s practicing what he’s preaching and that he lives by the old saying, “you are what you eat.” The menu of the restaurant also reflects this healthy attitude. Actually the concept of the whole place does. Velobis is Vienna’s new home to bikes and healthy bites.
Through the combining of Anthony’s three passions – biking, healthy food, and culture – a new kind of place in the 14th district (bordering the up-and-coming 15th) has been born for the ever-growing community who sleep with their bike next to their bed, and also those with the same passion as Anthony for good food.
You’ve heard of cyclist cafés in Vienna, but what we have here is a bike store/workshop where you can get your bike fixed, while dining on some quality, light cuisine from an original menu merging Austria with Africa.
The place is a horse shoe, with a crowded bike showroom on one side, and a sweeping hall housing the restaurant on the other. The polished concrete floors and white walls are complimented with splashes of vibrant colour matching the chairs; old wheel rims have been converted into picture frames, lampshades, even vases. There are shiny bikes hanging from the wall and a bike chain ring screwed to the beer taps – the theme is clear here.
The space itself, the old Gloriette Kino (cinema) on the corner of Johnstraße and Linzer Straße, provided a dramatic canvas for Anthony’s experimental brainchild.
“There are over 100 years of culture in this place. My idea is to keep the culture going with plenty of events. And I always wanted to break into gastronomy. I love to cook!”, Anthony explains, breaking into peals of laughter. He’s the kind of guy you feel at home with immediately. Same goes for Velobis.
Velobis’ menu is a fusion of European and African; a sort of Austro-tinged cuisine, which draws on elements from African food. The pretty waitress smiles as she places a sweet potato ragout with a Topfensoufflé (a curd pastry) in front of me and I smile with her, or maybe at her. There’s a glass of Mountain Bierol Pale Ale from the tap to accompany it. Two more dishes arrive under Anthony’s recommendation – a chicken salad piled on top of a homemade roti (a flat bread common on Asian and African kitchen), and a dish made up of Kalbsschulterscherzel (veal shoulder) with mushroom polenta.
We swap plates between us, and the food doesn’t last long. Every dish could be served up in a fancy restaurant with a performing violin quartet in the background. This may have something to do with Anthony having sought out a talented chef, well-known around Vienna’s fancy restaurant scene, for his kitchen. Meanwhile, we’d much rather the scene next door in the workshop where there’s a helmeted young chap holding his bike, and a crouching mechanic taking a look at it, in place of the violins.
We finish the meal off with homemade sweet potato waffles topped with a mojito-flavoured cream (yes, you heard us right). Regarding the bike side of the business, Anthony has been in the trade for seven years, so he knows his stuff. The workshop is run by a renowned mechanic in town who does a speedy, quality job for a reasonable price (a full service will cost you around 70€). Meanwhile, if you’ve got the coin, the store is stocked with an impressive range of road bikes, including plenty of the pretty vintage kind trending currently. And orders will be made for any special models requested, Anthony assures us.
Whether you’re a serious roadie, an urban pedalling poser, or somebody seeking out Vienna’s unique food spots, Velobis is where it’s at. The second time we visited Velobis, we brought our bike which got a wellness and beauty treatment from the mechanic, while the chef gave our tastebuds and our body the same. After all, you are what you eat.