If you crave some holiday vibes while hanging in Vienna this summer, we suggest a visit to the far reaches of the 2nd district, where the well-loved & established tapas and wine bar L’Ase combines the laidback feeling of both the Mediterranean and the Grätzl, and packs an exquisite wine and tapas menu, all dedicated to the Spanish region of Catalonia.
It’s a warm evening at Volkertmarkt, and while the market stalls have closed for the day, families with kids are just starting to fill the playground with laughter and children counting rhymes (we’re in a poetic kind of mood when writing this). Across the square is the cosy looking Schanigarten of L’Ase, the unpretentious (but locally famous) wine and tapas bar that opened its doors for this Grätzl (neighbourhood) 5 years ago.
This Mediterranean-inspired, evening-only location is first of all a wine bar, but is best known for their variety of original tapas. Or, to be exact, tapes, which is nothing other than the Catalan word for this brilliant Spanish invention – small plates made with big love to share that boast a surprising combination of flavours.
Not only the name is from Catalonia but also the wine, the menu, and of course Pau, the smiley, super friendly chef and co-owner of L’Ase, who spends his time between the kitchen and the garden all evening, cooking and entertaining the guests simultaneously.
The other lovely permanent presence is Sandrine, who runs the place together with Pau. Both of them have been involved in building up the place from the beginning. They recount that the first version of the restaurant consisted of some long, makeshift, communal tables for the guests, and that little by little, they’ve saved enough to invest into what is today a welcoming, down-to-earth, warmly designed place.
Their key to success is quite simple: a menu full of delicious and original tapas creations that reinvents itself every month, good wine from the sun-kissed soils of Catalonia, and a great deal of energy and kindness transmitted by Pau and Sandrine.
The customers – majority being from the neighbourhood – come here for the whole package, and the fact that they keep returning is the best compliment a two person operation like this can get.
Pau makes sure to update the menu regularly. Apart for some staple classics – like his homemade sausage, the cheese & date croquettes and the patatas bravas (the sauce is what makes them famous) – that, as per customers request made it on a permanent menu, all other items are changing each month.
We go for a classic to begin with: the patatas bravas, which is chunky pieces of potatoes fried to be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and are covered in a spicy homemade salsa and aioli (garlic sauce) that will make you remember it for the rest of the night. We also go for the homemade grilled sausage, the butifarra, served with beans and… yes… more garlic sauce. It’s both hearty and tasty.
To even out this feast, we throw a lighter dish into the mix – mussels in breadcrumbs served on top of a bed of peas, that have been seasoned with sage for a fishy and full flavour. Sandrine recommends a fruity, cold, white wine to wash it all down and Pau insists we taste the croquettes filled with blue cheese, dates and bacon, which indeed is our highlight.
Pau and Sandrine constantly try to combine Catalan tradition with local flair. They import their cheeses, hams and wine from Spain, but buy all their vegetables fresh from the small, but generous Volkertmarkt right in front of their restaurant door. And while most of the wine is carefully selected from the hills of Catalonia, they’ve slipped a white wine from Burgenland for the spritzers for the hot summer nights.
Even though the place gets busy by the time we start thinking about desert, Sandrine and Pau still find the time for recommendations and to share some more anecdotes with us, while exchanging small talk with passers-by, who are mostly L’ase regulars.