It’s not often that something young and edgy turns up in Vienna’s city center, but this born-again coffeehouse that sits on the corner of the cobblestoned and horse drawn carriage filled square of Michaelerplatz, has done what some would consider sacrilegious, but we find to be pretty damn cool.
The body of the city centre coffeehouse, Rien, is as old as they come in terms of Vienna coffeehouses, but its heart is young… and beating with a funky beat.
This geriatric coffeehouse was named Griensteidl before a young bunch of creatives got their hands on the place, fitted it with an updated and hipper vibe fuelled pace maker, painted a huuuuuuge whale motif along its arched ceiling, and renamed it RIEN.
When we were there last (as we keep coming back since its opening in August 2017), some old Austrian tour guide expressed her disgust at the whale. She was so pissed off that she stormed out of the place, swearing furiously at the waiter who tried to calm her down about how she couldn’t believe they had painted such a thing in a historic place. As we watched this, we thought two things: Firstly, who the hell could be pissed off at a painting of a whale? They’re such beautiful, gentle creatures – we mean, it’s a whale! We’d understand if it was a duck… nobody thinks ducks are cool, do they? But, anyway… secondly, they must be doing something very right if they can incite such a reaction in a… well, let’s just say, this lady wasn’t very nice, and she was obviously a hater on change.
Well, we’re big fans of doing something different, and doing something different is exactly what Rien is doing.
While they still serve the Viennese-style tapas found at such places, they’ve sexed them up a bit. Take the ham and cheese toast – it’s made with sourdough and garnished with some fancy Hollerketchup and a pickled pepper. Or the Viennese breakfasts – still the same deal: Semmel, jams, ham and cheese – but the inclusions on the plate are all sourced by artisan producers.
They do stray from their Viennese roots in some dishes, like with their stellar serving of the people pleaser, Eggs Benedict.
And the neatly presented Nuri Sardines, paired with fermented dill, roasted garlic and bread is different for such a setting. Oh, and there’s a salad (surprisingly one of the few options in the menu for the vegans and vegetarians).
But that’s the lunch and breakfast menu. As for the dinner menu, that’s a whole different story. While a few of the coffeehouse snacks remain, the kitchen takes hold of the decision-making wheel as it asks its guests to trust in them with their surprise small (3 course), large (5 course) or the 9 course ‘rien ne va plus’ menu.
And you won’t be able to walk past without gawking at the dreamy looking creations in the pastry and cake display cabinet.
Since reopening its newly painted doors in September 2017, Rien sees a melange of visitors pass through – from tourists, to young hip-type bearded and half-arm tattooed characters, to a suited crowd.
The echoey high and arched ceilings will give you a feeling of infinite space, while if you burrow yourself into one of the many red velvet booths, you’ll feel all cosy and warm, like you’re being hugged by a rather large Oma… dressed in all velvet (now there’s a sexy image).
Sipping the quality specialty coffee in this coffeehouse setting will be odd at first, but you’ll get used to it. We were always conflicted when going to coffeehouses as most served up average coffee (who are we kidding – most burn the milk!), but were the most amazing places to sit and read, or work, or just think for hours on end, without disturbance. But now, Rien has answered our prayers by bringing the best of both worlds together – hipster meets coffeehouse.