When I travel, I tend to avoid most typical ‘touristy’ activities. Unless especially fascinating or unique, museums, tours and the like just don’t really do it for me. I don’t think that mainstream attractions give a true impression of a place – taronga zoo and the opera house don’t sum up Sydney to me, and I figure the same applies overseas. I loved Vienna, though my least favorite morning involved two of the city’s main tourist attractions – the Vienna Boys Choir and the Spanish Riding School show. I can appreciate the talent showcased in both, though if i’m not enthralled by something I tend to become bored, distracted and zoned out quite quickly – call it the attention deficit kid in me. Luckily however, I had planned lunch at Palm Haus straight afterwards, which saved my day;).
Walking in to the consevatory style building, with its high ceilings, tall windows and numerous leafy exotic plants, I immediately recovered from my morning lull. At 12 the place is packed, (booking is a must!), but the natural sky light gives a spacious, relaxed feel. The building is also home to a tropical butterfly house, and it’s a shame they can’t flutter about the restaurant as dining would be all the more reminiscent of lunching in a garden gazebo.
This was a daily special, ordered as we were intrigued by the combination of tuna and passionfruit as were a number of other diners judging by the rate at which this dish was flying off the counter. The pairing worked well, the sweet yet sharp fresh passionfruit a good contrast to the mild, meaty tuna. There was too much beetroot on the plate ratio wise, a small amount would have worked better as it is such a strong flavor, but I could have done without it all together.
This dish was pleasant, a classic combination of goats cheese and roasted red capsicum with the herby parsely pesto and butter lettuce giving fresh lift. However, the goats cheese was not fried but wrapped in thin toast, which needed to have been toasted longer as it was not crispy enough and the goats cheese was not gooey and melting – it was room temp, and almost like ricotta in texture.
Things picked up with the mains however, Jack’s dish absolutely stealing the show. Cafe de Paris Steak is arguably The signature dish of French cuisine, but this Viennese version was miles better than I’ve ever had in France, or anywhere for that matter. Jack describes this as ‘delicious’ which is a big word coming from him, and he finishes every bite (bar those stolen by me). The cafe de paris butter is gorgeously flavorful and even melts prettily, ready to be swiped by a fat, fluffy ‘french fry’, though appearance wise these are the antithesis of what we know as french fries. The beans, infused with smoky, salty bacon flavor, are a very welcome touch. I would urge anyone to go to Palm Haus just to try this dish.
The schnitzel is a huge piece, barely fitting on the plate, and is nice and crispy but in parts the breading has come away from the meat leaving air pockets. It comes with traditional Austrian side dishes, a vinagery potato salad, cabbage, cucumber salad and beetroot.
I loved the roast duck breast, perfectly pink and tender and sitting atop my favorite Austrian side dish, red cabbage, this one particularly heady in red wine which is gorgeous with the rich meat. I wasn’t such a fan of the poppyseed dumplings however, which were rather dense and bland. I did like the sour note added by the kumquats, though I think they would best be served without skins as it is too bitter and tough to eat.
Both the Halibut and the mixed grilled fish were served atop chunky-cut sauteed vegetables, with a side ramekin of parsely pesto and a slice of fresh lemon to squeeze. All seafood was cooked to perfection – a simple, light, healthy dish.
I didn’t do dessert, but what I did manage to steal from the boys was delicious – all light sponge and moussey buttercream. What more?