Robert Pimm

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Austrian cafes: the truth about 1986

My original Vienna Cafe Reviews story, published in March 2017, included a story about a customer having a bad experience trying to get the bill, back in 1986.

A couple of my Austrian friends sprang to the defence of the waiter.  Sure, Vienna cafes had a charming, the-waiter-is-always-right serving ethos, they said.  But who wanted subservient waiters?  The attitude of Vienna cafe waiters was all about the dignity of labour, and standing up for the right to be treated as a human being.

I recommend the Cafe Schwarzenberg, which is not the cafe referred to below!

I was not so sure.  Indeed, these comments reminded me of my 2004 Financial Times piece “When dinner becomes the last supper“, which begins: Friends from Paris, Madrid or New York often ask me: “Why are German waiters so brilliant?”  It’s a satire, by the way.

Indeed, I have been in many Vienna cafes (the Sperl, the Bräunerhof and the Tirolerhof spring to mind) which are as traditional as they come, but where the waiters go about their business is an efficient and thoroughly satisfactory way.

Is there any contradiction between efficiency and tradition?  I’d welcome your views.

Meanwhile, I thought readers might be interested to read the full story of that 1986 experience.  It goes as follows.

I had been invited to lunch by a friend from the Vienna Town Hall (the mayor at that time was Mr Zilk).  My friend suggested we go to a certain cafe, famed for its traditions. (more…)

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Best Vienna cafes – new reviews

I’ve added new reviews to my popular Vienna cafes: which are best? blog.  The fifteen cafes reviewed are mostly in the town centre, but include several in the 3rd, 6th, 7th and 10th Districts.  The latest additions are the little-known Cafe Morgenstern (charming and super grunge) and the popular Cafe Museum (much restored since the 1980s).  Take a look.

If you have a favourite cafe you’d like me to review, let me know in the comments.  I’m highly suggestible and always looking for something original – see eg my brand new review of Cafe Malipop.

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The shabby but charming decor of the Cafe Morgenstern, complete with star – RP

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P.P.S. see my piece When dinner becomes the last supper for a tongue-in-cheek guide to “why German waiters are the best”.

Review: Vienna cafes: which are best? (Part 2)

Since I published my review of Vienna cafes a couple of weeks ago it has become one of my most popular posts.  It has also harvested more comments than nearly anything else I have written.

So, as promised, I have expanded it.  Instead of reviewing three cafes, I now review six.  Additions include the Kleines Cafe; Cafe Landtmann; and, considerably less famous than either, the Ungar Grill.

Nice presentation at the Cafe Central in 2006 – Photo Robert Pimm

You can read the revised and expanded version at the link above, or here.

I’ve been particularly pleased to receive several comments recommending particular cafes as wonderful or terrible examples of what makes Vienna cafes special.  More comments, or suggestions, welcome!

More reviews, including the Cafe Museum, Cafe Sperl, and Cafe Bräunerhof, coming up soon – in some cases these are new to me and I will need to visit them first.

P.S. If you enjoy fresh, original writing, please friend me on Facebook or sign up for e-mail updates (top right – see the “click here” blue button).  Check out the range of writing on this site via the sitemap and guide.

Review: Vienna cafes: which are best?

Viennese customer (standing up, exasperated, after 20 minutes of trying to get the bill, in German) ‘Excuse me, Mr Waiter; I’d like to pay, please.’

Head Waiter (chatting to other waiters on the other side of the room) ‘If you’re in such a hurry, you should have stayed at home.’

This is a true story from Vienna, 1986 – I was there.  If my host that day (then working in the Town Hall with Mayor Zilk) is reading this, do get in touch.  Can you guess in which of the cafes reviewed below the scene occurred?  Clue: it was not the Hawelka.

The entrance to the Cafe Hawelka – photo Robert Pimm

How good are Viennese cafes?  Is it even fair for me to assess them, as a foreigner who has lived only four years in the city, all but the last year back in the 1980s?

Most Viennese cafes are excellent.  I like the fact that (more…)

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