After Dark: Underground Indulgence
Wien gains a dinner Passage: finally a club for grownups
No matter what crowd launches a club in Vienna, it gradually gets younger. The original patrons retreat to small cocktail bars where the music is moderated and the prospect of conversation still possible.
So it was interesting that there was no pounding bass, as I made my way down the charcoal steps, by the Staatsoper – just a whisper of piano at the coat-check as we were led through a short tunnel to a giant room: Albertina Passage, Dinner Club. As you enter you see the piano, lounge seating to the left and behind the giant bar, and dinner tables to the right, on a risen platform.
“Everyone has had the idea of a dinner club in Vienna,” manager Martin Schulz-Wulkow tells me. But when the city of Vienna advertised for a commercial tenant for the Albertina Passage, Sunshine enterprises – the owners of Roxy, Passage, Comida, Red Room and The Superfly radio station – proposed this concept. And won.
The space has purple lighting and dark walls (covered in velvet and faux snakeskin), keeping the acoustics club-style, not concert hall. As we ordered our aperitif and the piano sprinkled a soft but recognizable version of “Sexual Healing”, I took a look around. The crowd was all ages, from 17 to 70, with the average around 40.
Schulz-Wulkow explained how it works: “We always wanted to open a club where we would want to go.” Now that their nightclub in the Babenberger Passage has succumbed to younger clientele, they needed a new approach. “Here a 40 or 45 year-old doesn’t need to wear ear plugs, and they can still have the club atmosphere.”
Indeed, all through dinner, the piano and jazz band were never intrusive, but very present. With no entrance fee, I wondered how they paid the musicians. The prices on the menu answered my question. In addition to the €5 “Musikgedeck” (music cover charge), we ordered a Goldbrasse (Gilthead Seabream) on ratatouille (€24) and a “Wyoming” rack of lamb (€27). The drinks seemed to have a music tax as well, with a bottle of water costing €9.
“The Musikgedeck doesn’t quite cover it,” explained Schulz-Wulkow. In the future, management plans to have outside acts, besides the Superfly Radio Orchestra, perhaps with an entrance fee. But keeping it real is key. “We wanted to have more interesting music,” he smiled.
As we ate, the band began to play, and, yes, the food was good. Not mind-boggling, but competent. There had been reports of dry steaks and inexpert escargots in the first week. However initial growing pains are surely normal. The rack of lamb was soft, pink and pleasantly spiced. The Goldbrasse, was unpretentious, but juicily underlined by the ratatouille.
After dinner we moved to the bar area, where we found a cocktail list including something called a “Persian Mule,” as the words to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” oozed through the room.
I could guess why the city of Vienna wanted a dinner club. A club for grown-ups is a rare scheme. Although it shouldn’t be. This is the kind of place tourists will always enjoy, and those in Vienna for a conference. They don’t need to dance, but they do want an experience; to be entertained and mingle with locals at night.
Time will tell if a good idea can make the improbable possible.
Albertina Passage: Tue.–Sat., 17:00–4:00
1., where Opernring meets Operngasse
(01) 512 08 13