Gourmet Goes Bohemian At Holy-Moly on the Canal

Award-winning chef Christian Petz gave up the Palais Coburg to serve first-rate nouvelle cuisine to Vienna’s middle class

After years as a nightclub, the Badeschiff still manages a bobo-hipster feel | Photo: Lauren Brassaw

Many know that the Schwedenplatz neighbourhood is scattered full of cafés, bistros and restaurants – it’s a hub of sorts of the city’s dining scene – but you won’t find a place that makes your taste-buds dance as much for auch a moderate price, as when you’re dining at Holy-Moly.

Anchored on the bank of the Danube Canal between Schwedenplatz and Urania, the Badeschiff (literally, bathing ship) had its galley overhauled to accommodate a fresh idea.

The new kitchen (as of 2010) is stepping up Vienna’s nouvelle cuisine by offering top quality gourmet fare for a fraction of the cost. Formerly cheffing in the kitchens of Palais Coburg and Meinl am Graben, Holy-Moly head chef Christian Petz no longer wanted to cook exclusively for the critics, but reach out with prices that suit the middle class.

After years as a nightclub, the Badeschiff itself is worn. Scarred with graffiti, the space tells past stories of debaucherous nights and a more youthful, perhaps rebellious, clientele. A fresh coat of white paint and simple post-industrial furniture half-heartedly attempt to disguise the scars, but actually come closer to making the best of them, tending toward a bobo-hipster chic that works surprisingly well. With the wealth of aromas filling the air and an almost purposeful lack of comfort in the mess-hall atmosphere, you find yourself saying: “This place must really be just about the food!”

A former Gault Millau Chef of the Year (2002) then at Meinl am Graben, Petz was considered a Mediterranean-influenced purist. Now he is quickly defining a new cuisine for Vienna, having already received 15 of 20 points for the Gault Millau award, and had the locale described as a “hotspot of the city’s dining scene.”

Looking over the menu, the price range is attractive if you incline toward more than just one course. A drei-Gänge meal will cost you €31, four, €39, and five, €46. Ordering single plates will cost you more. But before we could decide on our order, there was homemade, whole-wheat bread served with a bell-pepper reduction and butter. This, we knew, was going to be good!

Yuu n Mee: Five prawns served on a delicate puddle of rustic salsa verde | Photo: Lauren Brassaw

Unsure of what to expect, we started by trying their signature Spicy Holy-Moly fish soup in red curry, which was marked by the curry, coconut and lime that first tantalized the tip of your tongue, then following quickly with the flavour of coriander and fresh mint. No flavor outweighed another. Just right.

Likely not the first to do so, I developed a similar emotion for the second appetizer. The dish consisted of five prawns served on a delicate puddle of rustic Italian-style salsa verde, topped with a lightly toasted wedge of olive focaccia bread. The flavours of fresh parsley, vinegar, and olive oil stuck out in the sauce, but were quickly subdued by the absorbent flavours of the prawns and bread, and left our mouths watering and wanting more.

For the main dishes, we were served a filet of perfectly tender grey mullet in a creamy spinach sauce with anchovy juice, topped with a narrow caper-injected crostini, and decorated delicately with watercress. Then, a delectable shoulder of lamb braised with fennel and garlic to perfect tenderness, served with half of a smoked fennel bulb and potatoes.

At this point, our mouths and stomachs were nearing a new state of nirvana. What would please us more?

We finished with an espresso served with a variety of miniature desserts by the Viennese company Xocolat, including a ribbed canelé with a luscious custard centre and a carmelized crust, a rich chocolate brownie cake, a coconut truffle and a caramel-filled, dark chocolate ball topped with almond garnish. Holy-Moly!

While the aesthetics of the cuisine are superb, the servers can only be classified as awkward, neither friendly nor rude, just there. But then again, it’s rare to eat such high-quality cuisine while keeping the bill affordable. Remember, it’s all about the food.


Restaurant in the Badeschiff
1., Anchored to the bank of the Danube
Canal between Schwedenplatz and Urania
Kitchen open Mon.-Sat., 18:00-22:00

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