A Touch of Elegance, And a Quiet Garden In the Schlossquadrat

Luxury is not essential to a satisfying dining experience – but a touch of extravagance can make it a lot of fun. At Gergely’s, luxury is part of the mission statement, and spoiling customers corporate policy.

The upper level of Gergely’s, the crystal chandelier above | Photo: Konstantin Borovlev

Gergely’s is the newest additon to the Schlossquadrat, a former palace block of interconnecting spaces near Pilgramgasse in Vienna’s 5th District.  Its current form dates from a reconstruction following the repulsion of the Turks in the 16th century, a network of charming cobblestone courtyards shared by several restaurants of varying traditions that are perfect for sitting outside on a gentle evening.

On the Friday night of our visit, however, it was raining, so we were treated to  the full effect of the upscale indoor dining room. For style alone, Gergely’s is the obvious winner at the Schlossquadrat. Shaking the rain from my jacket, I was swept up by effect of the chandeliers; a long string of glass prisms ran lenghtwise down a long table at the far end and large crystal squares dangled over the smaller tables in the lower hall.

But they were distracting, luring my attention away from the otherwise sleek interior of square tables, dark wood and rich red leather chairs that stood out against the gothic arches framing the interior. Still, the atmosphere was modern, bright and upbeat, and I felt a need to be on my best behavior.

We had made a wise decision in reserving a table – the large table on the upper tier next to the bar was monopolised by a private party, and the individual tables on the lower level were all occupied, mostly by business men or young well-dressed couples.

I was happy I had donned my little purple dress on a last minute whim, and my companion had picked me up from work still dressed in a suit. Unintentionally we had followed the dress code, and after exchanging sly grins, we decided to play the roles of another young couple on a date instead of journalists on a mission.

From the start, the wait staff was very friendly, almost too friendly, but looking back on my waitressing days, I remembered that Austrians who frequented such places look for friendly servants, rather than service.

Our waitress appeared at our table three times before I had chosen a wine, an Austrian St. Laurent, one of my favorite full-bodied reds and usually perfect with red meats and heartier meals that were in abundance on the menu. The 2003 Altenberg we received was decent and herby, but in the end, too heavy to enjoy in anything but small sips.

The waitress came another two times before we picked out an appetizer to share. The menu offered traditional soups and salads, but it was ‘The Favourites’ that stood out, particulary the ‘Asien zum Quadrat:’ a four-part sampler presenting specialties from Thailand, India, Indonesia and Japan.

For the main course, steaks were the obvious decision. An entire page was dedicated to the Angus beef of various cuts and grades, each with a different ethnic flair. My companion chose the Mexican version and I chose the ‘Classic,’ longing for the baked potato that was promised to accompany the meat. The ever-attentive waitress refilled our wine glasses and seemed happy she succeded in finally getting our order.

Sitting back and thoroughly enjoying our `date` role-play, we exchanged interior design critiques. Straight ahead of me was an indented window illuninated by a purple light, undoubtedly meant to refract through the crystal prisms of the chandeliers.  Further inspection revealed the designer’s fetish with rocks; in addition to the crystals, glistening semi-precious stones were winking at us from across the room.  Next to our table was an enourmous fools gold crystal, in the corner, a huge onyx structure and across the room an amethist edifice that resembled a small cave – all consistent with the general inconsistency of the decor. But it did have a certain eccentric charm.

Our Asian appetizer arrived on a plate divided for the different samples and we were given trendy black slabs as plates.  The sesame coated Thai spring rolls were pleasant enough, as was the Indian chicken Tandoori, but nothing to write home about.  The Japanese and Indonesian contributions, however, were exquisite.  The former, a slightly seared tuna steak oozing with a soy/terryiaki marinade was served in a pool of wasabi cream sauce.  The high grade tuna was tender and the combination of the salty marinade and the smooth, spicy cream was mouth watering. It easliy could have stood on its own as a main course.

The Indonesian beef sate was nearly as good, the peanut sauce creamy and flavorful, real bits of peanuts lending the sauce a pleasant texture, without the heaviness of most sates.  This was obviously a kitchen serious about creating original, home made sauces using only the freshest ingredients.

Our steaks were slightly less exciting, but I was too absorbed with figuring out the recipe of the wasabi cream to care.  My rib eye was served with a zesty pepper sauce which confirmed my earlier theory of the kitchen’s technique – and I finally satisfied my baked potato craving.

The Mexican rib eye was served with a mild salsa, also fresh but not so spicy that it drowned the flavour of the steak.  Sweet potato fries were the chosen supplement, which went perfectly with the salsa, adding a bit of sweet along with  the spicyness.  Most impressive was how the steaks were grilled; we both requested medium rare, and they were served exactly so. A pleasant surprise.

Badly in need of a digestiv, we ordered two clear plum Schnäpse, smooth and aromatic. The wait staff continued to dote upon us, but there was nothing left to order; our appetites were sated so dessert was out of the question.

A parting visit to the ladies, though, was the final astonishment, all cold steel and glass polished to a high shine, so that I almost walked straight into a floor-to-ceiling mirror flush with the left side of the door frame – and walked out a bit disoriented.

All in all, though, Gergely’s is a perfect place to impress a date or just be spoiled for an evening.  The location is superb, the kitchen is well above average and the wait staff should be given gold medals.

But I’d really love to sit down with the interior designer and have a nice long chat…


Gergely’s Hofstoeckl

5., Schlossgasse 21


Tel: 544-0767

U4 Pilgramgasse, Bus 13A

Open Mon-Sat. 18:00 to 2:00

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