WHAT’S IT LIKE? The Ritz-Carlton Vienna opened at the end of August 2012 after rapidly being transformed in just eight months from a Shangri-La property that was due to be unveiled in early 2011. The building combines two 19th-century palaces and all the previous brand’s signature colours, furniture and design elements were changed to reflect the Ritz-Carlton vision. Along with 202 rooms and suites, it has a lobby lounge, two bars (one on the roof and the other specialising in rum cocktails) and one restaurant, called Dstrikt.
With direct access from the Ring Boulevard, in the heart of the city, the casual, upscale eatery has outdoor seating on a gently raised pavement terrace, along with a capacity of 65 inside. Tall arched windows let in plenty of natural light during the day, while the contemporary yet warm interior is a blend of gold, noir, walnut and cream décor and furnishings. Plush rugs cover the dark parquet flooring, and black and white prints adorn some of the walls.
When I visited in the evening, soon after opening, the ambience was relaxed and cosy, thanks, in part, to excellent lighting and smiling staff, and a general feeling of calm (it wasn’t very busy). Outside, the terrace area was illuminated purple, providing a more trendy setting for dinner in warmer weather. (There is space for ten tables of two.) Despite being on a main road, there didn’t seem to be much traffic or many passers by, so it seemed peaceful and, being Vienna, pristinely clean and pollution free.
THE FOOD AND SERVICE Despite its rather “try-hard” name, Dstrikt, which seems to be deliberately missing a vowel in a bid to look cool, specialises in Viennese cuisine – traditional in heritage but with a modern twist, and incorporating locally sourced ingredients. The menu has been conceptualised by Austrian chef Wini Brugger, and includes favourites such as Carinthian cream cheese dumplings (as a starter or main course €9/€15), the recipe for which was handed down to him by his grandma.
When I ordered the dumplings, the waitress beamed, saying she thought they were even better than her own grandmother’s and that it was an excellent choice. For me, it was the only choice as I am vegetarian and there weren’t any other meat-free options, but they were succulent, moist and filling.
To start, the accommodating kitchen prepared me a delicious mixed salad, and for dessert I went for the “half liquid” chocolate cake (€13), which was incredible. Utterly indulgent and served with sour cherry ragout and homemade chocolate ice cream. Definitely the highlight for me.
Carnivores and pescatarians will enjoy far more choice, with options including the crispy farm egg with Salzburg sturgeon caviar and celery cream (€19), apple and grape salad with pan-fried goose liver and rowanberries (€18), shrimp cocktail with Riesling mayonnaise and Wachau chilli (€17) and Viennese soup pot with vegetables, boiled beef and stone marrow (€7) to start.
For the main course, diners can select a prime piece of Austrian dry-aged beef (rib eye 300g, entrecote 280g, filet 190g, flank steak 280g – €26-€35) with one of five sauces (red wine shallot, creamy mushroom, Winis hot chilli, barbecue or green peppercorn), or go for local favourites such as schnitzel with lamb’s lettuce, potato salad and cranberries (€22). The three fish dishes were of crayfish with tomatoes, basil and apricots (€26), pike perch with a golden crust and Veltliner sauce (€24) or Carinthian trout with potato purée and Wachau saffron (€22).
Other desserts include iced marble cake (€11), apricot dumplings (€12), curd cheese strudel (€12) and Austrian cheese selection with walnut bread (€15). There is an interesting array of digestifs, although I didn’t try any – these ranged from Pure Williams (€15) to Reisetbauer Elsbeere (€65), while the wine list featured a good selection of Austrian vintages.
Breakfast offers a buffet (€32) and à la carte dishes for between €8 (organic yoghurt with chocolate granola) and €49 (Salzburg smoked sturgeon with 5oz of caviar). Lunch is also served.
PRIVATE DINING There is a chef’s table inside the kitchen for eight people, with a menu created on a daily basis, and a semi-private dining area upstairs for ten.
VERDICT If you are a fan of Austrian food but are looking to try something more elevated that the traditionally more rustic variants, Dstrikt is a worth visiting. The ambiance is conducive to entertaining clients and the service charming, attentive and welcoming.
OPENING HOURS Monday to Sunday. Breakfast 6.30am-11am, lunch 12pm-2.30pm, dinner 6pm-10.30pm.
CONTACT Ritz-Carlton Vienna, Schubertring 5-7; tel +43 131 188 150; ritzcarlton.com