At the Ufertaverne of the Hofbauer Segelschule, great food and wine is only half the draw

It’s a sunny Sunday in Vienna, with a light breeze. A great day to be on the water. From the broad terrace of the Ufertaverne (shore tavern) on the Alte Donau, the sailboats of the Segelschule Hofbauer tack back and forth among the pedal boats, motor launches and catamarans with their blue awnings, all cruising serenely in slow motion under the very urban skyline of the UN and the low rumble of the U1 200 meters away.

The contrast is uncanny – in the city, yet very far away. The Ufertaverne is a bit of an insider tip, a favorite spot for locals, but also for the international agencies nearby; weekday or weekend, there is a nice buzz among the tables.

Arriving by bicycle a little after 17:00, it was easy to get a table for two on the upper level under the ancient willow overlooking the water, and settle in for a long cocktail hour – enjoying a rosé from Weingut Preisinger in Gols – as the day gradually softened.

It’s a good wine list: We chose a fine Gemischter Satz from Mayer am Pfarrplatz in Vienna and a Grüner Veltliner DAC from Weingut Schuckert in Poysdorf to go with our starters: tasty octopus with mixed greens and tomato salad with a pleasant, if not remarkable, lemon vinaigrette; and a chickpea salad with sundried tomatoes, sheep cheese and quinoa on a bed of arugula, that was a delight, spicy and flavorful. Caution: Portions are generous, and either was enough for two.

… and the Living is Easy

As a riverside restaurant, Ufertaverne specializes in local fish: the Zander, a Danube cousin of the perch, and Saibling (char), native to the lakes of the Salzkammergut, a flavorful pink-fleshed fish related to the other Austrian classics trout and salmon, both also on the menu. Unable to resist, I ordered the trout (source: Czechia) grilled whole in olive oil and garlic, which was moist and meaty – just right – with a side of roasted zucchini, carrots and turnip.

My companion had the grilled minced lamb kebab, served with basmati rice and tzatziki –yoghurt, cucumber and garlic, lightly spiced and very satisfying. To accompany, we chose the Bio Zweigelt from Weingut Reinisch in the Thermenregion/Tattendorf, which is a nicely balanced red and substantial enough for both the lamb and the meaty trout. Order the wine ahead: Outdoors, food gets cold very quickly.

With no room left for dessert (we blame the starters!), we cast sly glances at the nearby tables and decided the chocolate cake, served warm with fresh cut fruit, would be a winner, as would the ice cream-filled Palatschinken … another time. But no pressure: Here the international wait staff, while busy, is alert and friendly without being intrusive. And should it rain, they have the awnings and umbrellas out in minutes (they’re used to it).

Which, in fact, it did –we made a dash for the rustic bar area at the back, where we closed the evening with an espresso and fine (though pricy) local schnapps.

But along with a good meal, the main event at the Ufertaverne is the irresistible setting: the sense of timeless leisure of a long summer evening by the water.

Ufertaverne 22., An der Oberen Alten Donau 186, Daily 9:00 to 24:00, (01) 204 39 53, ufertaverne.at