Lingenhel implores you to appreciate every single ingredient – resistance was futile

Music folklore tells us that jazz is all about the notes you don’t play – you have to appreciate the spaces in between. Lingenhel, a new deli-cum-restaurant in the 3rd district, feels like the culinary embodiment of this old adage. Its menu is simple and short, allowing it to excel in the spaces that others simply neglect.

During the downtime between courses, the chefs casually drop an amuse-bouche of caviar on roasted potatoes with smoky sour cream. In between the leaves, radishes and beets (pickled and caramelized) of their Lingenhel Salad, they entertain by squirrelling away parmesan crackers. Given half a chance, the staff will break down that other awkward space – between customer and server – with cheeky quips and smiles.

© Christof Wagner Johannes Lingenhel, proprietor
Johannes Lingenhel, proprietor // © Christof Wagner

Let the flavors flow

Owner Johannes Lingenhel (pictured) confirms this is all part of the plan. And he still has more spaces to fill. He wants to “close the circle” between diners and their food’s origins. That’s why he runs the deli next to the restaurant, changes the menu every few weeks to accommodate seasonal ingredients and maintains an on-site dairy, which produces cheeses from brie to ricotta. He even keeps his own buffalo (Yes, really).

The restaurant itself was hewn from a video store that had fallen into disrepair, in a forgettable strip of Landstraßer Hauptstraße near Rochusmarkt. After a painstaking two-year renovation, completed in June, it is pleasantly unrecognizable.

Dangling legs of jamón ibérico lure you into the brightly-lit deli – an intoxicating place replete with cheese wheels and racks of wine. Further back lies the section for serious eaters, a cozy minimalist haven of black wooden furniture, deep grey upholstery and low-hanging vintage lightbulbs.

While reveling in the minutiae and architecture, it’s almost possible to overlook the main course. That would be a mistake. There were just three mains on the menu – two meat, one fish. I went for the cod with celery puree (€24), which at first appeared to be under-seasoned. Until, that is, piquant smoked caviar propelled the dish into an altogether different league.

The sound of silence

My partner had the charcoal-roasted chicken breast (€19), served with outrageously pretty mini-potatoes hollowed out to make room for aioli dollops. Her verdict: “If you liked chicken, you’d be on your knees for this.”

In an attempt to keep our two-year-old daughter out of trouble, we’d planted ourselves at a small white wooden table in the deli. But in a flash, she’d scampered into the restaurant, clambering over a 1950s style settee and clumsily blowing at candles, letting out occasional squeals.

© Christof Wagner Lingenhel, Feinkost, Stadtkäserei, Shop, Restaurant
Lingenhel, Feinkost, Stadtkäserei, Shop, Restaurant // © Christof Wagner

Fortunately for us, it was still early and the restaurant was largely empty. The unflappable staff, uniformly kitted out in black shirts and jeans, were happy to give her free rein, laughing at her antics. A group of smart forty-somethings dodged the unruly toddler and filtered into the back area. A younger crowd set themselves in the deli.

As the early murmurs of a busy Saturday night began to grow, we reluctantly packed up the toddler to head home. On our way out, the quiet background music transitioned from 1980s power pop – think Huey Lewis and the News – to more languid electronic beats.

A good choice – but at the end of the day, jazz still has too many notes for this relaxed, elegant space.

 


Lingenhel

3., Landstraßer Hauptstraße 74
Mon-Sat 8:00-22:00
Closed Sun and holidays
(01) 710 15 66-50