Dine at your country house in the middle of the 1st district
All great cities have secrets. In Vienna, time and curiosity may reveal a hidden courtyard, a graceful fountain, or quiet square, each an oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling section of town. The best can transform an afternoon.
This is what happens at Buxbaum, a sophisticated yet unpretentious new eatery that opened in March, following the closing of the popular Hollmann Salon in 2015.
On a warm Saturday in May, my companion and I slid through a doorway off Grashofgasse entering the vast courtyard of Heiligenkreuzerhof, a baroque gem belonging to the Cistercian monastery of the Holy Cross. The 14th century abbey includes private apartments thought to be the oldest rental flats in Vienna.
At its center we found a garden enclosed by a few slender trees and climbing foliage; there was a whisper of conversation, but the din of the city had vanished. A large family was lunching in the middle and around them, a few couples sipped wine while several dogs lounged about or scurried between tables. It was as if we had entered the garden of a Mediterranean bistro. The spring menu reflected the mood, with seasonal Austrian delicacies, so plenty of asparagus and Bärlauch (wild garlic), with a fine selection of regional wines as well as Spanish, Italian and even Romanian choices to match.
We went for a Gemischter Satz, served along with delicious bread and an egg salad spread in place of butter. The light touch continued with the beef tartare starter. Instead of butter, it came with three versions of mayonnaise with no capers or pickles in sight – just crisp onions and chives, garnished with edible flowers and radishes. The meat could have used more salt for my taste, but it was certainly a fresher rendition of the European staple.
The secret garden
As we sipped our wine, we realized the secret to a place like this. There are plenty of good eateries in the area, with fantastic chefs and inventive, tasty menus. But Buxbaum has something else: From the attentive and helpful service to the hidden-in-plain-sight location, this place gave us a different kind of luxury, as the sprawling courtyard around the garden makes time disappear. A favorite for business lunches and romantic dinners, Buxbaum is nudging its way into our local top five for extended indulgence on weekend afternoons.
Before we knew it, our main courses had arrived. We had tender veal medallions on crisp green asparagus with lardo and baked potatoes, presented in a pleasingly haphazard, home-style fashion. The grilled turbot on wild garlic and scallop risotto paired with pickled pak choi was a well-composed dish, marrying sour and fresh with a suitably “al dente” texture to the rice. The cuisine here is far from experimental, but Buxbaum does what good kitchens strive for: It delivers just what patrons want, while exceeding their expectations.
1., Grashofgasse 3
(01) 276 82 26