What is the first thing one thinks of at the mention of Vienna? Well, for me it is coffee-house culture: coffee and cakes, Kaffee und Kuchen. According to the Vienna Now * Forever website, in 2011 UNESCO added Viennese coffee-house culture to its list of intangible cultural heritage. And unwittingly I chose my favourite café without knowing it is considered one of the six best in the whole city.
It certainly is not pristine; indeed, it is rather faded. It is not even situated next to any of the famous sights and in fact one has to wander a little off the Mariahilfer Straße, Vienna’s main shopping thoroughfare, to discover its treasures. As can be seen in the photograph above, the flooring is tread-worn; the wallpaper is faded and tabacco-stained; the furniture, fixtures and fittings have all seen better days. So what keeps folk returning to this particular Kaffeehaus?
Well, it serves traditional, homemade cakes - not the wonderful confections found in cake-shops throughout the city, but rather the kind of baking that reminds one of one’s Grandmother’s or Mother’s cakes. The environment and food offerings create the famous gemütlich ambience for which Austria is so famous. (See this Wikipedia article for a fuller explanation of Gemütlichkeit.)
There is additionally ample outside seating for when the sun shines. It is easier to tuck a wheelchair under these tables than navigating the interior. As well as cakes, breakfast is served here all day, because (per VisitingVienna):
‘ “The early bird can go take a running jump” (the polite translation).’
During my latest visit to Vienna I visited the terrace three times. On two of those occasions I opted for the same light-bite from the menu (see image below): Sacherwürstel with Senf (mustard), Kren (horseradish in Austrian German, Meerrittich in German German) and a Semmel (bread-roll, Brötchen in German German).
As can be seen, these snacks were accompanied by beers, in this instance a light and citrusy lager named Wieselburger Bier. This perfectly accompanied the heat from the horseradish and the sweetness from the mustard.
Staff on every occasion I have visited Café Jelinek are calm and unfussed. They will not bother a customer unless beckoned. One will not be asked to leave or order more if one is peacefully reading one of the gratis newspapers or magazines. Neither will one be badgered to pay the bill until one is ready to do so. A totally relaxed environment.
For those in wheelchairs, alas the toilets are not accessible. Also, for those who are ambulant but unsteady on their feet, I suggest taking a friend to open the doors.
The clientele is very mixed: students; academics; shoppers; lovers; tourists and even the odd local celebrity.
And finally, what about the coffee served? In the top-most image one can see a Wiener Melange, a strong coffee with warmed milk and topped with Schlagobers (whipped cream, German German Schlagsahne). I always take this once on any visit to Vienna. However, as can be imagined, it is incredibly rich, nonetheless it goes well with cake. Mostly I drink Große Brauner, which is a double mocha with a drop of warmed milk. Delicious both, as no doubt are the rest of the coffee varieties listed in the menu.
Of course I thoroughly recommend the authentic Viennese coffee-house culture of Café Jelinek. If in Vienna, it is a must-see!
My apologies for the white background, I have tried all sorts to try to get back to the normal colour but Blogger will have none of it - as ever it does its own thing!