Kaffeehaus Vienna at the National Gallery of Victoria

7/17/2011 11:21:00 PM

Kaffeehaus Vienna
NGV International
180 St Kilda Road, 
Melbourne Vic 8004
Ph: (03) 8620-2222

When my friend Val asked if we'd like to attend Kaffeehaus Vienna - a temporary cafe set up at the National Gallery of Victoria in conjunction with the Vienna Masterpieces exhibition - you better believe that my answer was a very enthusiastic "yes"!  Those of you who have been with me for a few years may remember my wonderful trip to Vienna in 2006: a heady 2-day cake and schnitzel-eating extravaganza!  (And, of course, my subsequent Austrian cooking and eating adventures!)

We arrived at the cafe on Sunday for a late-morning brunch, and were happy to see Almdudler sodas, and Pfanner ice-teas on offer.  I think it looks pretty good for a temporary set-up!

Feels a bit Alice-in-Wonderland, don't you think?

Cake selection, tea pots
The cake fridge didn't feel especially Viennese, but there was still a decent selection: apfelstrudel, lemon meringue pie, chocolate cake, Danish pastries, canel√© de Bordeaux, tiny mini-Gugelhupf, and so on.

Where it got exciting (for me, anyway), was the coffee menu.  They had a selection of specialty Vienna coffees on offer, most with whipped cream and liqueur.  As it was before midday, three of us ordered the same non-alcoholic one: Kaffee Schwarzenber - espresso with hot chocolate and loads of whipped cream.  (It was definitely fresh cream, not whipped; they were using a nitrous oxide whipper!)
Kaffee Schwarzenber – Espresso with hot chocolate, whipped cream and chocolate flakes - $4.50
I loved that it came out on a traditional silver tray with a glass of water - and a little Mozartkugel!  The description on the menu made it sound quite rich, but it was actually lovely: not too sweet and with a nice bitter chocolate kick.

Val ordered the Viennese-Inspired Afternoon Tea: a selection of pastries and savouries, served on a three-tier plate.
Viennese Inspired Afternoon Tea - A selection of traditional Viennese cakes and pastries, savories, sandwiches and tea or coffee - $35 per person
Let's have a look at the tiers in more detail:
Mini-pies: venison, and mushroom
The pies were super cute, but nothing particularly special.  The corporate catering at my office actually serves the exact same pies (as does Val's boyfriend's work, incidentally!)  That's not to say they aren't tasty, but it's hard to be wowed by mass-produced catering, especially when you're paying quite a bit for it.  They also looked a little sad on such a big plate!

Poppy seed bagel, smoked ocean trout, sour cream, dill, capers, pea, salmon
Mini black olive & parmesan ciabatta, roast capsicum, braesola, grain mustard mayonnaise
Chicken and mayonnaise finger sandwich
Baby brioche bread roll, Tarrago triple cream brie, quince paste
The second tier contained a selection of mini-sandwiches, which is exactly what you get if you order the $13 "plated sandwich selection".  Again, they were all very small, but Val seemed to enjoy them, in particular the baby brioche roll and the braesola ciabatta!

The dessert tier seemed far better than the first two - there was a small chocolate cup filled with chocolate mousse, a mini-lemon tart, a tiny almond orange cake, and a square of super-rich sachertorte.

Looking at the arvo tea selection, it came as no surprise when I saw that the waitress in charge was wearing a Peter Rowland catering name tag.

Val's boyfriend Jeremy ordered a quiche and a cappuccino.  I didn't have a taste, but he said he liked it!
Quiche - $12
Cappuccino (Lavazza Coffee) - $4
I ordered the wild mushroom soup - a hearty, creamy soup with nice big chunks of mushrooms and an indulgent dollop of sour cream.
Wild Mushroom Soup - $12
Sandra's beef goulash was also a winner - tender meat in a rich capsicum and tomato broth.  Delicious!
Braised beef goulash, roasted kipfler potatoes, sour cream, rye bread - $14
I couldn't have visited a Viennese-style Kaffeehaus without trying some Gugelhupf.

Gugelhupf – Viennese tea cake served with cream - $7
Unfortunately, however, this one was quite a disappointment.  It was served fridge cold, and was stale and dry, with only the barest smattering of sultanas on the inside for moistness.

And while we're on the subject of disappointment, I suppose this is the time to mention the not-so-great service.  The food was very slow to come out, and the waitstaff, whilst generally friendly and pleasant enough, seemed stressed and scattered, despite the temporary cafe being open for a month now.  You know the signs: not knowing how to use the cash register, walking around looking confused when bringing plates out, turning their backs and studiously avoiding eye contact with people lining up to order, that sort of thing.

In fact, there was only one staff member who seemed to be on top of things: a lovely English guy who actually smiled, explained the menu and the ordering system to us, kept up the friendly banter and so on.  (Thanks for the great service!)

Although the service was pretty poor, and some of the food was rather expensive and disappointing, I'm still glad we visited the Kaffeehaus.  The savoury meals and Viennese coffees were great, and it was a nice way to spend a cold Sunday morning!  We were also lucky that it was rather quiet when we went - it got busier after we got our food, and the line the the counter was sooo long!  I'd recommend visiting during quieter periods, sticking to the traditional Viennese savoury dishes and coffees, and avoiding the Gugelhupf and the overpriced, mass-produced afternoon tea tray.

According to the NGV website, the Kaffeehaus Vienna will continue operating until the 9th of October this year.

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  1. sounds like they could really improve things... but it's all so pretty!



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