Imperial Schnitzel

Good Wine, Mouthwatering Steak and Old Ornaments Make For a Delightful Evening - Not to Mention the Eventful Toilets

On The Town | Darko Gacov | December 2007 / January 2008

Imperial uniforms decorate the entrance of the eccentric Marchfelderhof (Photo: Darko Gacov)

It was a cold night. The smell of snow filled the air. The hazed windshield of my car only confirmed the presence of winter when the blurry sign "Deutsch-Wagram" emerged from the mist. There it was, 10 km north of Vienna, where the charming – and thoroughly eccentric – restaurant Marchfelderhof basks in the glow of the streetlights.

Having parked, the plan was to get inside as soon as possible to cheat the chill. But once in front of the building, it was impossible not to take a moment to examine the entrance: All the contours were strung with lights, like the spun sugar on Christmas gingerbread. In fact, the whole facade of the old inn was shimmering with light, and yet it was not distractingly bright; everything was in perfect harmony.

After a few seconds I grabbed the big knob and opened the door. We were welcomed in the castle-like foyer by a hostess, dressed in a traditional Austrian outfit, with a warming smile. Somehow expecting a butler to call our names, as befits a castle, we were greeted by the lady who took our coats and the inn keeper appeared, leading us through the labyrinth-like corridors. The manager pointed us to a table in the Marionette Ecke, the puppet corner.

In fact, puppets were hanging from every corner of the dark wood ceiling. Their threads perplexed, tried to create forms by themselves. I had never liked marionettes much because of a horror movie I saw once in my childhood, but this was different. Wooden spoons and forks together with old brass pans and cookie molds were filling the spaces between the marionettes. Old paintings and brass plaques engraved with the names of important people who had visited the restaurant were hanging on the walls. Small cabinets filled with books and holders for salt and pepper were randomly placed around the room. The light from the antique lamps was soft, but bright enough so everyone could see the hundreds of details that seemed to fill every corner.

Lost in thought, I suddenly realized I had been neglecting my date, and quickly grabbed the menu, as thick as an encyclopedia, in order to clear my head. Now I was facing another problem, to find my meal – clearly a needle in a haystack – in this humongous menu.

But my date was facing the same ordeal, so I took my time. We ordered deep fried mushrooms with tartar sauce and crispy fried-mini ham rolls as an opener. I chose the "Dreierleifleisch," a serving made out of three different types of meat, all prepared in a different way, and my date chose the roasted duck with marmalade. Overtaken by the restaurant’s Austrian tradition, I decided to go with the Zweigelt, a dry red wine that is a crossing of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, and this decision I did not regret.

Among the crowd of waiters who seemed to be everywhere, I noticed another man – short, chubby and with a thick mustache, like the ones old people wear in the cartoons – going through the rooms, shaking hands with the guests. Could he know everybody? I was just getting up to visit the men’s room when this guy came to our table, smiled at both of us and shook our hands. He was the owner of the restaurant; I was amazed. This was not the kind of owner to sit in his office or invite VIPs to dinner, but instead was going around wishing people a pleasant evening and asking if they needed anything. As he left our table he took the empty wine glasses and told the waiter to "bring another round for the young lovebirds."

On my way through the labyrinth of narrow hallways that led to the toilet, I started to lose interest in my hunger – not that I was less hungry than before, but the ambience of the restaurant had begun to take over. The chatter of conversation faded behind the baroque music from the discretely placed speakers, and I got lost in fascinating assemblage of stuff – there is not a single square meter in this restaurant that is not filled with memorabilia of the restaurant’s tavern past.

A further room held a collection of funky old furniture, small coffee tables and statues. Two old ladies were sitting at one of these tables, having a cheerful discussion and laughing. I tried the door marked WC and was amazed to find it free. On a vanity table in front of the mirror there were brushes and combes, a hair dryer, hand cream, washing gel, deodorants, white powder, perfumes and many other small handy things. There I also found a postcard: "Ich hab im Marchfelderhof pipi gemacht, und ich hab an Dich gedacht" – I had a good pee at the Marchfelderhof and thought of you.

I hurried back to my date where the meal and irresistible Zweigelt were waiting for me. Dreierleifleisch looked even better than I imagined while reading it in the menu. Three different steaks, beef, pork and turkey, all prepared in a unique way were resting on my plate, nicely adorned with vegetables. Overtaken with hunger, I did not explain about my "toilet experience," but I just gave her the postcard and grabbed the fork and the knife.

Knife poised over my steak, the lights suddenly went out, the music stopped, and musicians with candles came in playing the wedding march and approached a table where a guy went down on his knee and proposed to his future wife. There was a moment of tense silence – and then she put her arms around him and said "Yes! Yes!" over and over, dissolving into happy tears. At which point the whole room burst into applause and good wishes.

At last I was back with my meal. The meat was melting in my mouth and not able to bear the suspense, I first tried a bite from each before polishing them off. We finished the meal and settled in to enjoy the wine, chatting over the wonders of the restaurant.

Before we left, we fell into conversation with the coat check lady, a Bulgarian, who took us on a stroll through the rooms, relating more of the history of the house and showing us the garden. There was also another floor, but customers had started queuing at the coatroom, so the rest would have to wait for another time.

Leaving the restaurant, we made a jarring leap into the present; in my car there were no old ornaments, no baroque music and the oldest thing inside the car was my wallet.


Restaurant Marchfelderhof

Bockfließerstraße 31, Deutsch -Wagram

Tel: (0)2247 2243

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    the vienna review December 2007 / January 2008