Le Salzgries: Bistro Flair

Form Venerable Kaffeehaus To Chic French Dining

Services | Lisa Malzer | February 2007

Up Marc Aurel Strasse above Schwedenplatz is a sophisticated French bistro, Le Salzgries. When business at Café Salzgries unraveled after Profil Magazine uprooted and moved across the canal to the NEWS Group building, Denis König—formerly chef at Aux Gazelles—snapped up the space and transformed the comfortable old suite of rooms into an appealing, approachable restaurant of understated elegance. And below, a bar and wine cellar available for private parties that stretches out under the arched ceiling framed by racks of vintage bottles lining the walls.

The restaurant has excellent ratings for food, service, and atmosphere in the trusted "Top Tipp Lokalführer." Classics like escargot in garlic parsley butter, and filet de boeuf in green pepper sauce with potato au gratin are some of the menu highlights. The oysters, served cold and slithery with a squeeze of fresh lemon, are not to be missed.

On my second visit, I felt elegant passing through the thick wooden doors with handles in heavy polished brass. I was not at all over the top wearing a dress and heels. French and Austrian newspapers hung from racks and an attentive employee took my coat immediately as I walked in.  My husband and I were guided to our table and ushered into our seats.

In the dining room, small tables draped in white linen run down both sides of the wooden paneled space topped with candles in brightly colored glass. The leather upholstered benches and wooden bistro chairs are both comfortable and refined.

The round hanging lamps glowed overhead like moonlight for lovers—we at least were enchanted. Bistros are sometimes bustling, the din too great for conversation. Le Salzgries was different. Though full, it was still relaxed, the service marked with effortless savior-faire and with the charming, civilized lilt of a largely French speaking clientele—always a good sign.

Although it is too polished for a typical small town French mood, the food is authentic. I started with escargot accompanied by recommended champagne. Served the traditional way in a white dish, the unsalted butter let the fresh parsley and garlic shine—in other bistros the snails are often over-salted.

The attentive staff served the second dish, fois gras, prepared delicately with warm, sweet caramelized apples. The sommelier recommended a Bordeaux—a stunning contrast to the subtle entrée, and a fine accompaniment to the following dishes.

Le plat principal, an exquisitely prepared filet de boeuf, was tender and flavorfully accented with fresh herbs. The gratin, crispy and golden on top, revealed perfectly sliced potatoes underneath.

Un petit assortiment de fromages was a satisfying choice afterwards. Beside the table, the waitress prepared several cheeses atop a rustic wooden block, explaining their ages and origins. The cheese was served with large, succulent red grapes.

For the quality of the fare, the prices are reasonable, but still moderately high—entrees between €8 and €23, main dishes between €20 and €30. The restaurant encourages its customers to feel at home, accommodating late working hours and dogs. The menu is written in French and German; dress is smart casual—no jeans.

In a city like Vienna, it is perhaps undignified for a reviewer to find no fault with a restaurant, but on this particular evening, there was simply none to find.

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