Beaulieu: a Bistro in a Beautiful Place
A new bistro in the 1st District carves out a niche among French culinary offerings in Vienna, and the locals like it
On the façade of La Mère Catherine on Montmartre’s Place du Tertre, a sign claims that on 30 Mar. 1814, Cossack soldiers occupying Paris shouted out "быстро", meaning "quick" in Russian, and thus began the storied history of a venerable French tradition, the bistro. It’s likely an urban legend, but you’ll never convince le proprietaire of La Mère Catherine.
This famed Parisian institution has found a home in Vienna beneath the Italianate vault of the Freyung Passage, echoing with the babbling of a nearby fountain. Beaulieu feels like a piece of French campagne suspended within the two-story vault, lined with black and white tiles that recall Portugese azulejos. Its "terrace" lines the arcades of the Passage, and inside the Thonet-design chairs gather around black thumbtack tables.
Like other bistros in Vienna, Beaulieu owners Anna and Christoph Heinrich offer modest menus with items that are relatively quick and easy to prepare. Only they’ve added an épicerie fine, selling paté, over 50 varieties of cheese, and even more specialities. For light fare, their menu offers a selection of salads, baguette sandwiches, and croques (monsieur and mademoiselle), which make up the entire menu at Vienna’s other bistros like Le Bol on Neuer Markt 14, or Café Pierre in Windmühlgasse 32. At Beaulieu, the menu goes a step further with warm bistro favourites like coq au vin and bouillabaisse that, unlike at Le Salzgries in Marc-Aurel-Str. 6, remain under €20. (For a review of Le Bol, see TVR Apr. 2010, p. 22; for Le Salzgries, see or click TVR May 2011, p. 27)
For starters we tried a daring cocktail d’écrevisses dumped into half an avocado, with a side salad dowsed in mustard dressing. Although the crayfish burst with flavour, the blanket of mayonnaise sauce drowned out the subtle flavours of the avocado. A British patron described the quiche Lorraine as "blinding", which must be a good thing. Other starters like steak tartare, Viennese escargots, sardines from Belle-Ile, and Gillardeau huîtres (oysters) could just as well serve as a light lunch.
Although usually reserved for after the meal, we then opted for a cheese plate arranged from mild to strong, and varying from day to day. A fuzzy goat cheese from the Loire Valley led to a brie de Meaux oozing over the edge of the plate, followed by sharp wedges of gruyère, and a fourme d’Ambert from Auvergne, one of France’s oldest blue cheeses. The finale, a pungent Munster required a smear of quince jelly to tame the flavour. It all suited the bistro’s own thin, crusty baguettes, which are impossible to find anywhere else in Vienna because they’re imported frozen from France.
Having skipped the kirs, créments, pastis, and other apéritifs, we started with an average Languedoc red house wine (not for tasting!), and followed with an unimpressive Madiran of weak bouquet or release from nez to nez, but a suitable accompaniment to what came next.
En avant! to the main course. The coq au vin was acceptable: the chicken on the dry side, with an excellent red wine sauce of ham cubes, mushroom, bay leaf, and a twig of thyme. As a classic campagne touch, the chicken dish came in an old, used enamel pot with an exposed iron rim, likely straight out of grand-mère’s kitchen.
As if the delicacies from the sea on the entrée list weren’t enough, palourdes à la crème (clams), brochette de crevettes et de Saint-Jacques (shrimp and scallops on a skewer), and daurade royale (sea bream) tempted our palates.
In the end, the victor of the evening was the succulent souris d’agneau, a knuckle of lamb with juice dripping from the marrow into a gravy with soft carrots. Incroyable! I could sense a bit of the same glory the Russians must have felt having just defeated Napolean. If they were looking forward to the souris d’agneau, it’s no surprise they wanted the waitress to bring it bistro!
We finished off with a satisfying crème brûlée, but will certainly try one of the pastries the next time we storm Paris... pardon, Beaulieu!
1., Herrengasse 14/18
(01) 532 11 03