Ma Crêperie: Warm End to a Cold Night
Romantic and aristocratic, the family restaurant Ma Crêperie offers truly French cuisine and a taste of Viennese history
It was the first night that was noticeably colder in Vienna, a nip in the air and a sting to the wind. On Grünangergasse in the 1st District, we found Ma Crêperie, a family-owned, Lebanese-French restaurant, where a fireplace lit in the corner of the dining room and the choice of music – Bon Iver, or "good winter" – provided the perfect ambiance for the beginning of the season.
Six separate dining rooms were laid out like the floor plan of an historic palace. The red salon was where we took our meal, breathing in the barely-noticeable scent of the genuine antique furniture as we were seated. Thick, draped curtains and renaissance-style paintings decorated the four walls. Romantic, rustic and a touch aristocratic…
About 200 years old, the "home" of Ma Crêperie does in fact hold quite a history. Through the centuries, the building has welcomed guests like composers Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler, but also artist Hans Richter and writer Franz Grillparzer. It is in this fashion that the restaurant remains true to its past by offering cuisine that is loyal to French tradition.
This night it was a bottle of 2010 Côtes-du-Rhône Belleruche (€26.60) to begin. While we waited, the melancholic music continued and the dim lighting of the red-themed room brought desirable warmth. Other guests were tucked away in corners, seeming as if they had been there for hours; candles burned down to stubs.
When our bottle arrived and our wine was poured, we, too, settled in. The choice was just the right thing for the evening; a fine wine, very smooth as can be expected of a grape that grows along the Rhône in France. With red fruit aromas and a hint of spice, it provided even more of the inner warmth we needed. We decided on the two things Ma Crêperie is most known for: their bouillabaisse and their crêpes. Of the nine crêpes salées, we chose the saumon fumé for €13.20. La bouillabaisse was €17.90.
Served in a cast-iron pot, it was a "bouillabaisse pure" like those typically found in France, honouring the traditions of Provence and the Côte d’Azur
It took a while for the food to arrive. Perhaps the chef was feeling just as peaceful as the rest of us. The wine held us over, though, and was a good incentive for long and thoughtful conversation. It was also a great chance to take another look at the menu to decide which dessert we could enjoy at the end of our meal.
When our dishes finally reached the table it was another warm welcome to this cold evening. The bouillabaisse was served in a cast-iron pot to ensure it stayed warm over the progression of our meal. It was a "bouillabaisse pure" like those typically found in France, honouring the traditions of Provence and the Côte d’Azur. An assortment of filleted sole, salmon, monkfish, mussels, shrimp and prawns, along with vegetables and fresh saffron, it was hearty and filling. The toasted French bread and servings of rouille and garlic butter were a complement to the dish in both texture and taste.
The crêpe was more novel and equally pleasing, quite different from what you would find in the street stands of Paris. It was presented simply; folded into four corners, glazed with creamed cheese and baked to a slight crisp on the outside. The filling was plentiful and rich: leaf spinach, mushroom cream, and smoked salmon were layered so that each bite contained a bit of each. The bites had to be small, though – creamy and heavy, even half of the serving was filling.
Not wanting to face the outside just yet, the last two glasses of wine were poured. As the meal drew to a close, a sweet final course seemed more than fitting. Mousse au chocolat and farandole de sorbet were both tempting choices. But there was another crêpe menu that was waiting to be explored: les crêpes sucrées.
Here the selection was again diverse. Some had more fruit than others, some were simple with only jam and sugar. Our choice, the blanche-noire, seemed to have all the right ingredients for a perfect dessert. With apricot puree, toasted almonds, whipped cream, both chocolate and vanilla sauces, a scoop of lemon sorbet and a Curaçao Bleu liqueur, it might sound overwhelming. Indeed, it was nearly too much. But the amounts of each ingredient were well thought-out so that the chocolate did not take away from the apricot, and the lemon sorbet went perfectly with the liqueur.
We nearly made it… but in the end, we had to leave a few bites on our plate. The creamy ingredients of French cuisine had not left one inch of room.
We were the last to leave the red salon of Ma Crêperie that night. And admittedly, it was hard to break away; the elegant and romantic feel, and cosy lack of pretension had suited us just right. The food: a bit pricey, but nothing unreasonable for a 1st District meal.
Walking down the Grünangergasse, we felt a strange calm and finally had attained the warmth we needed. To find such an authentic restaurant seems a rarity today, the glimpse of history only adding to the charm… that’s Ma Crêperie. For us, a happy discovery.
1., Grünangergasse 10
Mon. – Fri., 17:00 – 23:30
Sat., Sun., 11:00 – 23:30
(01) 512 56 87, www.macreperie.at
For more on French restaurants in Vienna, see:
"Dining in the Grand Sky" in Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010 TVR
"Le Bol: Charme Ordinaire" in April 2010 TVR
"Le Salzgries: French Cuisine Courante" in May 2011 TVR
"Beaulieu: A Bistro in a Beautiful Place" in April 2012 TVR