Courting Café am Schottenring

Edward Steen | April 2013

As I walk past the Café am Schottenring, one of the last four Ringstrasse cafés, it saddens me to see it swathed in plastic scaffolding, its fate uncertain as the rest of the building is noisily transformed into yet another nest for high-priced lawyers.

Standing opposite the lifeless old Stock Exchange, 133-year-old, the Schottenring was elegant, a little the worse for wear, and completely off the tourist track. It was a favourite Stammcafé for the police from the nearby HQ, politicians and businessmen and spooks not seeking the limelight.

So I questioned burly coffee house king Berndt Querfeld – owner of the Landtmann, Museum, and half a dozen more – whether he would step in to save the day, as had been rumoured.

He patiently explains just how tough it is, reforming a coffee-house, how many bums on seats you need – just to break even – how reluctant we are to pay a realistic price for cakes, and how dud much of the cuisine is in many of these places. These are things the average Stammgast (me) with a pile of newspapers and a long-cold Grosser Brauner prefers not to think about.

Is he going to rescue the Schottenring or not? Last summer, the new owners of the building caught fright at the storm of protest about the café shutting and contacted him.

He was on holiday with his family in Namibia at the time. He said: "I got back to find I was the new owner of the Schottenring." So will it really happen? His expression is world-weary foxy.

The project would need a lot of investment, energy and only bring very little return for a long period of time... Not hard to imagine tough negotiations are going on somewhere as you are reading this.

Other articles from this issue