The Critic

Wiener Schnitzel was on the menu. Good.

As a contributor to Das Café magazine, I tried to order the same “benchmark” food in every Viennese coffee house that I reviewed.

I was an anonymous restaurant critic. My picture was never published, nor my real name ever revealed. It helped. I would be treated like any other customer; and would get an authentic experience of the establishment.  My anonymous self was a legend of sorts among restauranteurs and cafe owners in Austria, evoking both fear and respect.

It had been ten minutes since the waiter had handed me the menu. After that mammoth task, he seemed to have disappeared. I looked around the coffee house and it didn’t look busy. There were a couple of more customers, engrossed with reading their newspapers and writing their novels.

After what seemed like an eternity, said waiter appeared over the horizon. He looked at me curiously, wondering where I had come from. And what would you like today, sir? The Wiener Schnitzel please and a glass of Zwettler. He frowned, as if a crime had been committed. I will check if that is still available, sir, as it is quite late for our lunch menu. With that, he removed himself from the scene.

The clock ticked and I grew older. I looked toward the kitchen door hoping for a glimpse of my reluctant server. He appeared suddenly through the doors, like a showman, and walked over to me. My heart skipped a beat as he had a fierce look upon his face. It is indeed available, sir. If I may serve your beer while the chef prepares it for you?

Zwettler Bier

Zwettler Bier

I took a sip of the cold beer, quite refreshing on a sunny Vienna afternoon. Governments were overthrown and nations waged war. Post those events, my Wiener Schnitzel was served. I gulped it down ferociously, looking around nervously, hunger having transported me to the days of yore when I had to watch out for Wildlings trying to steal my lunch.

Wiener Schnitzel

Wiener Schnitzel

After a satisfying few minutes, I was ready for my coffee. I help up my arm – the Einspänner, please. It was good practise, done under the watchful eye of my coach, the waiter. I did a few reps. The Einspänner, please.

Stars collapsed into black holes, and parallel universes were formed. The aftermath of those celestial occurrences was my favourite coffee being placed in front of me. I devoured the whipped cream and downed the espresso.

Einspänner Coffee

Einspänner Coffee

There was enough material now for my review. The food was good, the flavours elegantly brought out. 8/10. The charming ambience of the cafe amplified the experience. 9/10.

But the service…hmm. The service was…

… Impeccable! 10/10. A customer couldn’t hope for more! This was the stuff that great Viennese coffee houses were made of. What a wonderful experience this had been. I left a generous tip and on my way out waved cheerfully to my friend, one of the best waiters I had ever had ever seen. He grimaced at me in return.

Author’s note: This is a humorous take on the grumpiness of the Austrian waiter, an essential part of the “Viennese charm” of local coffee houses. Having seen Asian hospitality and the cheerfulness of service staff in North America and the UK, this came across as quite a unique experience! It was not rudeness or inefficiency, but more of non chalance. It was a recurrent theme, not just in Austria but also Germany and The Czech Republic.

Pictures taken with my Huawei Honor 7 mobile.

Categories: Europe, Fiction

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. As a lifetime member of the service industry, this post nestled write into my heart. I’ve been an hourly and a manager for multiple establishments in the Midwest, and one on the southwest coast. Yet, I have so much to learn. I am a baby to the industry, and thank you so much for sharing!!


  2. I love Wiener Schnitzel. For this half German foodie, its enjoyment is eclipsed by only one other German main course: Sauerbraten!! My favorite dessert? Hmmm. That would be a tie between apple strudel or Rival Kuga!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: