Schubertring 12 in Vienna is now home to a restaurant with an old name – a name steeped in legend and lore. In a sense, the Meissl & Schadn name stands for the memory of everything that once made Viennese cuisine illustrious and grand. So much time has passed since the restaurant at Neuer Markt was destroyed during the 1945 liberation of the city that the name resonates only with the few who once rushed to its doors, their mouths watering in delicious anticipation.
After all, turn-of-the-century Vienna, where the Meissl & Schadn hotel and restaurant opened in 1896, was practically the centre of the world. It was here, in the capital of a crumbling multinational state, where ideas were conceived that would shape the world throughout the 20th century and beyond – for better or for worse. It was the city of Sigmund Freud and Arnold Schönberg, of Trotzki and Hitler, of Loos and Wittgenstein, of Billy Wilder and Friedrich von Hayek, and of numerous other geniuses and criminals. The unique blend of peoples, religions and flashes of inspiration was explosive yet incredibly productive. It was the perfect breeding ground for the modern age.
The same was true for Viennese cuisine, which assumed its definitive form at this time. At its core, it was the first cosmopolitan cuisine – so brazenly and naturally it borrowed from the ideas, influences and traditions of every corner of the empire (and beyond) that could be found in the bubbling metropolis.
It was in this Vienna that Meissl & Schadn served the locals their cuisine with incomparable richness and class: the "common people" ate in the "horse trough" on the ground floor, while "society", the ostensibly better – or at least financially better off – dined on the first floor.
Here, Vienna's cuisine was revered with savoir faire and proud devotion. According to legend, enough different types of boiled beef needed to be prepared to be able to satisfy even the most particular of preferences of the restaurant's illustrious guests. Other Viennese classics, too, were served in excellent quality – from Styrian roast chicken and stuffed breast of veal to grilled pikeperch and the dish that connoisseurs of the city's cuisine would export around the world: Wiener Schnitzel.
The Meissl & Schadn provides a worthy home for the city's greatest legacy. Although Schnitzel is Austria's favourite dish, these days it is rarely prepared in the traditional way – pan fried – with the attention and commitment to unconditional quality it deserves. This icon of our cuisine is long overdue for its own temple, where it is fried to perfection, achieving true greatness.
The time has finally come. The characteristic sound emanating from the Schnitzel show kitchen is the lovely, regular rhythm of cutlets expertly being pounded flat. Heard throughout the Meissl & Schadn, the sound heralds the delicious meal to come. Cut from veal, the cutlets are dredged in cage-free eggs and breadcrumbs from an artisanal Bakery. Fried golden brown in the finest butter, rich lard or neutral vegetable oil and served with your choice of garnishes – some long forgotten – and sides, it is presented with such grandeur that it might just bring tears of joy to the eyes of even the most self-restrained Schnitzel connoisseurs.
But that is by no means all. Meissl & Schadn of course continues Austria's culture of table-side service of its legendary beef dishes, such as Tafelspitz, flat iron steak and short ribs, as well as a number of other great Viennese classics and their more rustic cousins. Whether pickled herring or roast beef with almond horseradish, cauliflower with breadcrumbs or pike dumplings with saffron sabayon, caramelised yeast dumplings or the crème du jour, all of these marvellous yet forgotten culinary treasures, which cosmopolitan Vienna used to fuel the accomplishments of its sons and daughters, are now being resurrected with new panache, more than a century after the first Meissl & Schadn opened its doors. At a worthy location and with the aim of rekindling the passion for Viennese cuisine.