The Ritz-Carlton, Vienna, Austria
Andreas Mahl stops suddenly as we’re walking through the market. He’s spotted a big bowl of olives that he likes the look of. He smiles at the owner of the stall and asks if he and I can try one. Sure, he says, handing them over. They’re fantastic, he tells me. I nod in agreement – they are pretty good.
This is how my tour through the famous Naschmarkt goes. Andreas spots things that look worth trying and we stop and taste them. Cured meats, cheese, vinegar, fruits. All the people running the stalls are affable and happy to share and chat. Most of them don’t know Andreas but they are friendly anyway. Those who do know Andreas go out of their way to demonstrate their hospitality.
You see, Andreas Mahl is no ordinary tour guide. In fact, he’s not really a guide at all. He is one of Austria’s best chefs who has worked all around the world for more than two decades. Now he’s back here in Vienna as the Executive Chef of the city’s famed Ritz-Carlton hotel.
These market tours are something the Ritz-Carlton offers as an extra service to guests. To be honest, though, I’m not sure how they find the time for Andreas to go out on them. I first met him this morning when he was preparing breakfast and I will see him again this evening as he cooks dinner.
There’s a new breakfast menu at the hotel when I visit and I’m one of the first to be able to try it out. Andreas tells me that he’s found a passion for ‘superfoods’ recently and that’s what has inspired many of these dishes.
There’s chia pudding with mango puree; poached egg with avocado and black sesame seeds; organic yoghurt. But there’s something for everyone with a traditional English breakfast, albeit with a slight twist with the presentation.
There’s no doubt that the Ritz-Carlton in Vienna is all about luxury. It’s interesting, though, how this idea of ‘luxury’ has changed over time. These days I feel like a big part of it is not on simple indulgence but on health and wellness.
I see some of this firsthand when I go for a massage at the hotel’s spa. It’s relaxing and soothing and I’m sure I fall asleep at some point. But I can also feel it healing my muscles. The masseuse tells me they’re all knotted and asks me if I play a lot of sport. Ha! I guess it’s all the walking around and carrying bags I do every day.
Even though I am relatively out of shape at the moment, I was prepared to try two other healthy extras that the Ritz-Carlton offers. Unfortunately they weren’t happening on the day I was there. Oh well, maybe I should have ordered another English breakfast.
The first is the ‘concierge run’ where one of the hotel’s concierges will go out with you for a run around central Vienna in the morning. It’s part exercise and part tour – the whole point is that they show you some of the sights and point out good places to eat and drink, that you can try out later in the day.
The other offer is for yoga on the hotel’s rooftop. There are great views from up there and you’re far enough away from the streets to not have the traffic noise interrupting the session. Sadly it’s only on once or twice a week and only during the summer months.
If you’re still interested in seeing the view from the rooftop, don’t despair. There is a fantastic bar there which opens in the afternoon and is a great spot to watch the sunset.
One of the reasons that the view of Vienna from the rooftop is so good is the location of the Ritz-Carlton. It is right on the Ringstrasse, the iconic street that circles the inner city. The Ringstrasse was built to replace the old city walls and it hosts some of the most important public buildings and opulent private homes.
The Ritz-Carlton building today is actually made up of four separate palaces that were all able to be converted into the one hotel. (Interestingly, there are still places where the corridors go up or down a few steps for no apparent reason. This is where the buildings were previously separated and the floors were on different levels.)
I am so impressed that much of the original design within the palaces has been kept where possible. The grand central staircase with the designs on the ceiling at the top; wooden artwork above fireplaces; colourful painted features on the walls.
The rooms are modern and tastefully decorated. They all have a lot of space and the more prestigious ones have multiple areas. But they still fit in perfectly with the historic elements from the palaces that have been retained.
In the evening I head down from my room to the hotel’s main restaurant, called Dstrikt Steakhouse. It’s here that I see Andreas again. The meal at Dstrikt is top notch with the steak cooked to perfection and just the right mix of sides to go with it. You know what else went well with it? A few glasses of excellent red wine, recommended by the waiter.
You can have your superfoods for breakfast, go for a run or get a massage, try some yoga on the rooftop. That’s the new healthy side to luxury I mentioned earlier.
But, to my mind, there’s still nothing that beats a good hearty steak and a few glasses of wine to really indulge. Here at The Ritz-Carlton in Vienna, it’s all on offer.
Time Travel Turtle was supported by The Ritz-Carlton but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.