Cafe Sperl, Vienna

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The Cafe Sperl provided us with an authentic, enjoyable introduction to Viennese food, and to the cities famed traditional cafe scene. We thoroughly recommend you pay the cafe a visit. Before we continue with the review, here are some more images we took whilst there to give you an idea of the place.

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If you were to read TripAdvisor and take notice of many of the reviews you’d think that the Sperl was a dingy old cafe with unsmiling staff, indecipherable menus and other customers who’d physically disapprove of you using a smartphone or any device that had the slightest scent of modernity, but in our experience none of that is true. Far from it, in fact.

Service was friendly and very quick; all of our food came within ten minutes of us ordering. The menu was written in clear English as well as German…

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…prices were fair and every single one of the other customers  - who were a good mixture of young and old – was content to do their own thing; nobody felt the need to bother us or frown whilst Lamia made notes about the meal on her smartphone, as the online remarks had led us to believe they would. Indeed, many people were tapping away on computers – as you can see in our photos above – and there was no hint of the luddite snobbery so talked about by previous reviewers.

It’s true that a group of older people at our next table looked at us a few times with curiosity as we took photos of our food, but wouldn’t people do that anywhere? I think so.

The cafe had no music or TV playing which allowed for easy conversations and the fittings conveyed a gentle, old world charm and gravitas. Thick wooden furniture, plenty of huge wall mirrors, brass light fittings and three billiard tables, with one covered by a large selection of daily newspapers that customers were free to read.

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We arrived tired, we’d just been touring the nearby Naschmarkt (a large, photogenic food market) and the brilliant ‘Third Man Museum’ all day, so we got ourselves seated (you don’t wait to be seated at the Sperl, it’s taken that you’re intelligent enough to find your own way to the seat) and started with hot drinks; it’d been cold and rainy outside so we needed to warm up. Lamia had a hot chocolate with whipped cream and I the cream chocolate.

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The hot chocolate was milky and very chocolatey.

“The milk’s not too thick and it’s clear that real whipped cream has been used,” said Lamia, “not the swooshy cream we often have in Canada. Lovely.”

My cream chocolate was super thick and chocolatey; it’s fair to say I had a choice of either drinking it or eating it with a spoon. It’d cost four euro but in my opinion it the quality ingredients and satisfying taste were worth every cent.

Next Lamia had the vegetable cream soup.

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“Wow this is so delicious,” Lamia said. “It’s creamy, I can taste and see all the carrots and other veggies and it’s warmed me straight through. There’s some crispy bits I don’t recognise but they add really nice texture. It’s not too spicy and the bright mustard yellow is just wonderful. Really yummy!”

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I had the Italian toast with pesto tomato mozzarella.

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I liked this as a starter. The pesto flavour came through strongly and together with the cheese provided a satisfyingly thick topping to the crunchy toast. The salads were bright, simple and fresh; perfect.

Next I had the roasted dumplings with egg and salad.

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It was just like an omelette that’s been broken up into large chunks, but with a light dumpling inside and topped with chives . It was an entirely known and familiar food to me but with a slightly different style of presentation. The portion size was good and the accompanying salad was topped with small bits of potato and a mustard vinaigrette. All in all, a very nice main course.

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For her main course Lamia had the Viennese turkey schnitzel with salad and cranberries.

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“I was a little worried about eating schnitzel,” Lamia said, “I thought it’d be all pork, or some odd tasting thing. But I’m happy I took a chance on this as it’s lovely. It’s basically flattened, breaded and deep fried meat, a very familiar concept to me, and it goes so well with the sweet cranberry sauce.”

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In summary, we enjoyed our meal at Cafe Sperl and would highly recommend a visit. The food is good, the prices are fair, the atmosphere is friendly and calm and if you’re searching for a hint of what remains of old Vienna then chances are you’ll find it here. A tip; order all of your food at once as we observed that the waitress only visited tables twice; once to take the order, the second time to take payment. This might seem odd but don’t worry, as long as you don’t expect the constant, over fussy service that’s common at many chain cafes nowadays and you behave yourself just like your parents taught you and use your common sense, you’ll fit right in.

To discover more, please visit http://www.cafesperl.at/

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