Sunday, 17 September 2017

Fast Food with Imperial Touch.

Let us know what you think about table manners.

Celebrities do help to sell. Quite a few years ago I talked to the editor-in-chief of one of the many glossies about writing columns. She said that the rules are simple - a bit about celebrities, a bit about yourself, something useful for the reader [to learn], something funny to laugh about, something glamorous to enjoy [and somehow to relate to]. And don't forget the loop - finish with the reference to what you started with. What she forgot to mention was, in my book, the most important rule - a strong opinion. And that's what I have today. I strongly believe that  boiled beef in Plachutta, " a synonym for Viennese cuisine" (their own rather humble statement) is nothing else but fast food. A glamorous version of it with several outlets in Vienna.

Yes, it takes a while to boil beef. But if you put it on the hob in the morning, it is ready by lunch time. You don't even have to do much. Add some vegetables to bones and meat, roast them slightly before putting into the pot with water. Add herbs, salt, pepper to the pot, stir and remove the froth when it boils (or strain it) for clarity. This is nearly it. And then simmer and simmer and simmer... for a very long time.  The later you order your lunch there, the softer the meat. Tried and tested. Dinner's beef is impeccable. It melts in the mouth.

Boiled beef and accessories (e.g., potatoes and spinach) concept is simple. It is the same recipe cooked for years. It nears perfection. No extra movements, no frills, no extras, no need for special staff training. And it shows. Meat (they call it "tafelspitz") is served within five minutes of ordering. More difficult with drinks - the lack of training shows. The young, friendly and by the end of the evening slightly embarrassed waiters (all men. No women - this is, I believe, another part of the concept) come to our table at least five times with other people drinks.

Boiled beef concept is clearly cost efficient. Guaranteed volumes and consistency of orders are clearly reciprocated by discounted prices of suppliers. The relationships are long-standing and rather close. Plachutta claims they can trace each cow they boil to its birth. It remains unknown if the employees have to visit the calves and bring them carrots. Or whatever alpine cows consider to be a treat.  Possibly not, as it would add to the cost. Prices in Plachutta are high for fast food, but reasonable for a tourist trap.

Boiled beef is a status food. Lunch time choice for business meetings in the centre of Vienna. You have to book well in advance. You don't expect the favourite dish of the Austrian Emperor to be readily available at a short notice, do you? Even if takes no time at all to get it to you when you are at the table.

Boiled beef is a powerful concept. Emperor's favourite food doesn't leave much room to anything else. Pudding (desert) is obviously a poor relative whose name  no one knows. How otherwise you can order soufflé and be presented with something remotely resembling Victoria Sponge with some custard filling?

How it works/ the table manners for long-boiled beef (do not read if even the thought of offal makes you sick):

How it looks:

fast food noun uk /ˌfɑːst ˈfuːd/ us /ˌfæst ˈfuːd/

Celebrities help to sell. Royalties - even more so. Apparently, some food flies off the shelves due to Prince George. His school lunch menu has been published recently.

I am waiting for Plachutta's drive-through openings, though I am a bit wondering whether it would be only Bentleys and Porsches allowed to get a take-away. OK, and horse-driven carriages. There are plenty of those in Vienna.

Fast food is food. Fine if you want it fast. But it remains what it is - fast food. Even if there is an imperial touch to it.

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