10 BEST Fitness & Spas Food & Wine Lifestyle Luxury Hotels Travel

The home of the world’s best chocolate cake is a luxury hotel in Vienna

Evening-suited ceramic dogs on the mantelpiece…

Evening-suited ceramic dogs on the mantelpiece…

These three chirpy ceramic dogs, each about 12 inches high, stand atop the mantelpiece of the Pelléas & Mélisande Suite (number 719) on the rooftop level of Hotel Sacher Wien. The gal loves their facial expressions. Haughty is an understatement, here. Above a working log-look fire, and below an oil of a cow, they actually appear to dominate the really gorgeous salon of this suite.  It is another Pierre-Yves Rochon design – as different from London’s Four Seasons Park Lane and The Savoy; Four Seasons George V, Paris, and even Hotel Bristol, Vienna, as you can imagine.  Everything Rochon does is unique.

.. and looking out at Staatsoper

.. and looking out at Staatsoper

He did not have to contrive the view. Look south from the salon and, just a few yards across Philharmonikerstrasse, you have the amazing green copper roofs of the Staatsoper, designed by August Sicard von Sicardsburg – Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth attended the opening, a performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, May 25th, 1869. Pelléas & Mélisande, the suite, has an L-shaped balcony, for opera and Kärntnerstrasse viewing – it extends along the suite’s east flank, past the dining area and the bedroom. Inside, you can turn west from the bedroom, via closet to the bathroom that is parallel to the bedroom-dining, clever.  Rochon has used champagne colours with hints of burgundy, say a standing floor lamp on a banana-shaped spindle rising to a Chinese coolie hat with burgundy figurative fabric on its outside.

One view of one of the luscious public rooms

One view of one of the luscious public rooms

There is masses of burgundy colour downstairs, in the rich public areas of the building first opened by the Sacher family in 1876 – it was called Hotel de l’Opera, then.  Yes, this is the same Sacher of the sachertorte, the signature cake invented by 16-year old Franz Sacher for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in 1832. Jump forward to 2013. Now, 300,000 sachertortes are handmade each year, in a production factory near Vienna airport. They are couriered worldwide, and sold in the Sacher hotels in Innsbruck, Salzburg and here in Vienna, where the hotel, which takes up a whole block, has a Sacher Café, a Sacher Stube and a Sacher Eck, all of which seem to be 100 percent full from breakfast time through to midnight or beyond.

Lady of the house, Elisabeth Gürtler

Lady of the house, Elisabeth Gürtler

Today’s head of the Sacher dynasty is the lovely and talented Elisabeth Gürtler, who is hands-on in strategy for the 149-room Hotel Sacher Wien (a Leading hotel) and its non-stop operations. She used to run the annual Opera Ball but she moved on from that to taking charge of the Spanish Riding School, of which more anon.  At dinner in the Röte Bar – also completely full, with locals (visitors, reserve far ahead via the hotel’s concierge) – she holds court. She expands in detail about her love of dogs:  her own Jack Russell is on the cover of the hotel’s dog brochure.  Stay here and if you have four legs you have a choice of bed sizes, and leads, and foods, and local walks and canine-friendly shops. This is an ideal dog hotel. The only things the four-legged cannot do are spa, or come to the restaurants.

Boiled beef with vegetables, rösti and creamed spinach

Boiled beef with vegetables, rösti and creamed spinach

We have two legs each, and here in Röte Bar it is time to try Viennese specialties, and there is no-one better to advise than the restaurant’s manager, Wolfgang Ebner, who has been here a staggering 42 years.  He suggests goose liver followed by tafelspitz, namely Tri-tip beef (the triangular bit at the base of the loin, close to the back leg) boiled in water, with vegetables. This is shown to me in a large copper pan, swimming in its cooking broth.  I get, on the plate, a slab of beef and the veggies, and spinach purée and rösti potatoes. There are side sauces, apple and horseradish. We taste Wolfgang Ebner’s choice of local wines, Grüner Veltliner Weingut Fink 2012, Gsellmann & Hans, Blauer Zweigelt 2011 and Röter Eiswein Weinrieder St Laurent.

Is this the ultimate elegant breakfast buffet?

Is this the ultimate elegant breakfast buffet?

Only a few hours later I wake up in this gorgeous luxury hotel, and head for the gym, which opens at six. I shower with the hotel’s signature Time To Chocolate shampoo – yes, it does slightly smell of chocolate – and head down to yet another glorious 19th century reception room, the Marble Room, for breakfast.  I sit at a white-linen table looking at amazing wall panels of butterflied white marble with beefsteak-like streaks, almost a reminder of last night’s memorable dinner.  I look up at staggeringly beautiful Austrian chandeliers, and then head to the adjacent room which hosts the buffet.  I order an omelette from a young chef, who warrants 10/10 for grooming, and check what the buffet actually has. The croissants are about the best I remember but, you know what, I cannot even bring myself to sample one of the Sachertortes on the display, and there are three versions there, plus Laurent-Perrier…. Oh what style!