The plain off-white walls of Dstrikt restaurant at Vienna’s newest luxury hotel, the Ritz-Carlton on Schubert Ring, have been decorated with black silhouettes and words of wisdom by designer Peter Schilling. A blackboard lists daily specials. The ceiling is like a series of mazes of metal, coming down from above.
It is fun. The gal was also taken next door, to the hotel’s D-Bar, for even more fun. Presumably the bar is named for its neighbour, Dstrikt (yes, spelled just like that). The best way of describing the interior of the bar, after one viewing when there was so much else to see other than Peter Schilling’s design, is that it could possibly be compared to a squash court-sized luxury padded cell, with one entire wall actually windows, looking out to Schubert Ring. Tables spill out there in summer.
All year long, and far into the night, locals come here for cocktails and a smoke (yes, the Viennese still smoke – they must have a fit when they go to Peru…). Colours here are dark and exciting, but that is part of the appeal. The main entertainment when I was there were the mixologists, scientists creating a new lifestyle.
One drink comes in a bottle filled with smoke. Pour the liquid from the bottle on to the ball of ice already waiting in your glass. I did not try the drink but I was fascinated by the smoke. A mixologist cum scientist showed me what to do.
First take a Bunsen burner, just like in science lessons at school a few years back (OK, you could call it a blow torch but I think Bunsen burner makes it sound more scientific). Now take a handful of applewood chips, which you burn heartily.
I am sure it is essential to have specific applewood, and from particular trees but frankly as long as they are Austrian they fit the picture of this amazing hotel that shows Austrian style in the 21st century. You are burning the applewood chips long enough to get masses of smoke and this is then put, via the burner’s nozzle, into the bottle that already has the alcohol iin it.
OK, do not ask what the point of all this is. It is the Science of Lifestyle, and this hotel is mastering this art, or science, extraordinarily well. It is, in fact, creating new ideas that are not yet the norm in luxury travel, but since everyone craves differentiation, you certainly find it here.
At the same time, you know you are in Austria. Remember, Wini Brugger, who still runs his own Indochine restaurant here in Vienna, oversees the food in Dstrikt, and possibly also the all-day snacks and full breakfast in the lobby lounge, popular with locals who consider it as normal as cleaning your teeth to have coffee and cake mid-morning (and they dress up for it, too).
Dine in Dstrikt, by the way, and when you sit down the nibbles that come, to help you choose what you want properly to eat, are a selection of cold cuts and local breads, including some studded with pumpkin seeds. The cold cuts have been sliced specially for you, on the bright scarlet Berkel machine that sits on a family-style wood table just inside the restaurant’s main door.
And there are cold cuts galore up in the seventh-floor Executive Club Lounge, where Ritz-Carlton’s usual five food presentations every day are not only copious but so beautiful you feel you never want to eat anywhere else.
The five food presentations are standard Ritz-Carlton. I first came across the idea of food, any time, up in the lounge, in the Club Lounge of Ritz-Carlton San Francisco. Oh how welcoming it was – it is – after ploughing, or rather walking or trying to run, up and down Nob Hill.
One, even the fittest of travellers, is exhausted, and to be able to access the eighth floor lounge for a little sustenance, any time of day, is really appreciated. Club lounge presentations like this also, of course, give a hotel’s chefs the opportunity for creativity.
But what is new about this particular lounge, here at Ritz-Carlton Vienna, is the glass-fronted fridge which is full of Austrian fruit drinks and Austrian yoghurts. it is there, filled all day and evening long, for you to help yourself.
This new-new Ritz-Carlton is, indeed, lots of fun, with the style and polish that top international travellers expect from a true luxury hotel.