The word ‘Sacher’ immediately conjures up the world’s best-known chocolate torte, of which 360,000, all made here in Vienna, are shipped worldwide every year. Sacher is also one of the world’s ultimate hotels – in fact there are two, one in Salzburg currently undergoing major renovation, and the signature Sacher Hotel, here in Vienna, just north of Staatsoper, and so intertwined with it that the gal could be forgiven for wondering where the opera house finished and the luxury hotel started. This property goes back to 1876, when Eduard Sacher and his wife Anna started the hotel, but wow is it up to date. Most of the main public rooms are like sets for Victorian melodrama, as on the left, but you have continual elements of surprise.
See the dish above, described in the Röte Restaurant menu as cucumber salad with gin and tonic sorbet and Szechuan pepper. Well, I am not sure about the pepper and the cucumber did not exactly stand out but the whole dish looked, and tasted, truly memorable, and the restaurant’s manager, Wolfgang Ebner, who has been here 45 years, smiled as always (I followed this up, by the way, with a Viennese classic, Sacher tafelspitz, boiled beef with apple horseradish, another horseradish sauce and plain grated horseradish). I was with the hotel’s MD, Reiner Heilmann, and its Co-CEO, Matthias Winkler, both of whom know so many people in the village that is Vienna that when we left the restaurant it took them ten minutes to get past all the other diners.
Matthias Winkler has taken over the general operations of the entire Sacher group from his mother-in-law, the legendary Elisabeth Gürtler: he looks after two hotels, two cafes, half a dozen outlets connected to Hotel Sacher Wien and all those cakes. Winkler’s wife Alexandra and her brother Georg, also titled Co-CEOs, are constantly in touch and the three have formal meetings every quarter. The group invests, heavily, currently in the Salzburg hotel and in the Sacher Eck here in the Vienna hotel. It is only a few years ago that the biggest investment in a century saw two new floors added to what had been a five-floor hotel. This visit I was right up on the top, in #717, named for Janáček’s opera Káťa Kabanová. Number 717 is a Pierre-Yves Rochon triumph, a haven of powder blue and oatmeal, with two big terraces – see the video below.
They really look after their team members at this luxury hotel and the Matthias Winkler-led Sacher School of Excellence includes classes on such topics as Austrian politics and the history of Vienna. Many things, however, do not need to be taught. After an early breakfast – another outstanding buffet, by the way, and I had already supplemented the restaurant’s coffee with my choice of four Nespresso flavours in the easy-use DeLonghi espresso machine in my room – I rushed out to try, for the sake of general knowledge, public transport to the airport. I knew I could buy a subway ticket from the concierge. Here it is, with our compliments, said concierge Uwe Kotzendorfer with what I now call a Sacher Smile. What a lovely final gesture: that €2.20 ticket was, particularly at that moment, more welcome than a €20 box of chocolates, even if they had been Sacher. And, for the record, getting to and from the airport is easy as pie; two stops on the subway, follow big plane signs to CAT (City Airport Train), buy €12 ticket with American Express, the twice-hourly train that then takes 16 minutes right to the terminals. SEE A VIDEO OF SUITE 717, BELOW