The Daily Post The Taste Test by Ian Parri  (MARCH 2000)

THAT'S the problem with stereotypical images; they never ring -true. But I have to admit that as we made our way to The Austrian Restaurant I had visions of tubby, thigh-slapping waiters in befeathered hats, with dumpling-like legs protruding out of their Lederhosen, yodelling our order out to the kitchen. And wouldn't the menu be overburdened with sausages and schnitzel? Mind you, I suppose the Austrians could well have images of the Welsh as coal-mining shepherds who sing hymns as they get sozzled in grotty pubs. Or the English as buck-toothed, monocled, upper-class idiots who think that sex is what you deliver coal in. Happily, the leather trousers were nowhere to be seen. Neither could we spot anybody looking - or sounding - remotely like a member of the von Trapp family. It must have been Julie Andrews' night off. But the setting is typically Alpine, the restaurant standing at the foot of a steep. hill in the pretty village of Dwygyfylchi, above the now bypassed seaside town of Penmaemnawr. And as one approaches a rare Welsh example of a Teutonic eatery on a crisp March night, the gleam of light streaming through the windows and the whitewashed walls offer at least a glimpse of the typical Tyrolean welcome. However there goes another stereotype right out of the window.

 

Co-owner and chef Fredi Pigler comes from Baden, on the outskirts of the very cosmopolitan capital of Vienna, rather than the remoter skiers' paradise of the Tyrol. And his wife, Judith, who takes charge of the rest of the operation, hails from Beaumaris, on Anglesey. Indeed,- the twinkling lights of her home town ran be clearly seen in the distance when the spring, growth of trees don't obscure it. We could have opted to pop in for a preparatory drink in either of two pubs which lie within a stone's throw of the restaurant, Y Dwyg fylchi next door, or the Fairy Glen just a few yards further away. Or we could have chosen to taste a schnapps, or an Austrian beer, like Gosser, in the restaurant's newly-opened Edelweiss Stube, a cosy bar furnished in gleaming wood, which also offers a shorter menu that appears to provide excellent value for money. However the car driver's curse steered us away from the Stube and into the a la carte restaurant. Not that it was over- priced, anyhow.

With sensible tablecloths, and the walls sparingly adorned by a selection of cow- bells and a Jack and Jill weather-house, the decor was sufficiently Alpine without going over the top.

 

The service was rapid and efficient, and no sooner had our coats been taken away than the starters arrived. Madam had opted for the schinkenrolle, rolled ham stuffed with mixed vegetables and mayonnaise, which she declared to be delicious and just the right portion for a light eater. But she had to be satisfied with it, anyhow. I ventured for the gulaschsuppe, known in a parallel existence as goulash soup. It was wonderfully spicy and piquant, reminiscent of similar hors d'ouvres enjoyed on trips to Hungary and nothing like the insipid versions usually served over here. If Madarn felt that that the schinkenrolle had been a light eater's portion the rindstroganof, which followed, certainly had her puffing for breath the tender strips of beef, served with mushrooms in a paprika sauce, was certainly sufficient to appease the mightiest appetite. With Austria being a land-locked country it was hardly surprising that the menu featured just a single fish speciality, so I broke with tradition and went for red meat. And you can't get much redder than hirschragout, huge chunks of stag haunch served with cranberry sauce and the ubiquitous central European accompaniment, bread dumpling. It was enough to bring tears to any animal lover's eyes, and absolutely delicious, although it must have played havoc with MY cholesterol levels - but when duty calls…. We also shared saute potatoes flavoured with caraway seeds, warm red 'cabbage which was slightly sweet, peas and carrots in a creamy vegetable sauce and parcels of spinach in Fillo pastry which I found delicious but at which Madam balked from sampling properly. So that's what she meant by being a "light eater". She kept up the pretence when the desserts menu was flourished before us, so it was left to me to fly the dedicated diner's flag. While she sipped her coffee, I tackled a mountain of whipped cream and ice cream floating on a bed of iced coffee, which was admittedly rather bitter for my tastebuds.

Although not particularly snappily named, The Austrian Restaurant is at least a moniker that's easily remembered when thinking of booking for subsequent visits. And yes, we shall be going again, even when the Daily Post won't be paying the bill

 

 

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