Vienna may not be famous for its cuisine but it is home to several gastronomical restaurants, including 10 Michelin-starred restaurants. I will start this new series of reviews with an article about the fantastic dinner I had at the Restaurant Le Ciel by Toni Mörwald:
February 2022 update: Le Ciel is closed until further notice.
The Setting ★★★★★
This monumental building sits on the Ringstraße, the boulevard which circles around Vienna’s old town. It was designed by Carl Tietz, a very prolific architect who was involved in 36 luxurious buildings built in the Ring’s vicinity.
The Grand Hotel Wien opened its doors in 1870 as Vienna’s first luxury hotel. It was immediately a big hit with the Viennese aristocracy and was the hub of Viennese social scene for half a century. The building housed Soviet troops from 1945 to 1955 and served as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Headquarters until 1989.
All Nippon Airways bought the building and performed a 100 Million Euro worth of renovations, with the aim of blending the hotel’s traditional history with modernity. The “ANA Grand Hotel” was inaugurated in June 1994 until it was bought by JJW Hotels & Resorts in 2002, who renamed it the “Grand Hotel Wien”.
The Restaurant Le Ciel ★★★★★
The aptly named “Le Ciel” (the sky in French) is located on the hotel’s seventh floor. The setting is magnificent, with flowers, blue ceilings and chandeliers.
A pianist plays on evenings, further enhancing the experience with many classics which may even trick you into believing you are actually in Paris. If you enjoy live music, I recommend asking for a table close to the entrance. If you favour a bit of calm, do ask for a table at the back of the restaurant.
There is also a terrace opened to the restaurant’s clientèle in warmer weather. The view is quite limited due to the safety barriers but it is well worth the experience.
The Wine & Beverage Selection ★★★★★
Half of the French gastronomy’s magic resides in the wine pairing. The Le Ciel team has done an excellent job in that regard: the wine selection is comprehensive and perfectly suited to each dish. Guests who decide to go with the 4-6-course menu or the surprise menu can pay a supplement to have the recommended wine served alongside each course.
The teetotaler that I am couldn’t possibly handle 6 glasses of wine so I blindly followed the waiter’s recommendation and paired the pièce de résistance with a Croatian “Roxanich” Orange wine (third picture below). These high alcohol macerated wines are apparently gaining in popularity but do stay away if you don’t like strong alcoholic flavours.
Dinner at Restaurant Le Ciel: 6-course Tasting Menu
Guests may order à-la-carte, from the monthly menu (from 4 to 6 courses). The choice will depend on what tickles you fancy but also on how hungry you are, as 4 courses may be too much for some appetites.
If all the guests are feeling adventurous, they may opt for the “Surprise Menu” which is a compilation of the seasonal bests. It has to be ordered for the full table so I wasn’t able to sample it.
Most of the dishes below are from the 6-course and the à-la-carte menus. Keep calm & Bon appétit!
The Amuse Bouche★★★★☆
The meal starts with three small appetizers:
- Pike perch on a thyme cream with butter
- Bean cream on a rice toast
- Veal Tartare with mayonnaise on white bread ♥
The veal tartare is both the strongest and the tastiest amuse-bouche. I recommend keeping it for the end as the other two are a lot more subtle in flavour.
The Starters ★★★★☆
Between me and my date, I was able to sample three different entrées, one served à la carte and another two from the 6-course menu:
- Kale with sea lettuce, duck liver & Gillardeau oyster
- Salmon trout with citrus aromatics, parsnips & Roscoff onion ♥
- Gillardeau oysters with shallots-ponzu & pumpernickel butter (à la carte)
The Salmon’s citrus aromatics go extremely well with the fish, all while eliminating the acidity of the lemon. I find the presence of onions to be a bit of an oddity but they are easily removed.
I was very pleased to see that Le Ciel gets their oysters from a good supplier: The Gillardeau kind comes from my home region of Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle/Oléron) and they are indeed excellent oysters.
The kale was pleasant but the meat and the seafood were barely palpable due to the sea lettuce’s strong flavour.
The Mains ★★★★★
The mains are where Chef Roland Huber shows the mark of the master:
- Pigeon with black olives, pineapple & Perigord truffle ♥♥
- Cod with Lardo, camphor, Cox Orange apple & lentils ♥
- Lamb loin with eggplant, Pimentos & BBQ-aromatics (à la carte)
Each dish is delicious and I am pleased to see that the number of main ingredients was kept at a reasonable level.
The pigeon (often names “squab” in gastronomy) is the masterpiece and I can’t help but feel sorry that it’s not permanently featured on Le Ciel’s à-la-carte menu. It’s not something you eat very often but forget about the prejudice: it’s way tastier than chicken! Pairing it with truffle and pineapple is pure culinary genius…
The Cheese ★★★★☆
The staff will ask you if you have a preference for light or strong cheese. If you have no aversion to one kind or the other, I recommend asking for a variation and letting the staff do the rest. Of course, you can also ask to see the tray and choose by yourself.
You will get four kinds of cheese to enjoy with fresh bread, mead-grapes and seeds. I was served Stilton, Munster and two sorts of cow cheese.
Being a Frenchman, I am a tough customer when it comes to cheese so do trust me when I tell you that this was a great selection.
The Desserts ★★★★★
The sweets are the best part of this meal so I strongly recommend ordering accordingly even if you must skip a starter and/or a main.
- Rum with caramel crème fraîche, walnut & sea buckthorn (à la carte) ♥
- Tangerine with saffron, coconut & spices ♥♥
Our waiter Rejhan strongly recommended the tangerine and I agree with him: It’s one of the best desserts I have had in a while. The spiced chocolate Lego bricks rejoiced both the kid and the foodie in me!
The rum dessert was extremely good too, in more refreshing and alcoholic way.
The evening ends with a few sweet treats:
- Yuzu Calpis sorbet with Florentines
- Cherry & Whisky praline Chocolates ♥
The Yuzu is sour and acidic, while the chocolates are delicious and moist. It’s the perfect conclusion to a great dinner.
You may add a Schnapps drink if you wish to add a bit of a local touch.
Service is impeccable and strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and friendliness. The staff is very well-trained and knowledgeable about the food as well as the beverages.
Many thanks to Rejhan who helped us in many instances, be it with the wine or the food.
Conclusion & Overall Mark ★★★★★
February 2022 update: Le Ciel is closed until further notice.
Dinner at Restaurant Le Ciel Vienna is a symphony, with 3-4 main ingredients per dish at most, and not a cacophony involving a ridiculous number of ingredients. That’s how I love my food, simple and yet imaginative.
I can’t wait to review more dinners in Vienna and Austria. I do hope I can find a place that will surpass that evening at Le Ciel. The standard has been set!
+: Grand Hotel Wien’s location
+: The Restaurant Le Ciel setting
+: Great beverage selection
+: Delicious and imaginative food
+: Plenty of variety (surprise menu, à-la-carte…)
+: New 4-6 course menu each month
+: Good value for money
+: Excellent service
-: Closed on Sunday & Monday
-: Starters not on par with Mains and Desserts
-: Not very vegan/vegetarian-friendly without advance notice
Disclaimer: It’s my first Michelin-starred dinner review so I do lack the perspective I have when reviewing afternoon tea, on top of lacking the expertise I have with the beverages (I know tea way better than I know wine).
Phone: +43 1 515809100
Address: Kärntner Ring 9, 1010 Wien, Austria