A proper cup of tea AND a decent gin and tonic with the “girls” in the stable at Auersthal

A proper cup of tea AND a decent gin and tonic with the “girls” in the stable at Auersthal

The charming “girls” in the picture are Kira and Kimba, two American Shetland ponies who have recently taken up residence in Auersthal to be spoiled and pampered by my friends FotoMarathonMan and AkhalTekeGal. I made my way to the lower Austrian prairie to meet them and to enjoy a proper cup of tea at their residence. That part of Austria is where the oil fields are.  Like Texas.  Just a bit smaller.

nodding donkey auersthal

The tea and the gin

The water in Auersthal is hard and the water in Vienna is soft. Fortunately the good people at Taylors of Harrogate who make Yorkshire tea have considered that and offer blends for both water types.  I have even seen people in Scotland buying Yorkshire Tea because even with the teabags it is possible to produce “a proper brew.”  Now, you may have heard me complaining about “dust filled bags” and of course, even Yorkshire teabags are essentially dust filled, but I now claim that, as it is dust collected for the British market, it is of a superior quality and can, sometimes, when made in a pot, with water that is hot enough, produce a drinkable cup of tea.

Now to the gin – Edinburgh Gin and Fever Tree tonic, quite delicious. FotoMarathonMan had also brought some gin garnishes from a recent trip to Spain. I put some cardomom seeds in mine, and AkhalTekeGal had hibiscus bloom in hers. The hibiscus made the gin turn pink after a while and it gave a rather sweet flavour. We enjoyed it, but we’d have been just as happy with the gin and tonic as it was.  Fever Tree tonic is slowly becoming my favourite.

edinburgh gin fever tree tonic

mug of teapony and tea

The service

It’s not just Kira and Kimba that are pampered and spoiled, my hosts took great care to make sure that everything a fussy lady might require was on hand, and presented in some style, considering we were in a stable.  The presentation of the sustenance for Kira and Kimba was slightly less sophisticated, but they seemed to enjoy their afternoon tea nonetheless.pony foodtea spread

 The ambience

Well this stable is very well equipped with tea making facilities, but there is also everything Kira and Kimba and their flatmate, the Kinsky warm blood Kalina could need. Kalina stands a proud 17.5 hands high, and if Kira and Kimba stood on top of each other, they would just pip her at the “who’s the tallest” mark on the doorpost, for they are a dinky 10 hands each.  They can all move freely between their box and the yard, and so they live in relative luxury. I wonder if they all snuggle up for girly SingalongaMammaMia evenings?

stable door at dusk

The other guests

This being the girls’ private residence, I was the only guest. The staff, FotoMarathonMan, AkhalTekeGal and AnnieGetYourPitchfork are kept busy attending to the needs of the three ladies who inhabit the stables.

ponies posing

The facilities

As befits the rustic location, the facilities are simple but clean and the hand drying is proper.  There was even hand cream but it was notmane 'n tail handcreamwhich, in spite of the apt name, I would not really recommend because the tube does not close properly.  Kira and Kimba do not use this facility, but instead, chose to relieve themselves at the same time, on the straw covered floor of their box.

IMG_1633stables bathroom

Final recommendation

Since this is Kira and Kimba’s exclusive abode, you’d have to get an invitation from AkhalTekeGal and FotoMarathonMan to visit.  In case you are one of the lucky few who may be invited, you can indeed expect a proper cup of tea and a decent gin and tonic.  So, it’s 5 little teapots to the stables at Auersthal for excellent hospitality and the cutest, most charming hostesses Kira and Kimba.






A decent gin and tonic in the Galvin at Windows bar in the Park Lane Hilton, London

A decent gin and tonic in the Galvin at Windows bar in the Park Lane Hilton, London

A weekend in London with my friend WifieWhoLunches: we had planned a few days of drinking champagne in nice places and generally being kind to ourselves.  We work so hard the rest of the time, you see.  Anyway, on Sunday evening, after an early dinner, we decided to see the city from above.  We had started our day at the Southbank Centre on the lovely garden terrace at the top of the yellow staircase.  And so, having failed to book at Paramount, not wanting to queue for The Shard, and having already enjoyed great drinks and outstanding service at the Oxo Tower, off we went to the rooftop bar at the Park Lane Hilton.  Tips for high places in London or elsewhere are welcome, just add them in the comments below.

The Gin

Well, every bar in London has a reasonable selection of gin, so nothing to worry about there.  So, we decided to go for gin based cocktails from the “Prescription” list.  As we ordered our “Penicillin” the waitress looked surprised.  “I just need to check, do you like smoky whisky?” she asked.  We laughed.  You see, the Penicillin here is a concoction of Monkey47 gin and Laphroaig and a few other little bits.  Well, we like smoky whiskies, we always did, and since we stopped smoking cigarettes decades ago, whisky and salmon are our only sources of that smoky taste.  It tasted delicious. Such a pity my sort-of-nephew CocktailBanker was not with us to critique the cocktails and service.  If you think I’m fussy, you should hear him on his specialist subject: “How to prepare and serve a proper cocktail, properly.”

cocktail menu

drinks table

The service

We were welcomed by a smart young man who took our coats and then passed us into the care of a young lady.  All weekend we had enjoyed excellent service, usually given by bright young things from other parts of the European Union.  Such a fabulous opportunity for these young people to improve their English, and wonderful for us to enjoy the enthusiastic service they deliver.

The Ambience

The bar is comfortable and relaxing.  It is not overly decorated, with just the 1930s style bar and lighting. All the window nooks were occupied when we arrived, but we were happy enough to sit on the leather chairs in the second row and watch the people as well as the view.bar galvin

Other guests

The bar was not busy when we arrived. There was an exotic looking long haired young man dressed like a rock star and he was accompanied by a stick thin (heroin chic?) young lady who may have been a model, or may have been someone he just met that day, or may have been his good lady wife. Their appearance was scruffy, but obviously expensive. It looked like the lady had had more than Penicillin.  In the nook opposite, a family seemed to be celebrating some anniversary and a few couples were taking a drink and enjoying the view of sunset from the 28th floor.

The facilities

The main purpose here seems to be to offer the glamorous clientele the opportunity to touch up make up and so on, since there are lots of seats and mirrors, but only one wash hand basin. It was spotlessly clean and very comfortable.bathroom galvin
vanity zone galvin bathroom

What my guests thought

Well, no translations to be checked on behalf of CraftyLinguist. But my friend WifieWhoLunches has been to a fair few fancy hotels and restaurants, and she certainly knows what she likes and does not like. She likes venison, goat’s cheese, chocolate, duck, red wine, white wine, tea, cakes, sticky toffee pudding.  But most of all, she likes good service, and champagne.  Her final verdict was:”We enjoyed lovely cocktails served by friendly and helpful staff looking out at the sunset over the skyline of London.  Great end to a great day out.”

Final recommendation

We had a lovely time at Galvin at Windows and, although we probably paid the same for those 2 cocktails as we had paid for dinner earlier, it was a great experience and we award Galvin at Windows 4.5 tumblers out of a possible 5.view from galvin bar

http://www.galvinatwindows.com/ http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/visitor-info/shop-eat-drink/restaurants/roof-garden-cafe/bar http://www.harveynichols.com/restaurant/the-oxo-tower/bar/

A decent gin and tonic at Atmosphere Rooftop Bar, Ritz Carlton Vienna

3 gins and stephansdom

Last chance for a gin and tonic with my friends FotoMarathonMan and AkhalTekeGal before they depart for their annual summer soaking and cooling in Yorkshire. We had fixed the date weeks ago and hoped that the weather would be good enough to try out the roof top bar at the Ritz Carlton. It is the only open air roof top bar on Vienna’s Ring.

The Gin

The Atmosphere roof top bar offers a small list of cocktails. This month’s specials are vodka infusions served in a copper teapot. But it was gin we were after. The house Gin Chiller is a cocktail based on Tanqueray 10, Fentimans tonic and a secret mix of herbal something or other added. The rest of the gin offering is the standard Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Monkey 47, Hendricks, Beefeater list. Perfectly acceptable, but far from thrilling in these times of gin being “in.” The Gin Chiller is delicious and refreshing and contains a generous amount of the citrussy 10; a slice of blush (that’s pink) grapefruit and a golf ball sized ice sphere fill the glass. The little bottle of Fentiman’s tonic is served at the side.  You can sit for a long time just adding a drop more tonic as the ice melts and dilutes the gin into a summery long drink. The drinks were served with a little bowl of salty nibbles and there is a small menu offering bar snacks. Prices are in the normal 5 star hotel range.

gin and sky

The service

We were greeted by a friendly young Dutch lady who offered us a choice of tables in the sun or in the shade. Another young Dutch lady came to take our order. They wore uniform white sunglasses. Our drinks were delivered by a young man. All the staff at rooftop bar seemed to be quite young and enthusiastic, but to be honest, they lacked the attentiveness and attention to detail that I expect of a Ritz Carlton. I have had amazing service there in the past, so that experience will not stop me from going back there for a proper cup of tea, or so.

The ambience

The roof top is very comfortably furnished and offers a mixture of table space, bar stools and lounge areas. There are fleece blankets and comfy cushions. The views over the city are not spectacular as it is only on the 8th floor, but you can still see a fair amount, including Vienna’s landmark ferris wheel hiding amongst the high rise blocks of the controversial skyline project.

riesenrad with towers

Other guests

We found the usual mixture of hotel guests, business people and locals, but none of the caricatures of European bourgeoisie that one finds in the lobby area of these grand hotels. So, if people watching is your thing, I’d stick to those areas of the hotel that are more easily accessed from the street by the mad.

The facilities

There is just a small ladies room for use by the roof top bar guests.  It is clean and functional. The hand towels are a compromise: not paper, not cloth, but that non woven fibre that is most often used as disposable tablecloths. It dries hands, so I suppose that is all that really matters. The soap and hand cream are in glass dispensers, smell nice and leave your hands soft.


What my guests thought

FotoMarathonMan was first to go and check the facilities. He came back very flustered and muttering something about points to be deducted for poor signposting. When it was time for me to sneak off there with my camera, he challenged me to find it. I did find it in the end, and I must also say that I checked the sign on the way back and there is a sign just exactly where you would expect to see it at the bottom of the stairs, but I really only found it after wandering all round the 7th floor of the hotel looking for the ladies room. FotoMarathonMan was also less than impressed with the service. AkhalTekeGal enjoyed the cool breeze and the view.  She was glad to be relaxing in relatively comfortable surroundings having spent the afternoon tending her Akhal Teke in the heat of the Austrian prairie. We discussed gin, and they resolved to try Yorkshire gin on their trip. As for tonic, we wondered how Fentimans had managed to remain largely unheard of for more than a century before becoming one of the tonics of choice of Ginnoisseurs. We must to do more research on tonic waters. FotoMarathonMan and AkhalTekeGal are my tonic water “mules.”  They are always kind enough to pop some slimline tonic into their car for me when driving back from their Yorkshire trip. It is not available here, so I am forever grateful to them for the supply. I keep the real stuff for special occasions and I bring back Soda Stream Slimline Tonic Concentrate in my suitcase for the Friday night 7pm Gintime ritual.

Final recommendation

We had a lovely time at Atmosphere, even if there were some small shortcomings, so overall, we’d give it 3.5 tumblers out of a possible 5.

Now, although chandeliers, are more part of tea ambience, I thought you would like to see these modern ones that hang on the meeting room mezzanine floor at the Ritz Carlton. Chandeliers scream to me to check for lightbulbs that need changing. A friend in the facility management business told me they used to just change all the bulbs at a certain interval even if they were still working and he claimed that this was more efficient than checking and changing as needed. It saddens me to find those dark spots in those beautiful chandeliers. There was a small dark spot in this one.chandelier ritz carlton vienna