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 proper cup of tea at the Grand Hotel Vienna


grand hotel vienna

A sultry Tuesday afternoon in the office left us thirsty. So, AustrianGinAmatrice and FussyLady headed out to Vienna’s Ringstrasse for a proper cup of tea. If we are honest, we were probably more looking forward to the gin and tonic that would inevitably follow. We chose the Grand Hotel for our tea because it is the only hotel with its terrace on the sunny side of the Ring.

The tea

The first shock came when we read the menu: “Pot of tea €5.60”  Pot of tea?  Pot of tea?  Where’s the list?  Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, surprise me with something I would not expect to find, to establish your 5 star credentials.  Pot of tea, indeed. Our friendly waiter re-assured us.  Of course they have tea, and in winter, the tea list is a book all of its own, but in Summer, on the terrace, there’s not much demand. He named a few tea varieties and we ordered Darjeeling and Earl Grey. Here’s what arrived


and as you can see, it is neither Darjeeling nor Earl Grey. The bag was served on the little dish, the water in the pot was not as hot as I would like.  You may know by now that I have opinions about tea: the water has to hit the tea leaves.  Dangling a piece of metal or a bag of leaves in lukewarm water is never going to result in a proper cup of tea.

The service

The waiters were friendly enough and checked back with us if we needed anything else. It would take more than a smile to help us overcome the disappointment of not getting what we ordered. I am sure they would have changed the tea if we had asked, but the chances of this cup of tea ever becoming memorable in a positive sense had gone.

The ambience

There is a grand piano in the lobby and the look is faded elegant, but the space is not really defined, so it is like sitting in a thoroughfare at the hotel reception. We chose to sit on the terrace outside. The terrace outside, being on the pavement, is like sitting on a thoroughfare. There is a further cafe upstairs on a mezzanine. It has a separate entrance from the Ringstrassengalerien shopping mall.  IMG_0511entrance grand hotel

Other guests

That day, in the Grand Hotel, there was the usual mix of tourists and local and international business men.

The facilities

Well there had to be something Grand about this place, and this was it.  One floor down the beautiful staircase, the grand ladies room is as one would expect of the Grand Hotel Wien.  Traditional furnishings and a certain gleam.  The hand towels are the non woven fibre type.  Everything is clean.bathroom grand hotel vienna

staircase grandhotel viennabathroom grand hotel vienna

What my guest had to say

AustrianGinAmatrice was polite about the tea, but expressed her surprise that  standards could slip so far in a 5 star establishment.  She clearly wasn’t prepared to take the risk of further disappointment with her gin and tonic.  And so, we made our way to a newly opened restaurant on the Ring which is specialised in burgers, gin and cheesecake.  We were not disappointed. Said the Butcher to the Cow will have its own review later.
IMG_0532 gin at said the butcher to the cow



Final recommendation

The Grand Hotel serves a full afternoon tea from October to April, so I shall return another time so see how it is.  For now, and for a proper cup of tea, Grand Hotel merits 1.5 little teapots out of a possible 5.  If, however, you want to freshen up somewhere grand, then the ladies’ room is worth a visit.



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





A proper cup of tea at Hotel Imperial Vienna

A proper cup of tea at Hotel Imperial Vienna

Our spirits needed brightening up on a cold rainy afternoon in Vienna in May.  The sparkle of the chandeliers at the Hotel Imperial added the glamour we needed for our ladies’ tea outing. We arrived stressed and wet having dashed out of the office in the pouring rain.  One thing I am not fussy about is getting wet.  MadFrenchLady was of course properly equipped with an elegant umbrella. We took the tram.  An elderly Austrian lady in the tram remonstrated with MadFrenchLady.  “Madam, your umbrella is wet” she said. “And yours is dry?” I asked.  “Well, no, but hers is wet.” What can you do?  This is another of  the joys of an expat.  You never quite learn all the subtle rules. MadFrenchLady wisely  stayed silent. We laughed and wondered how we should manage to keep our umbrellas dry in future. CraftyLinguist was waiting in the lobby surrounded by shopping bags from the exclusive stores nearby. It was time for tea.

The tea

Hotel Imperial has its own tea blend and a small selection of other teas. CraftyLinguist ordered their own blend, MadFrenchLady opted for green tea and I, prompted by the advice of a reader of our Palais Hansen report, took the Assam and anticipated toffee. The tea is served in a little porcelain pot, loose leaves in a bag, with a jug of hot water and a little dish for the bag. Milk was not offered. The Hotel Imperial blend is fragrant and delicate. CraftyLinguist conceded that milk would probably have spoiled it. The green tea and the Assam were both fine. So, Imperialtorte is the one to try, and CraftyLinguist ordered a teensy slice.  She had skipped lunch in the hope of a full afternoon tea, but it is not on offer, so she plotted a dinner out instead. MadFrenchLady seems to like cakes built up in layers and ordered Esterhazyschnitte, which is a layered hazelnut cake with some kind of vanilla buttercream between the layers and icing on top. It turned out she was expecting something more millefeuille like. She pronounced the Esterhazyschnitte to be too rich, but ate it anyway. In general we found the cake selection to be in line with what a tourist would expect to find and probably sufficient to feed the preferences of the locals, but, all in all, nothing to get excited about.


The service

We were welcomed by a waiter who is probably an institution in his own right. There were a couple of young men assisting. They were polite and discrete, but spoke readily and with confidence when we asked them questions about the ongoing renovation project. We stayed long enough to slide into the cocktail hour and I was tempted by a Bloody Mary, which my sort-of-nephew CocktailBanker describes as “basically just vodka with pasta sauce.”  I asked the waiter if I could expect a proper Bloody Mary or the CocktailBanker version. He was not keen to declare, so I ordered it anyway and CraftyLinguist ordered a Virgin Mary. It came down more on the CocktailBanker side. The waiter returned to ask our opinion and was apologetic when we guessed that the tomato juice was the cheap supermarket brand. He promised to “pass it on to the kitchen.”  Anyway, the relaxed friendly service continued and we were happy.

cup of tea

tea and table

The ambience

There’s something for everyone at the Hotel Imperial. The cafe is recently renovated and has two rooms, one of which is in the classic Viennese coffee-house style and the other is a modern interpretation of the same theme. The lobby lounge is olde worlde charm in the best tradition of the house and it was here that we took our tea. The seating is in groups of traditionally upholstered armchairs and sofas. The mirrored fireplace and the rather strange false bookshelves at the top of the walls spoil the effect of an otherwise charming room. The beautiful chandeliers are the inspiration for the Christmas lights used along Vienna’s Graben.imperial_chandeliers

Other guests

When we arrived, the lounge was rather empty. Four sole business men had placed themselves far apart in the cafe and were working on their ipads and laptops. In the lobby lounge a group of serious looking deal making men occupied one of the sofa groups and we chose the far corner to have a better overview of proceedings. Soon, two ladies arrived and one of them greeted us in the manner of a famous person graciously acknowledging the presence of her adoring public. None of us recognised her, but that did not seem to matter. HM the Queen stayed at the Imperial when she came to Vienna and other heads of state seem to like it too.  Many of the musicians playing at the Musikverein also stay there as they can just slip out of the back door and be right at the stage door of the concert hall.

A pianist played popular classics and songs that everyone knows. As the afternoon went on, he must have decided to have some fun and as new guests arrived, he would try to guess their nationality and then play a few ditties.  And so we heard some Russian, Japanese and American music. The “Russian” gentlemen headed straight for the mirrored fireplace seats.

mirrored fireplace

lobby lounge

The facilities

There is renovation work on the ground floor, so the facilities are upstairs for now.  The staircase is impressive and Kaiser Franz Josef stands at the top in imperial splendour. The facilities are rather modest and furnished with pieces which have been decommissioned from bedrooms. To our amazement, the standard of cleanliness was not quite as one would expect, even though MadFrenchLady had spotted a cleaning lady in action who was dressed just like a parlour maid from Upstairs Downstairs. That’s “Haus am Eaton Place” for the German speakers out there. There was dust on a ledge and behind the door of the cubicle.


facilities imperial

What my companions thought of it

Those translations again. This time, CraftyLinguist was even more emphatic in her condemnation because, as well as the poor quality tranlations, there were inappropriate capital letters sprinkled throughout the menu and, horror of horrors, an exclamation mark. I think it is fair to say that it is never, ever right to put an exclamation mark in a menu. Or maybe there is just one exclamation mark that might have pleased her:  if she had found a page with the title “Yes, we do offer afternoon tea, complete with scones and clotted cream!” MadFrenchLady declared herself unfit to evaluate tea, but when pressed, she grudgingly pronounced that it was drinkable because “at least the water did not have bleach in it, like it does in France.”  She said I must visit France again and  promised to show me a nice Salon de thé where the cakes and other little delicacies will compensate for the bleach drenched dust they call thé.

Final recommendation

Our overall experience in Hotel Imperial was good. There is a relaxing atmosphere, the service is attentive but not fussy and the tea is certainly drinkable.  So, again, it’s four little teapots out of a possible five.

imperial cafe

imperial menu

 staircase with franz josef



A proper cup of tea at Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna

Palais Hansen Kempinski

What better thing to do on a spring afternoon than to search for a proper cup of tea on Vienna’s Ring.  For our first test, we chose Palais Hansen Kempinski, one of a dozen or so 5 star establishments on the Ring.

Tea and drinks are served in the lobby lounge which is furnished comfortably. I arrived with MadFrenchLady and the young competent staff welcomed us and were attentive without being overbearing.  We decided to wait for CraftyLinguist before ordering our tea and we used the waiting time to take in the menu and the surroundings.

Entrance to the lobby lounge


The tea

There is a reasonable selection of teas to choose from, but as this was my first visit I opted for a Darjeeling, and my friends were equally conservative in their choices.  The menu gives advice as to how long the leaves should stay in the tea.  Tea is served on a little tray with a small metal pot, which the waiter then fills with hot water at the table.  The tea leaves are in a conical metal strainer in the pot and a little dish is provided to put the strainer into when the “steeping time” is over.  I shall say more about “steeping” later. I am not convinced that this water is hot enough for a proper cup of tea, but at least it is not a glass of lukewarm liquid with some coloured dust in a bag on a string.  The cups are fine German porcelain and almost teacup shaped.  A small florentine biscuit was served with the tea.

teaMadFrenchLady had selected a cake from the display – called a Cremeschnitte, but reminiscent of the millefueilles of her home.  CraftyLinguist agreed to check out the Topfenstrudel with creme anglaise – she’s generous that way.  I am even fussier about cake than I am about tea, so I did not take any cake.  Both sweet selections passed the taste test and CraftyLinguist assured us that the strudel was freshly dusted because when she poured the creme anglaise over it, it rolled down without sticking to the top.


The service

The staff were young and attentive.  A few of them were German.  That’s not such a surprise since it is a German chain and I had read a few days earlier that they are proud of their apprentice scheme which allows the young trainees to travel and work in other hotels in other cities.

The ambience

It would not be Vienna without a chandelier or two.  As well as those in the entrance, Palais Hansen Kempinski has this tall and imposing chandelier style standard lamp in the middle of the lounge.  The furnishings were not 100% to my taste.  Some of the seating groups are satin covered, but I suppose that appeals to a certain part of their target market.

Chandelier style lamp

Other guests

It was reasonably quiet  in the lobby lounge that day, just a few tourists, some elderly Viennese gentlemen and a small group of business travellers.

The facilities

Being fussy, I like to inspect the facilities and my companions duly agreed to check my findings.  The room itself is very nicely furnished and it was clean.  We were all a bit surprised that we had to touch the beautiful taps to wash our hands.  CraftyLinguist prefers Dyson Blade hand drying.  However, I am fond of a pile of freshly laundered proper towels.  We were all ever so slightly upset by a lamp hanging squint.

the facilities

Guest reviewer comments….

 The translation

We are all able to manage the menus in the German original, but at the suggestion of CraftyLinguist, we decided to check the translated menu.  A non-German speaker would certainly be able to get the gist of what was on offer since the menu was in two languages.  However, we feared that it may have been translated by a machine, or by a school child with a dictionary.  The first term to give us trouble was “steeping time” since all teas had a recommended number of minutes.  Where I come from we steep badly stained clothes before washing and tea is “infused” or “brewed”, however some research revealed that it may well be that “steep” is the term used in US English.  What we definitely do not have in US or UK English is “leach rolls”  It took us some time to work out what this could be since the German original indicated  “Jourgebäck” which is a dainty form of the usual range of bread rolls.  “Leach rolls” being, presumably, the type which is soaked in a lye to give a crust of the type you would find on a German Breze.  So, we would recommend a revision by a competent native speaker so that the standard of translation is consistent with the overall high standard of the hotel.

Final recommendation

Watch out for the evaluation scheme in  future posts where I will try to assess the various aspects separately.  I did not note the prices, but our cup of tea was not prohibitively expensive.

For now, we can give Palais Hansen Kempinski 4 little teapots out of a possible 5.