For a country that’s known mainly for its meat dishes, it may come as a surprise to learn that Austria has such a thriving veggie scene, and capital city Vienna is at the heart of it. Home to one of the five purely vegetarian Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, Vienna is jam-packed with restaurants and cafes that cater to meatless and plant-based diners, and there’s something for every taste and budget. From 10-course gourmet dinners to raw and organic bakeries, vegan ice cream parlors and delicious, cruelty-free schnitzels (yep, really), here are my picks for the city’s best plant-based restaurants.
Let’s start with the most lavish: the exceptional, chandelier-lit TIAN, which not only has a Michelin star to its name but also three Gault-Millau toques. In the week there’s a noon special, but it’s in the evenings that things rev up, with the signature tasting menu. You can opt for six, eight or 10 courses; whichever you go for, you’ll discover a whole new realm of plant-based cooking. From the freshly baked bread that’s brought out to you at the start (with three olive oils from different countries and regions), you can tell this is going to be no ordinary dining experience.
Chef Paul Ivić does things you never thought were possible with vegetables. From exquisite small plates of buckwheat, chanterelle and roseship to zucchini with fennel and raspberry, and king oyster mushroom with fava beans and spruce sprouts, every dish that comes out is a celebration of the power of plants. The pièce de résistance, however, might have to be the dessert, the whimsically titled chocolate ‘Don’t Call Me Donut’, which manages to be rich, light and luxurious at the same time.
After eating here, you won’t be able to disagree with how apt the restaurant’s name is; TIAN is not only a French vegetarian stew, but the Chinese word for “heaven.”
Simply Raw Bakery
For something lighter and simpler, head to Simply Raw Bakery, a restaurant which, as its name suggests, is a 100% organic, vegan, gluten-free and soya-free eatery, where nothing is cooked at over 42 degrees centigrade (about 107 Fahrenheit). Popular dishes include the Buddha Bowl, which comes with mixed salad, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, vegan almond yoghurt, peanut dressing, Tamari and quinoa — which you can choose to have raw and germinated or stewed and warm.
The stuffed avocado is another excellent choice; it comes packed with hummus, quinoa, lemon Tamari sauce, arugula and tomatoes. Be sure to try one of the cold pressed juices, like the Detoxify Me (celery, spinach and carrot), and save room for some guilt-free sweet treats. If you think raw food means merely nibbling on celery and carrot sticks, Simply Raw is the place that will change your mind.
Situated in the trendy Spittelberg neighbourhood, Tian Bistro is the more informal offshoot to TIAN. Dishes are wholesome, fresh and generally organic, and it’s a very popular spot for breakfast and brunch. The sharing breakfast comes with bread and pastry fresh from the restaurant’s bakery, homemade spreads and jams, yoghurt bowls with cereal and nuts, and a hot dish of your choice. Mains include grilled white asparagus with polenta fries and garden pea salad, or aromatic vegetable curry with pak choi — but if in doubt go for the delectable Sharing Chef’s Garden course.
Desserts are just as good: choose from caramelized brioche with rhubarb compote and vanilla ice cream, mango tapioca with blackcurrant and buckwheat crumble, or — best of all — divine marinated strawberries with minted sugar and peanut cream. If the weather’s good, sit outside in the lovely cobbled courtyard — but inside it’s equally pretty, with an atrium-style, plant-filled dining room that glows under sunlight.
Some might think you can’t visit Vienna and not tuck into a schnitzel, and if that’s the case, there’s no reason why veggies have to miss out. At the fully vegan Swing Kitchen, you can enjoy all manner of fast-food treats, like a soya-based schnitzel with garlic sauce, salad leaves, red onion, cucumber, tomato and chives. The vegan cheeseburger is just as good – if not better – and comes packed with chopped tomato sauce, Swing’s classic mayo and yellow turnip, as well as some excellent vegan cheese. On a lighter note there are wraps, salads and sides (the vegan nuggets are delicious!), and an array of indulgent plant-based desserts like mango coconut cake, sour cherry cheesecake and almond-nougat cake.
Ice cream enthusiasts can’t visit Vienna without popping into Veganista. Using only fresh, natural plant-based ingredients, Veganista ice cream is made fresh every morning, and there are 18 different flavors on offer each day. You can choose from classics like chocolate or strawberry, but the more innovative varieties are where Veganista truly excels; the basil, lavender, maple pecan, and apricot flavors are all sublime. You can have your ice cream in a classic cone, but the ice cream sandwich is a customer favorite. With six stores throughout the city already, there’s no doubt this vegan ice cream parlor is pioneering Vienna’s new ‘ice age.’