Coffee and cake in Vienna is always likely to be on the tourist “things to do list” when visiting the city. So it was with me. We went to Cafe Landtmann, all dark wood, silver cutlery, crisp white tablecloths and waiters in white gloves.
The cafe was frequented in the last century by Freud, and has probably had several other famous visitors across the threshold since it was opened in 1873. It had a genteel hushed atmosphere, and it was comfortable and rather posh in a traditional way.
I have to be honest and say that the cakes weren’t as good or delicious or exceptional as I’d expected or anticipated. Although they looked mouthwatering they were actually a bit disappointing. I guess the coffee must have been ok but again, not memorable; it was beautifully served. All in all it is the experience, surroundings, decor and location that I remember more than anything else.
Which leads me to ponder on which of our senses we engage with if we say a meal or dining experience is memorable? For me in Cafe Landtmann it wasn’t the food or drink (taste) but the old-fashioned tasteful decor (sight).
A truly memorable meal which involved all five senses for me was the first bowl of onion soup I ever had in the Paris flea market over 50 years ago, in a rough and ready, warm and steamy cafe full of Parisiens. There were long tables with benches where people sat alongside each other. It was noisy (hearing) and it was unavoidable not to rub shoulders with other diners (touch).
Of course, not all memorable meals are good ones. My other half shudders at the thought of the weekly family meal of liver – the look, taste, smell and texture have stayed with him since childhood. I don’t like marmalade and was once forced into a battle of wills with my mum over some marmalade sandwiches I was given. I never liked the stuff before this incident and now find the taste and smell of marmalade disgusting.
Apologies to marmalade lovers; I do like the colour.