Salzburg is a city with so much character, quality and inspiration and oh so many restaurants to choose from. However, despite the strong winds and the pouring rain during my stay, I was not tempted once to step into any fine-dining restaurant and rather waited for my reservation at Restaurant Brunnauer, which is a short distance away from the centre of the Old Town.
This is because I have a personal mandate to seek the best restaurant in each city that I visit and Restaurant Brunnauer had been highly rated for providing imaginative and well cooked Austrian cuisine in the Michelin star territory, so I knew I had to experience and assess this myself.
Having corresponded with the co-owner and host, Sybille Brunnauer, prior to visiting the restaurant, I had an inkling that I would have a memorable meal. However, I could never have envisaged what I was truly to experience. I am compelled to share it with you as Restaurant Brunnauer is a place that changes lives with food: the lives of the owners, the lives of their suppliers, the lives of their staff and importantly, the lives of their diners too.
A love for food and people
I was not only invited into Restaurant Brunnauer but also the lives and values that the owners themselves hold, which was shared through stories, food and an elegant ambiance that has been created within the restaurant.
The Restaurant is managed by Sybille Brunnauer who is an expert in the tourism industry, a faultless host and wife to the chef and co-owner of the restaurant, Richard Brunnauer. Richard is a highly acclaimed, talented and famous chef in Austria. The couple met when they were both working at the internationally known, Hotel Sacher whereby Richard was a sous chef and Sybille was in a management role. With a love for food, experience and life, they have together formed what is, one of the most unique, enchanting and upscale yet warm and welcoming restaurants that I have seen not only in Salzburg but in all of Austria.
The Brunnauers understand and radiate the importance of connecting with people and are truly dedicated to making an impact on their guests, albeit in different ways. Sybille will greet you with sincerity and friendliness and will be on-hand throughout your entire dining experience. You will note her floating across the dining room and effortlessly engaging in conversations with all her local guests and her new dinners. She has impeccable knowledge of every aspect of her business, from the rose on the table to the painting hung on the wall. There is a beautiful story and purpose for every element and component of the restaurant. Whilst she glides from one side of the restaurant to another smiling at every diner, you will also note that she will gently nod to her staff and give them an encouraging smile due to their efforts and work. It is not only the host that is happy to be here but her staff too.
A celebrity chef that cooks every night
Richard has been rated as one of the top 20 chefs in Austria and during the daytime he offers extremely popular cooking lessons to the public and at night, this hard-working chef, is cooking in Restaurant Brunnauer. He is a rare breed of a celebrity chef because he cooks every single night with his team. Every dish you eat in this superb restaurant will have some form of contribution by Richard, so you will definitely receive the Michelin star experience. If you have the opportunity to meet him, whether it be at his cooking lessons or when he pops out of the kitchen during a dinning service, you will note how humble and grounded he is. Whilst being a little bit shy, Richard is happy to interact with his dinners and with Sybille by his side, it clearly is an effortless pleasure which he enjoys.
The Brunnauers are so hardworking and exude a real sense of control in their roles within the restaurant. They make you feel assured at all times that you will receive the most amazing experience and be surprised throughout your time with them.
Long-standing ties with the local community
To begin my meal, a surprising and un-ordered amuse-bouche-like dish appeared. I could really taste how fresh the ingredients were. Lightly and perfectly seasoned, it was delicate and refreshing; the perfect start to a meal. This dish in itself showed that fresh produce was important to the owners and leads me to share with you one of the ways in which the Brunnauers change lives with food: through their suppliers.
Organic produce is vital to them and contracting the best suppliers is important. The best suppliers to some restaurants may include the largest and well known; however, that is not the case for the Brunnauers who primarily work with local suppliers, some of whom are sole traders. The curious diner that I am, had to enquire about the suppliers that the owners instruct and I was overjoyed to hear some of Sybille’s stories.
One of the stories that really touched my heart was how the Brunnauers learnt of a local elderly widow who has a “berry” garden with too many berries for her own consumption. She wanted to occupy her time and do something with her abundance of berries. The Brunnauers got in touch with her and offered her the opportunity to sell them the berries in return for a sum of money and importantly, friendship. This elderly widow now visits the Brunnauers once a week to provide them with berries but also to have some tea and biscuits and spend some time talking to the staff. She says that she feels valued and relevant now too as she is able to help someone else. To me, it sounds like this specific supplier cared little for the money but far more for the friendship of the Brunnauers and their team. By sharing this with you, I hope I can illustrate further what wonderful people they are.
A true respect for ingredients
For some reason, unknown to myself, vegetarians do not seem to feature in most chefs’ minds when listing starters on a menu. However, Richard certainly had my dietary category in mind as he included a beautiful starter that I must tell you about.
The starter was called Marchfelder Spargelcremesuppe and was a delectable white asparagus soup. White asparagus is quite an unusual ingredient and not one that I commonly come across in restaurants (as green asparagus is far more prominent), so I had to sample the soup and I was impressed with how much flavor there was in the soup. When the soup initially arrived to my table, it was piping hot and one could see the steam arising from the bowl. The aroma was magnificent and the texture of the soup was thin and light. Similarly, to the amuse-bouche, the soup had only been lightly seasoned so you could really taste the asparagus, which was brilliant. There were also small pieces of cooked asparagus included within the soup, which created a new dimension with a chewier texture to the light soup that you could sip. The soup was smooth, yet comforting and full of nourishment.
The starter showed that Richard, truly cared for the ingredients that his suppliers had hand-picked; he wanted those ingredients (and in this case, the asparagus) to stand out on the dish and he showed that he knows how to make that happen. This dish in itself made me appreciate the difference in flavor of similar vegetables.
Comfort dishes with a twist
The Restaurant Brunnauer menu described each dish with great accuracy and would be considered traditional Austrian gastronomy with a twist. Whilst the main dishes on the menu had a vegetarian option, which included homemade risotto, I had already eaten risotto for lunch. As a result, the staff at Restaurant Brunnauer were so helpful and explained to me that the chef would gladly change the dish if I would prefer a substitute to the risotto, such as homemade pasta and this is exactly what happened. Richard kindly prepared a homemade pasta dish with seasoned vegetables, truffles and a truffle sauce. This made me feel extremely special that such a talented chef was doing all that was possible to enhance my culinary experience. The dish was altered to satisfy my palate and this certainly further enhanced my experience.
The dish itself was presented on a large white plate and was elegant and beautiful when it arrived to the table. The color of the pasta contrasted with the color of the vegetables including the truffles and made the dish look vibrant and interesting. The dish tasted heavenly and was one of the finest pasta dishes that I have ever tried. The pasta was lovely and thin, perfectly cooked and the sauce that accompanied it was light and creamy. It was a gustatory delight in every way possible; a comfort dish with a twist.
There was a real taste of freshness to every single item on the plate. I learned during my time at Restaurant Brunnauer that the mushrooms had been hand-picked by local farmers who supply their produce. The Brunnauers work with local farmers and fishermen who go out into the forests and local waters to pick up items every morning and deliver them to the restaurant. Again, the Brunnauers know each and every person that they work with, not only as suppliers but as people. They have trust in these people and these people deliver ingredients that are not only organic but filled with love, and this is because they enjoy their work as farmers and fisherman; they enjoy working with the wonderful Restaurant Brunnauer.
Unusual and aesthetic desserts to devour
Richard is a chef that can execute every course on his menu perfectly. With the generous amuse-bouche, the soup and the divine pasta dish, I was surprised that I even had more room for dessert. However, when I reviewed the menu, it was difficult to resist ordering two desserts (one for my travel companion and one for me) as they sounded so imaginative and creative. The desserts are all made on-site.
The dessert that I ordered is called Mispel-Nougatschnitte mit Nüssen & Muscovadoeis. The dessert was strikingly colorful and was beautifully plated. The nougat cake was so unusual and a real surprise. It was moist and creamy and full of a flavor that I had never tried in a cake before. The Mispel fruit also had a slightly sharp tang to it, which was nice because of the sweetness of the creamy nougat itself. It was balanced perfectly.
Indulge in chocolate and rose petals
My travel companion ordered a Schokoladengâteau mit Erdbeeren & Rosenblüteneis, which is a chocolate cake with rose-flavored ice cream, rose petals and strawberries. The dish was full of finesse and was an absolute delight to photograph. The chocolate cake was an exceptional surprise because it was actually a fondant which had a lovely gooey chocolate sauce that poured out when it was sliced. It was moist and squidgy and you really get an instant hit of chocolate when you taste it.
The strawberries were supremely fresh and the candied rose petals were something certainly I had never experienced before (and so it will be no surprise to you that I had to taste my travel companion’s dessert in its entirety too!). This dessert had elements of being traditional and modern at the same time and it was exciting to sample. Every inch of it was perfect and I loved the the contrast of the hot chocolate cake with the cold ice cream as it melted in my mouth. It was different in comparison to my dessert, which was fully cold but equally as brilliant.
Tranquil and intimate environment
Restaurant Brunnauer is currently based at Augustinergasse 13, 5020 Salzburg and includes a wine bar, an a’la carte restaurant (as detailed in this review), a gallerie (for private dining) and a courtyard (for use of all guests or private dining if reserved). The a‘la carte restaurant is based within a hollow mountain that used to be a bunker during the world war. It is furnished with a minimal chic style. There is a sense of intimacy within the bunker and yet also privacy between the tables due to the layout. The room is dimly lit and subtly, stylishly decorated. The tables include crisp white linen, the finest crockery and each includes a beautiful pink rose. The seating is exceptionally comfortable and so much so that you won’t want to leave; the hospitable staff are in no rush to end your experience.
Rather, Sybille and her staff do everything possible to accommodate you and make you feel at ease. This includes if you’re in a type of profession where you have to be, “on call” or available at all times in case of an emergency, such a doctor or a carer. This is because Sybille will look after your mobile phones/electronic devices at the reception in case there is a call or an urgent message that appears. This is partly due to the fact that there is no reception within the restaurant itself as it is within a mountain. However, this is also because Sybille wants to try and give you the opportunity to relax and re-charge your batteries and so she kindly takes it upon herself to monitor your phone and notify you if any incoming message arrives. As a result, you as a diner can truly have a break without feeling like you’re compromising the wellbeing of others, such as patients or those in your care. Sybille has this desire, determination and urge to make sure that she is as helpful to every possible diner and the example I provide here, shows you how far her efforts go. I have never seen someone take so much effort to care about those that are visiting their restaurant.
Within the restaurant, there was a real tranquil and peaceful feel; certainly the type of environment in which to re-energize your soul and feel brilliant about yourself. This setting is because of the manner in which Sybille and her staff float around and speak softly and caringly to each diner. The diners, in turn, speak softly and gently to each other and it truly is the most peaceful restaurant that I have ever eaten in the world and I absolutely loved it. I could not recommend it enough.
Surprises that will make you smile
Restaurant Brunnauer will surprise you throughout your experience. The unexpected amuse-bouche was the perfect palate cleanser and a great way to start the meal. Richard, kindly adapting his menu to suit my desires, was so very much appreciated. Nougat in a cake and candied rose petals in a dessert were heaven on earth. Exceptional, upbeat and charming service from the knowledgeable members of staff was fantastic. The restaurant being full yet so quiet at the same time was an absolute delight. This was fine dining in the very best form and the Brunnauers will continue surprising you up until you leave the restaurant. This is because Richard, the generous chef, will even send some homemade chocolates to your table at the end of your experience. The chocolates are of different types (i.e. white, milk and dark) and are each creamy, sweet and sensational.
A three course meal at Restaurant Brunnauer is approximately 70 EUR (approximately 77 USD) per person and I would have to say that it is worth it as you take-away so much more than food from the experience. You take away the opportunity to warmly relax inside a mountain; to be at peace in such a busy city; to meet wonderful people like Richard, Sybille and their team who simply want you to have an exceptional time. You also take-away the wonderful thought that local suppliers like the elderly widow, the fisherman and farmers who wake up so early to go out on the hunt for produce are all being able to continue doing what they love and enjoy because Restaurant Brunnauer works with them and by visiting this restaurant, you are supporting them too. Now, if you’re really full from your meal, you can always ask Sybille if you can take-away your chocolates too as I’m sure she would gladly oblige.
The food is not the only thing you will love
Guests of Restaurant Brunnauer adore Richard for his respect, appreciation and skill in using the ingredients in the manner in which he does. He creates the most exquisite meals and is undeniably a unique and hardworking chef. Diners warm to the charismatic and charming Sybille who has an infectious personality, which makes eating in Restaurant Brunnauer a must-do.
Whilst the Braunnauers own a restaurant high-up within a mountain (possible re-location is being considered for 2017), they have their feet firmly on the ground and are very humble and down to earth. They are able to continue their dream of owning a restaurant and sharing their love of food with others because of their suppliers and their diners, so I would urge you to make a reservation to keep their dream alive. They change lives with food: lives of their suppliers, lives of their staff and the lives of you and me.