High Art and Sacher Torte: Pastry Chef Kriss Harvey's Guide to Vienna
48 hours in Austria's capital city with pastry chef Kriss Harvey.
Kriss Harvey is the pastry chef at The Bazaar by Jose Andres in the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. Previously he studied under legendary pastry chefs in Europe including Oriol Balaguer. He works closely with Andrés to create innovative desserts in Andrés’s modernist style.
I spent two whirlwind days in Vienna on vacation and took the opportunity to do some R&D for the restaurant. I was drawn to the city for its art and history and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s rich in architecture, outdoor art and culture—and the pastry scene is truly a revelation.
I spent most of my time in museums. The MAK (Museum for Applied Arts), The Albertina and The Belvedere are great, world-class institutions. The MAK has a fantastic collection of decorative arts. I loved the graphics collection at The Albertina. The Belvedere is made up of two Baroque palaces, with amazing views from the upper palace. It’s also home to the world’s largest collection of paintings by Gustav Klimt—including The Kiss, which was amazing to see. It’s incredible (and humongous!) in person, especially when you consider his technique. Klimt actually applied paint in circles using his finger.
Incredible Chocolate Cake (Sacher Tort): Cafe Central
Café Central is a must. This is a place where Sigmund Freud and Gustav Klimt would sit and take their tea and coffee and plan out incredible things. It was humbling to sit there and think that those seats were once shared by those people. Café Central has been around since 1876, so I was surprised at how modern the desserts were. I expected them to be more old-fashioned like the sacher torte, which hasn’t changed in a hundred years. It's a delicious take on an old-fashioned classic. They’ve been doing the same thing every day since that cake was invented. I figured the café would be doing the exact same thing too, but it was more modern–not unlike what we do here at the SLS.
Amazing Sweet Rolls (Buchteln): Cafe Hawelka
My other favorite was Café Hawelka. It was opened in 1939 by Leopold Hawelka, who died just a few years ago. It’s very small and dark, with the menu written on a chalkboard – but worth visiting for their signature item, buchteln, a sweet roll made with enriched dough, butter and egg yolks. They proof the buchteln in liquid fat, let them rise in liquid fat and then bake them so they’re very, very soft. Then they fill them with either plum jam or apricot jam. It’s what they’re famous for. The waiter didn’t speak much English but what he did manage to say was, "everybody gets these." Definitely not to be missed.
Where to Stay
Hotel Bristol is right in the center of everything. It’s ideal for exploring the city and has an authentic, old school luxury feel.