Like a caffeine-filled phoenix rising from the flames of a burning Thonet bentwood chair, the 1895-built Café Westend returned to life recently with new owners and refurbished premises. The changes recapture the spirit of past days…
- Relaxed, classic ambience that upholds the coffee house tradition, but with a pinch of the commoner about it
- Not as expensive as more upmarket city-centre coffee houses
- Just across from the Westbahnhof railway station and tram hub
- See also: Vienna Cafés
A local review
Read earlier reviews of Café Westend before late 2018, and you might find yourself looking elsewhere for your cake and cappuccino. However, September of that year saw new owners and refurbished premises; the response is now quite different.
A location at the junction of Vienna’s main shopping street and an incredibly busy 6-lane road seems to hold little promise. But once inside, the traffic is inaudible (unless a motorcyclist gets overzealous on the accelerator).
Sit at a window, and you can watch the world rush past in a silent frenzy while you dab at the remaining crumbs of your Sachertorte.
The colours, fittings, and furnishings all combine to create a relaxed ambience that manages the trick of marrying quite opposite impressions.
For example, contemporary photos dot the walls, but the ceilings have the decorative stucco and botanical motifs you associate with city salons from the time of the monarchy. So traditional, yet modern.
And those ceilings and walls are perfectly pristine, while the chairs and tables are a little worn. So classic, yet cosy.
At first look, the furniture feels uniform, but look again and subtle differences abound. My table had a brass leg screwed into the floor. Others rested on decorative wooden pedestals. And the characteristic bentwood café chairs came in different styles, all evoking (to me, at least) a turn of the century feel and flair (and I don’t mean the year 2000).
When Café Westend first opened appears to be a matter of debate, though I’ve seen an 1899 newspaper clipping which announced its opening on December 16th of that year at the current address.
The high ceilings and tall windows certainly ensure a bright airy feel. And yet the hardwood, beige and olive green colour scheme adds a subdued intimate touch.
Talking of intimacy, the table and upholstered seats I sat at were quite narrow. If you’re at the larger end of the size spectrum, you may want to pick your location carefully.
Anyway, all of the above is, frankly, irrelevant when you know the coffee cups feature a man in tails riding a giraffe.
And the giraffe has boots on.
The staff were younger and more diverse than in some of the other historical cafés, which tend to feature the traditional black-clad male.
My waitress was quietly friendly, admirably swift, and subsequently unobtrusive but attentive. Though it was, admittedly, not busy when I arrived for breakfast.
My minimalist “Wiener” breakfast egg was done to perfection, and the butter for my two rolls reached an acceptable 7/10 on the spreadability index (the only index that counts).
The menu for lunch and later featured a few basic, traditional snacks and meals (e.g. Tafelspitz and Schnitzel), but also a burger and fries…illustrating once again the combination of old and new, modern and traditional.
Café Westend prices are fairly standard. A breakfast cappuccino and a croissant cost €5.80 on my visit, which is not far off what some of the more central coffee houses charge just for the coffee.
In summary, excellent decor and ambience with a bit of the common touch about it for those a little more price conscious.
How to get to Café Westend
If there’s one coffee house that’s easy to reach by public transport, then it’s the Westend. It’s opposite Westbahnhof, one of the biggest railway stations and transport hubs.
Subway: The U6 and U3 lines both stop at Westbahnhof. Head to the “Innere Mariahilfer Straße” exits and take the left-hand one as you leave the underground part of the station.
(Once you emerge, look along the street behind you and you’ll see Café Westend just a few yards away.)
Tram/bus: Tram lines 5, 9, 18, 49, 52, and 60 all stop at Westbahnhof (told you it was big) and you should more or less see the coffee house when you get off.
Address: Mariahilfer Straße 128, 1070 Vienna | Website