For a while, I mentioned the Sluka site on Kärntner Straße as a smaller footnote to the older location by the Rathaus. But the remarkable interior décor never fails to impress me, so time for this café and confectionery to get its own entry.
- Opened in 2017, largely to a renovated 1921 design
- Gorgeous interior reminiscent of late Art Deco
- See also:
The old as new
(The Kärntner Straße entrance)
In certain types of mystical literary fiction, you find an innocent-looking small shop front holding the promise of dusty tomes within. Passing through the door, though, reveals a place of magic whose insides extend far further than you might imagine.
Sluka on Kärntner Straße evokes a similar feeling.
The main entrance looks like one of those nice little Konditorei common in Vienna: a fine cake counter and a few seats to rest feet weary from tramping the tourist trails.
And so it was until an expansion into neighbouring premises. Go inside and continue through to the back: Sluka opens out into what might be best described as an Art Deco palais.
The décor looks like something from the early 1900s, though the café opened just a few years ago. This apparent paradox has an easy explanation, though…
The 19th-century building on Kärntner Straße once housed the Zwieback women’s fashion store. The Zwieback family later acquired the premises on Weihburggasse behind the store and put in their own coffee house in the early 1920s.
(Fun fact: owner Ella Zirner-Zwieback was the prime mover behind the establishment of a short-lived women’s football championship in the mid-1930s.)
(View of Weihburggasse from Kärntner Straße around 1898 with the Zwieback fashion store on the right; Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 183262, reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
Café Zwieback used designs by, for example, Friedrich Ohmann and August Kirstein. A prestigious architect of the time, Ohmann also worked on the Empress Elisabeth memorial in the Volksgarten park. And he collaborated with Kirstein on several museum buildings.
The coffee house became the “Zu den drei Husaren” restaurant a few years later, which served as one of Vienna’s more noble gastronomic locations for almost eight decades.
As Sluka came to renovate the premises they uncovered much of the original Café Zwieback interior. Fortunately for us, instead of tearing it all down, they worked with art historians and other experts to repair and renovate everything.
(Check the columns facing the cake counter for photographs of the premises from the 1920s.)
Fresh furnishings with upholstery that pays due tribute to the surroundings now combine with new-but-largely-old wall and ceiling décor to create something both stylish and unique.
One part, for example, features a half-arched ceiling with bronzed ribbing and what looks like a mix of stained glass and tiling across a series of curved surfaces. The wall is all gilt wooden columns and mirrors.
(Christmas display on the outer façade)
Another room glistens with gold mosaics and mirrors. The sort of place Klimt’s The Kiss could hang entirely unobtrusively.
And another has a complete change of style: a winter garden with plants and a running fountain.
All of which is wonderful, but of little use if the food, drinks and service don’t match.
Fortunately, all is well on that front, too: a super selection of cakes (the raspberry and chocolate slice being a personal favourite), the traditional coffee house and Konditorei menu, and friendly and attentive staff.
Our waiter and the cake counter staff even coped admirably with what will be known as the great 2022 strip incident.
(My companion inadvertently ended up exposing their entire upper body to the world when their t-shirt came off with their jumper. Not an acceptable sight even in today’s Viennese coffee houses.)
How to get to Sluka
The location is about as central as it gets and just a short walk from Stephansdom cathedral at one end of the street or the State Opera House at the other end. You pass it as you wander through the pedestrianised areas in the centre that everyone visits on their first trip to Vienna.
For an equally impressive experience that combines the historical and contemporary, pop next door into Mythos Mozart: a remarkable multimedia journey built around Mozart’s life and music.
Subway: the Kärntner Straße exit from Stephansplatz subway station (U1 and U3 lines) drops you almost outside the premises.
Address: Kärntner Straße 13-15, 1010 Vienna | Website