Taubenkobel, rustic luxury in the Burgenland countryside

In Austria, a visit to the kingdom of Alain Weissgerber and Barbara Eselböck. A charming place, with many fortes

The staff at Taubenkobel, 2 Michelin stars in the

The staff at Taubenkobel, 2 Michelin stars in the Burgenland region, in Austria. Only a stone’s throw away from Hungary 

There are restaurants that are worth the trip, hotels that make the destination. And then there are places like Taubenkobel. A place that alone has placed a previously neglected region, namely Burgenland, a flat and fertile land on the border between Austria and Hungary, on the map of all food-lovers, who come here from all around the world… so, why do they come from? To say that they come “for a restaurant” would be reductive.

Taubenkobel is more than a restaurant. A two Michelin star restaurant, to be precise, at least until 2009, when the Red Guide decided not to give stars outside Vienna and Salzburg. Alain Weissgerber, husband of restaurant manager and owner Barbara Eselböck,is at the helm. He’s French naturalised Austrian and has put the products of Pannonia at the heart of his cuisine – whose rhythms are indeed set by his foraging trips to the surrounding countryside. To have a proof of this, just look at the bread, not just a basket but a real course: they serve it with 3 different types of butter, oil of cardoon poured with dried cardoon, and all the herbs, the sprouts and the leaves that the staff has found that day, from elderberry to dog rose to watercress and acacia. The tasting menu alternates a series of vegetal and bitter “lashes”, such as Radicchio almonds and rhubarb, with rich and wild dishes like Cabbage filled with lamb and cumin, with a slow yet fluid rhythm.

Taubenkobel is not even just a Relais & Châteaux with 12 rooms in the village of Schützen am Gebirge. It’s a textbook rustic-chic boutique hotel: every room is decorated in a different way, with unique pieces of design and an atmosphere of countryside, easy and calm elegance, that shows, nonetheless, an obsession to details, from the vinyl record player (with gloves to handle them) to the Polaroid made available to the guests. And in between the rooms, instead of the swimming pool, there’s a private small lake where you can swim. Barbara’s grandfather bought the farm in 1961, but it was his son Walter and daughter-in-law Eveline Eselböck (fun fact: the first Austrian female sommelier) who renovated it.

And Taubenkobel it’s not even just about the collateral projects: Pension Drahteselböck, a guesthouse close by for those who cannot afford, or don’t want to afford, the hotel’s prices; Haus im See, a house on the Hungarian banks of Lake Neusiedl with a few tables and bedrooms; Gut Oggau, the famous biodynamic winery guided by Barbara’s sister, Stephanie Tscheppe (ever seen the bottles with people’s faces drawn on them? That’s the one). And most of all Greisslerei, the super welcoming inn inside the hotel, very popular among both locals and guests.

Here they serve the breakfast: three “courses”, what with juices and fresh centrifuged juices, obviously homemade, viennoiserie, cheese and cured meat, with the grand finale offered by the soft-boiled egg surrounded by a ring of ham and fried breadcrumbs. At lunch and in the evening, they offer simple and genuine dishes - or at least the Austrianversion of genuine, less pleasure-loving than the Mediterranean one, strongly based on meat, filled with butter and served with the house wine. Don’t miss the three breaded cutlets (yes, you order one and they serve three, light and super crispy) and their famous lemon and meringue tart.

Taubenkobel is not just one of these things along. It is the epitome of sybaritic pleasure, dressed up with the rough fabric of the countryside. It’s a multifaceted luxury, not accessible to everyone, but surely to many. It’s an experience that will remain in your eyes and in your palate for a long time. At least as long as the roads that wind down the green landscapes of Burgenland.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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