Some time ago I visited Austria and fell in love with the food and culture.
I can still remember wading through rich venison stew and golden Wiener Schnitzel and being introduced to Kaiserschmarrn, Austrian pancakes with a custard like texture, dusted with icing sugar and sprinkled with raisins and blueberries.
But that was a long time ago and it took years before I sat down to a delightful dining experience which brought back those memories and I am very glad to say it was here in Torbay.
Werner Rott has made Torbay his home and The Old Vienna Restaurant his kingdom for Austrian cuisine.
“I came here in 1976 meaning to make this just a stopover to learn English before moving onto New Zealand but I got slightly delayed by 44 years by a lovely Torquay lady.
“It seemed natural to open a restaurant specialising in the cuisine of my home country and it has been a great success.
“However, cooking has evolved over the last 40 years, heavy sauces have been replaced by lighter food and the healthier option... I have adapted to that trend.
“There is also a great importance to use local produce.
“For example, at the moment I am using local lobster on my takeaway menu landed by the eighth generation of fisherman.
HOW HAS THIS DIFFICULT TIME AFFECTED YOU?
“I immediately realised that it was going to get tough, so I started to make simple things such as tagine and goulash for take away.
“I have survived so far because of my reputation and loyal clients from the last 40 years.
“My heart sank when the emails started coming in cancelling the advanced bookings but I adapted quickly and I will continue to do takeaway and delivery in the future as the restaurant is not a big place and trying to distance the tables will be difficult.
“I hate to deliver in containers because I love to present the food to make it look attractive.
“Thankfully with the memory of the restaurant in mind, customers have sent me pictures of how they have presented the food when they have got it home.”
Werner has been involved with the Torbay community for years. Shortly after he moved here he became chef entrémetier at the Osborne Hotel.
Following this he worked for a short spell in a Swiss restaurant in Soho and a beautiful French restaurant in Surrey.
But Torquay enticed him back and he became involved in the running and organisation of several restaurants and as a result became a partner in the ‘Quartet’ restaurant in Babbacombe and managed ‘Papa Dino’s’ in Babbacombe Road until he was able to purchase his own restaurant in Lisburne Square.
“I have to thank a customer who went to Austria before lockdown and managed to get hold of 22 litres.
“He raided a local Spar shop and went to my house and thankfully brought back enough to last a while... as long as I don’t drink it.
“I have managed to get hold of little pots with lids and you get a free shot of schnapps with every order. I can’t wait to go back to Austria, maybe in September time and re-stock because I am down to about 10 litres. I may have had a few myself. I will load up the ‘Merc’ and bring the precious liquid.”
YOU ARE STILL THE ONLY AUSTRIAN YODELLING CHEF IN TORQUAY?
“Arr good I am glad you mentioned that! As far as I am aware, I am probably the only Austrian yodelling chef in Devon but you never know. I would like to mention another unique sales point with my take away. You do get a free yodel with very order. When you open the bag a yodel will come out!”
HAVE YOU BEEN ON THE SCHNAPPS ALREADY?