Coffee and more on offer indoors and out.

Genuine Viennese coffee house culture and international food combined in a cosy atmosphere.

JUST a stone’s throw away from Kamppi is a small enclave of traditional Austrian bakery art combined with international cuisine. Situated in a relatively calm neighbourhood away from all the city turmoil, the Krulla Wiener Kaffeehaus offers a calming haven for stressed city dwellers and culinary treats for hungry visitors.

One should not be led astray by the unimpressive façade of the building. It’s the inner value that counts. As photographer Eva and I enter the venue, we are carried back to the 19th century. Heavy chandeliers scatter light; the well-upholstered furniture in the café compartment and the elements held in dark wood constitute a genuine Viennese-style café/restaurant. The venue is not busy. In summertime, there is generally less work as a result of people going on holidays.

Since we both are already quite hungry, but chef and owner of Krulla, Oliver Krulla, is not here yet, we decide to have lunch and take pictures while we wait. The menu card is not too packed – there is a daily changing lunch menu and a few permanent à la carte dishes and summer salads. A full lunch menu, consisting of a starter, a main course and coffee/tea, costs €10.50.

Upon recommendation, we decide to go for the Boeuf bourguignonne with stewed potatoes and the spinach-feta lasagne. For starters, there is a self-service soup and salad bar at the front counter. I go for the soup of the day, which turns out to be a wonderful, creamy sweet potato velouté.

15 minutes later, our main courses arrive. The portions are decent. The beef is so tender that it nearly melts in your mouth. Also, the spinach-feta lasagne is tasty and balanced, as the strong feta taste does not cover up the spinach. My main course is accompanied by a glass of Austrian Grieskirchner 5.1 per cent ABV, unfiltered wheat beer – something that you would usually not find in any Alko store in Finland.

Customers requested a café

Just as we finish our main courses, owner Oliver Krulla arrives. Vienna-born Krulla moved to Helsinki 11 years ago because of relationship reasons. Even before that, he already had a strong connection to Finland, having previously been an exchange student at the then-Helsinki School of Economics.

“We first had just the bakery and the catering service. But ever since the beginning, we got asked by our customers why weren’t selling our products in a café. These requests lead to the opening of the Krulla Wiener Kaffeehaus,” he explains.

How did the Finns react to the venue? “In the beginning, it was not that easy, as many Finns tended to be quite sceptical about foreign food back then. But this has changed in the last 10 years. Our café soon got accepted by the locals, since we offer something quite special – affordable quality food, a genuine atmosphere and good service combined with top-notch traditional cakes and coffee representing the Viennese coffee house culture.”

The enterprise imports many products themselves. Beer and wine come from small suppliers from Austria and are usually not offered in Alko stores. The coffee is from Julius Meinl, a well-known and long-established coffee brand from Vienna.

Going international

The decision against serving only traditional Austrian cuisine and for a more international menu was clear for Krulla: “Some dishes from the traditional Austrian kitchen would not be too well received among Finns and international guests, since there are often entrails used. The acceptance for ingredients like these is not given in Finland.” Nevertheless, he always looks to get more appetising dishes - like Wiener Schnitzel - on the menu, giving the selections of meals an Austrian touch.

Like the dishes on the menu, the staff is also very international – Krulla tells us that they have had staff members from all around the world. Thus the working language among the employees is English. “It is simply easier to praise or cavil about your staff members’ work in English,” he says with a smile.

The café has several offers for guests at different times a day. Breakfast on weekdays is offered from 8:00 until 10:30. The popular weekend brunch is served on Saturdays from 9:00 until 14:00. Lunch meals are offered from 11:00 to 14:00. During opening hours, according to the brochure we receive, “[they] offer handmade personally designed cakes, warm strudels, the original Sacher-Torte, delicious European breads, petits fours and much more.” Furthermore, their products are also offered in the newly renovated Swedish Theatre (Svenska Teatern) at Café Thalia.

The Krulla family has been in the bakery and café business since the 19th century and Oliver is upholding this tradition, as many of the recipes used today originate from that period of time. Legend has it that the Viennese coffee house culture dates back from as early as 1683, as a result of the second Siege of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire. The unsuccessful invaders left their coffee sacks as they retreated, and thus unintentionally introduced coffee to Central Europe.

We end our lunch with coffee and cakes. The mango-raspberry cake (€5) is just the right choice for a summer day – fruity and light with mango pieces. Nevertheless, it is topped in taste by the Orangerietorte (€5), a deliciously rich combination of chocolate, oranges, Cointreau liqueur and real marzipan topped with an orange slice. Naturally, our cakes are accompanied with fantastic Austrian coffee (espresso €2.90, cappuccino €4.50).

To summarise our tasty experience in the Krulla Wiener Kaffeehaus: we left with full stomachs and a smile. Recommended!

Fabian Unger