THE WHITE CHIMNEYSWEEP (Extract from an old Viennese restaurant guide)

Restaurants that are managed by a young attractive woman acquire a truly unique atmosphere. There always seems to be a rustle as the lady of the house strolls through her establishment greeting her guests. Photographs of prominent guests fill the walls displaying their celebrated dedication to the restaurant and when from the telephone, from the kitchen and from all the corners of the restaurant the cry for the gracious woman resounds the head waiter takes on the countenance of a concerned Paladin.

Hertha Hammer has only been the owner of the Weissen Rauchfangkehrer” for a few years, but she immediately grasped that she had to bestow her own personal imprint on one of Vienna’s best-loved restaurants. The “Rauchfangkehrer”, founded in 1848, was one of the guild pubs of the old Vienna chimneysweeps. One night a members, in a drunken stupor, mistakenly wandered into the cellar of the neighboring house and passed out in the flour trough. The next morning as the master chimneysweep was enjoying his early morning pint the white flour ghost emerged. This incident gave the premises its name. The distinctive atmosphere of the restaurant created itself in the 1920s when actors, singers, painter and sculptors discovered it. They awakened in the owner the ardor to spoil her guests in every possible manner. Hertha Hammer’s ambition and work ethic came from her international gastronomic background and this, combined with her charming and affectionate personality, made her the perfect task master. She loves her guests as a mother loves her talented children. And for many, this is an opportunity to celebrate Mothers’ Day everyday and to go to “Rauchfangkehrer” as often as its doors are open. On the piano, where only rarely a hired musician played, sat the many prominent Viennese band leaders entertaining the “Rauchfangkehrer” guests. Rudolf Bibl was once asked to play “Hoch Soll Er Leben” for a Birthday celebration. He complied and then played for almost an hour all the requested melodies in the styles of Gershwin, Bach, Mozart, Wagner and Lehar. Bernstein and Visconti were regulars during the Falstaff rehearsals. Paola von Belgium refreshed herself with Nurejew and Margot Fonteyn with the internationally renowned “Brandteigshokoladecremekrapfens”, a name no foreigner can pronounce, but a dessert that is ordered by everyone who arrives with a recommendation to visit the “Rauchfangkehrer”.

This is where you might see Curd Jurgens standing in the middle of the restaurant waiting for a table because he had not called ahead to make a reservation. He accepts this with grace and then humor when he is asked by Hertha Hammer to stand a little bit longer in the name of “endorsement”. He continues to stand while it remains completely unclear as to who is advertising for whom. Famous artists are so plentiful that a single “star” does not stand out. Friendships are so intertwined that often the guests from three independently reserved tables unite at one single table. Because of this even though there are no tables left, fewer guests are turned away. The predicament (problem) of not finding a table was somewhat diminished when Hertha Hammer renovated the Paulusstuben in the Walfischergasse as an branch of the “Rauchfangkehrer”. At 6:30 p.m. the first wave of guests usually make their way to the Wiehburggasse in the direction of the “Rauchfangkehrer”. Towards 10:00 – 10:30 p.m. comes the theatre rush – the exuberant audience and the relaxing artists fill the booths. About one hundred and fifty entrées, that are usually changed daily, are offered and each dish honors “Rauchfangkehrer” as one of Vienna’s specialty restaurants.

The classics of the Viennese kitchen are offered, from the Tafelspitz, to the Szegediner Gulasch, Paprika chicken and Kalbsvogerln all with a luxurious presentation. It is always the same extraordinary team that guarantees the quality of each entrée. “Better six days perfect and closed on Sunday”, is the motto of Hertha Hammer. One doesn’t only come to “Rauchfangkehrer” to eat and drink. The appropriate underplayed spectacle of star watching also belongs to the experience. Whoever wants to know which Hollywood star is currently in Vienna can come to “Rauchfangkehrer” to find out. Those who want to know what Surrealist really eat, need only to wait to see an enormous Wiener Schnitzel with a side dish of potato salad smothered in onions pass by—this is belongs to Leherb and his mice. But even those who have no interest in all of this, will definitely feel as much at home here as do all the prominent people of the world.