Betonküche Pop-up Restaurant // Vienna
From time to time, let’s take a look at what’s cooking in the underground restaurant scene outside Germany. Betonküche in Vienna, Concrete Kitchen for the non-German speakers, is a particularly interesting representative of Austria’s lively guerrilla cooking movement. Betonküche transforms regional, mostly organic products into outstanding multi-course menus at very reasonable prices, usually around €40, but depending on the cost of ingredients and the number of courses. That alone seems honourable enough, but the mission is going further. The initiative’s main agenda point is to reanimate some of the city’s quite many vacant ground floor locations. It’s the ground floor level with its shops, cafes and restaurants that sets the pace of streets and neighbourhoods and gives them their distinct face. With more and more of these spaces getting abandoned, life moves somewhere else and the decline of the area is foreseeable.
The creative minds behind this project are the architect Jonathan Lutter, Martin Fetz, also co-founder of another cooking project named „Feldküche“, and Javier Enrique Mancilla Martinez who runs Vienna’s Morrison Club. None of them is a professional chef. For the culinary program, they invite Austria’s young and innovative top talents to rock the kitchen for one or two nights before handing over to another chef, similar to a non-resident DJ playing in a club.
The whole idea of Betonküche is to be non-resident. It’s a pop-up restaurant that isn’t tied to a fixed address one can find in the Yellow Pages. Instead, restaurant is an event that “happens” sometime, somewhere to provide a unique experience. Turning some ground floor locations into temporary restaurants is meant to be a wake-up kiss for those sleeping beauties, an eye-opener that ideally gets potential new tenants interested. The plan seems to work: The first location that did host Betonküche found a new tenant and is currently getting renovated. No final decision has been made on the second one, but interest is there and discussions are underway.
The checklist for what makes a location a suitable location for Betonküche is fairly simple: Size doesn’t matter that much. What does matter is that the place is located on the ground floor, that it has a bathroom, electricity and water supply. Yet anyone thinking Betonküche was the spearhead of a new squatting scene is mistaken: Whatever space they occupy, all happens legally and with the owner’s consent. Also, it’s one of the team’s principles to maintain the original character of the rooms. They move in with just some light installations and basic kitchen equipment, the 5 distinct concrete tables for around 30 people and music – that’s it. Minimalism is king, a rule that does also apply to the chefs’ working conditions: For once they have to do culinary wonders without their usual high tech facilities. And that’s not the only challenge. One of the most burning questions is always whether the electrical fuses will keep up with the load opposed on them. So far they did. Mostly. One night the chef with the lamb still to be roasted had to seek asylum in a restaurant kitchen in the neighbourhood. The guests were waiting a bit longer for their next course, and not surprisingly, chef and lamb were given the warmest possible welcome when they arrived back. No adventure without risk.
In a couple of weeks, Betonküche will invite to a new ground floor location. For only 2 nights, it will reside in a very central and popular but still neglected area that can be considered in decline. At the hotplates will be DJ Claus Pal, aka Jodok Dietrich, chef at the Innauer in Dornbirn. The motto he has chosen for his 6-course menu is: Animal feed. Pardon? Animal feed? Yes, no typo, no misreading. But taken that Jodok Dietrich’s cuisine was awarded with 2 Gault Millau chef’s hats, his interpretation of animal feed should be a funtasty adventure of the highest level – not only for four-legged creatures. All curious two-legged ones can subscribe to the newsletter on Betonküche’s website or watch out for dates to be announced on Facebook.
A recipe by Jodok Dietrich for Betonküche can be found here.