Besides the fact that it’s off on a random side street on the… let’s say, ‘grungy’ pocket of the 15th, that receives barely any footfall, it’s also nestled tightly in a little courtyard of a red brick building, hidden away from the world.
This, however, works in their favour in a number of ways: one, it allows space for their garden, and we’re not only talking a nice seat and table set up in a lovely courtyard sheltered from the wind, but also an actual garden full of the herbs and other green stuff they use in the kitchen. Doesn’t get much fresher than that, dun’it?!
As for reason number two – the place is cradled in a permanent calm. Yes, the creators of the beloved 7Stern Café in the 7th have given birth to a sister cafe that is the total opposite to her more rebellious and hip older sibling.
According to the masterminds behind this place – Gunther, Steffi and Gitti – the location is what turned them on in the first place. They talk about it as if it’s more of a passion project with heart, than a business.
“While the location is beautiful, it was actually the community here that attracted us,” Steffi explains. And not only do they want to win the hearts of the neighbours of the 15th, but there’s also a bigger picture at play. “Rudolfsheim is huge, and it only has one park, one pub and one restaurant! We want to offer a creative space to the community here, and to do that we need to take our time, and become part of the community.”
As more and more people want to slow down and retreat into a more community-minded existence, places the like of Turnhalle are what are attracting the crowds, especially in Vienna where a Grätzl (neighbourhood) is not just a Grätzl, but a place some people identify with.
Even though Turnhalle wants to ease itself into the community like a senior climbing into a hot tub (naked for the sake of the imagery), their little hideout has already been found out thanks to their smashing weekend vegetarian brunch.
Served up on Saturday and Sunday, this has to be one of the healthiest all-you-can-eat brunch smorgasbords you’ve ever dived into (mouth first). Yep, no boozy brunch here. With a purely vegetarian range, from yogurt and muesli through eggs and salads, right down to pancakes and cakes – all delish. And all of it is seasonal, and regionally sourced – farm to plate sort of stuff happening here. And you’re not likely to eat the same dish twice here, even in one brunch sitting. A salad that comes out at 10am may will likely be different to the one that replaces it two hours later, meaning that you could literally sit there for the whole day and eat your fill without getting bored… which we did… until they kicked us out, luckily after we’d stuffed out cheeks and pockets full of cake.
For now, they’re serving up simple salads during the week for lunch. This will be upgraded to a full menu at some point, but as it is, the fresh salads are finger licking, and forever changing.
Now, I’m very particular about my cake, as it just so happens that my mother is something of a cake queen (that’s right, she’s wears a crown and everything when baking). And, as I’m lucky enough to be intolerance-free, I normally bemoan when somebody puts ‘vegan’ or ‘gluten-free’ in front of my cake. I mean, vegan cheesecake? (can you even still call it a CHEESEcake?), but whatever they are serving up here, it is unreal, and has slapped the ignorance out of me.
The gluten-free chocolate cake is hands down the most beautifully (and strangely sensually) moist and light chocolate cakes I have ever eaten – sorry mother, I still love you and all your cakes so please still make the Guinness one for Christmas xxx. The cakes are all made on site by another side project of theirs, the Go Sweet Bakery, which is Gitti’s little baby.
And there is more to Turnhalle than meets the eye. They’ve set up the rooms both above and below the former gym into spaces for creativity.
The cellar is a space they hand over monthly to two artists to do their thing. This culminates into the monthly exhibition they hold – ‘Schaukel– Swing,’ which exhibits what they artists have been up to in their cellar (sounds kinda’ creepy when you say it like that). The floor above is used as the exhibition space.
This is the kind of place that could turn into anything. It’s still finding its feet and personality as it takes the slow and steady route and opts to grow organically. But that is what we love about it, as you can’t force individuality or character when it comes to a cafe or restaurant – you just have to create a space to hand over to the community, and see what happens.
So while we wait with baited breath to see exactly what form all this takes, for now we are perfectly happy to sit peacefully in the beautiful, high-ceilinged old gym, eyeing off the cakes, looking out the giant windows into the garden and escaping the hustle of the city.