Oniriq, Innsbruck


If Austria conjures up hearty fare in wood-panelled restaurants with scarlet geraniums spilling over from every balcony, Oniriq, Innsbruck’s most stylish new restaurant, is going to come as a bit of a shock. All pale wood, speckled concrete and the most contemporary kitchen almost in the middle of the diners, it’s tiny (seven tables) and has a menu of startling ingenuity. The staff is on the tiny side too – the chef, Udo Herrmann, his sous-chef and sommelier-cum-waiter are pretty much it and take turns in bringing the food to the table and explaining all to the diners (in impeccable English as well as German).

There are two tasting menus (one vegetarian, one fish and meat) and there’s no a la carte, though you can choose the number of courses (three or seven) and wine pairings (5 glasses or 7). Now that may sound like an awful lot of food, not to say wine, but the courses are sometimes the size of a thumbnail and wine in Austria comes in the smallest measures.

The first was an aperitif of sparkling wine and I was offered a choice of three – two Champagnes (one a rose) and an Austrian sparkling wine – while what I assumed were the amuses-bouches were served. These were three tiny morsels, on a theme of mushrooms (this being autumn and Austrians being great foragers) and included the creamiest falafel I have ever tasted.

It turned out, though, this was actually the pre-amuses-bouches and another shortly turned up, a tiny curl of marinated pork belly, scattered with nuts. The bread arrived, sour dough with poppy seeds, and a choice of super creamy butter or a green butter infused with caraway.

The food here is seasonal, delicate and regional. In fact, some of it is as local as the garden at the back of the restaurant where they grow some of the herbs, fruit and vegetables used in the kitchen. I spotted pineapple thyme, lemon nasturtiums, begonias (you can, surprisingly, eat the flowers), chillis and kumquats. The wine pairings are chosen with the greatest care and often come from the smallest houses not just in Austria but as far afield as Greece and Galicia.

The first course that appeared on the menu was Hucho, a kind of trout, served with a pointed red pepper and a scattering of nasturtium leaves. Then came Alpine Shrimp, a recent innovation, where the shrimps are bred locally in sweet rather than salt water. There was a tiny dish of veal sweetbread with a sauce made of asparagus decorated with ground ivy and cranberry. Melt-in-the-mouth suckling pig was served in a puree of corn and coffee. The main course of Mountain Lamb came with charred lettuce, bone marrow and dandelion – intense flavours layered one over the other. There followed a dish of sorrel, elderflower, mushrooms and buttermilk and then chocolate with popcorn, cherry and woodruff from the garden.

This was cooking at its finest in a charming, relaxed atmosphere. So if you’re heading for the Austrian slopes this winter, I’d strongly recommend you stop in Innsbruck for a particularly wonderful bite to eat.

​​Restaurant Oniriq, Bürgerstrasse 13, Innsbruck. For more information, please visit www.oniriq.at.