Well­ness

Vi­enna’s choco­late ther­apy and other “healthy” treats

Qantas - - Contents - STEVEN MOORE IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY

CHOCO­LATE makes ev­ery­thing bet­ter. Its scent still en­gulfs me days af­ter it’s been slathered all over my body at Sacher Bou­tique Spa on the fifth floor of Vi­enna’s ex­clu­sive Ho­tel Sacher (ho­tel.qan­tas.com.au/ho­tel­sacher). And its fatty ca­cao but­ter keeps my skin sup­ple, plump and ra­di­ant for weeks af­ter I’ve been smoth­ered in it. Its good­ness in­fuses ev­ery pore and de­lights ev­ery sense – ex­cept, of course, the taste­buds, as I’m on a health kick in a city that’s bet­ter known for waltz­ing than the pur­suit of well­ness. But I’ve come to the right place, for choco­late is full of an­tiox­i­dants to fight free rad­i­cals, caf­feine to stim­u­late cir­cu­la­tion and firm the skin, and emol­lients to smooth rough spots. It’s even said to sur­pass the wrin­kle-freez­ing ef­fects of Bo­tox. The his­toric Ho­tel Sacher, founded in 1876 by Ed­uard Sacher, is famed for the Sacher­torte, a cake in­vented by Ed­uard’s fa­ther, Franz, when he was a teenage ap­pren­tice chef. The de­lec­ta­ble choco­late cake is still made daily in Vi­enna and shipped around the world. Seiz­ing on this fa­mous tra­di­tion, Sacher Bou­tique Spa’s sig­na­ture Time to Choco­late treat­ments re­pur­pose the sweet sub­stance, ap­ply­ing it as a calo­rie-free balm for body and soul.

Con­fec­tionary might be off the menu when you’re seek­ing to re­vi­talise your­self but nour­ish­ing cui­sine abounds in Aus­tria’s cap­i­tal. Skin but­tered and aglow, I sit un­der the fruit trees at Heuer (heuer-amkarl­splatz.com), a restau­rant in the city cen­tre. It’s near Karls­garten, Vi­enna’s first re­search and demon­stra­tion gar­den for ur­ban farm­ing, where univer­sity stu­dents and city dwellers

come to learn about tra­di­tional cul­ti­va­tion prac­tices and healthy food pro­duc­tion.

Many of the in­gre­di­ents on Heuer’s menu (in­clud­ing honey) are har­vested in Karls­garten, with the re­main­der sourced from pub­lic pas­tures or small lo­cal farm­ers and spe­cial­ists. The sloe in my gin and tonic – yes, gin is ben­e­fi­cial, as it con­tains an­tiox­i­dant-rich ju­niper berries and is thought to ease arthritic in­flam­ma­tion – has been for­aged. The grilled oys­ter mush­rooms in my salad were cul­ti­vated in Vi­enna’s 20th dis­trict on beds of cof­fee grounds dis­carded by the restau­rant and brought here by cargo bike.

As in so many Euro­pean cities, cy­cling is com­mon­place in Vi­enna, its slim­line res­i­dents weav­ing through the ubiq­ui­tous, or­derly bike lanes. It’s a good way for health-con­scious vis­i­tors to see the city so I strap on a hel­met – which in­stantly dis­tin­guishes me as a tourist among the hel­met-less, skirt-wear­ing and suited-up lo­cal cy­clists – and hop onto a rental from Pedal Power Bike Vi­enna (ped­alpower.at).

The ob­vi­ous route to take is the 5.3-kilo­me­tre Ringstrasse that cir­cles the com­pact city cen­tre but I’ve been pro­vided with a tour map (and a list of guide­lines essen­tial for grasp­ing the rules and eti­quette of Vi­en­nese traf­fic). So I plot an in­vig­o­rat­ing path that crosses the Danube Canal, whizzes along part of the Ringstrasse, with its his­toric build­ings and canopy of trees, checks out the food-themed Naschmarkt (wiener­naschmarkt.eu) and skirts back along Stadt­park, which was estab­lished in the 1860s and is lush with groves of sooth­ing ginkgo, honey lo­cust and po­plar trees.

This his­toric Vi­en­nese land­scape con­trasts with the Sof­i­tel Vi­enna Stephans­dom (ho­tel. qan­tas.com.au/sof­itelvi­enna) across the Danube Canal. It’s a slop­ing glass tower de­signed by French ar­chi­tect Jean Nou­vel as a foil to the Gothic bril­liance of nearby St Stephen’s Cathe­dral. The ho­tel’s So Spa of­fers a com­pre­hen­sive treat­ment menu but, for some­thing uniquely Vi­en­nese, I choose the Sisi Spe­cial, named for Em­press Elis­a­beth “Sisi” of Aus­tria, who took great care of her ap­pear­ance and wore di­a­mond star­bursts in her hair. The treat­ment sounds promis­ing; it will turn me into the princess I’ve al­ways wanted to be, says the blurb. In­deed, who wouldn’t feel re­gal af­ter a bliss­ful fa­cial, body scrub, mas­sage and nail shape-and-shine? I float out of the spa, miss­ing only the di­a­monds in my hair. For din­ner, I cross the Danube Canal again and find my way to Tian Bistro (tian-bistro.com), tucked off a cob­ble­stoned street. This café-style al­ter­na­tive to Vi­enna’s Miche­lin-starred Tian Restau­rant serves veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan dishes made with freshly har­vested, mostly or­ganic pro­duce. Its spe­cialty is tarte flam­bée: oven-fired flat­bread topped with com­bi­na­tions that in­clude spinach and pear, leek and onion, and egg­plant and mush­rooms. But I or­der from the chef’s gar­den menu and en­joy a mini dé­gus­ta­tion of in­no­va­tively paired in­gre­di­ents such as mush­rooms and pota­toes, as­para­gus and car­damom, and car­rots and hazel­nuts.

So vir­tu­ous do I feel while pre­par­ing for bed at Ho­tel Sacher that I de­cide to eat the minia­ture Sacher­torte placed in my suite. For isn’t it true that choco­late can be good for you?

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