Advantages Good value set lunch, nicer than airport, pumpkin seed oil!
Disadvantages Expensive beers, closed weekends, food quality mixed
|Value for Money|
|Standard of Menu|
|Standard of Service|
Since Mr O’Leary, in his wisdom, decided to axe Ryanair flights to and from my local airport in Slovenia, the journey to and from our home in Maribor takes the best part of a day, most of which involves hanging around between various modes of transport. Previously we’d be in Maribor by lunch-time but now we don’t get there until gone 6.00pm, having left our home in Newcastle around 6.00am. Now we use a variety of airports in central Europe depending on whether we are visiting surrounding countries as well as our holiday home, but on the return we tend to fly from Graz in Austria. The only train we can take from Maribor to Graz to be certain of making our flight gets us to Graz Airport – more precisely the nearby village of Feldkirchen which is about two minutes walk from the airport – several hours early.
Feldkirchen is a tiny place with two bars, and the place I’m reviewing, the Gasthof an der Flughafen (the name translates as “the Inn at the Airport”). Of the two bars, one serves food, the other heats up mini pizzas and serves toasted sandwiches; the Gasthof is the only place in Feldkirchen that serves full meals. We ate there the first time we used the airport and now we look upon lunch there as the last episode of our holiday; if we have to hang around at the airport, at least we’ll enjoy ourselves.
The interior is typical of more modern establishments of this kind and comprises a main room where the bar is along with a few tables and booths, and two further dining rooms off this. It’s nothing spectacular with lots of wood and warm colours but it is homely and comfortable. If it’s really busy, we might sit at the bar once we’ve finished eating, in order to free up a table. The drinks here are quite expensive and the bar along the road is cheaper but once we’re there we do tend to settle in and can’t be bothered to move on. They have Puntigamer (a local beer) on tap and it’s a vey decent lager.The fact that this is the only place in Feldkirchen serving full meals can only be part of the attraction of the Gasthof an der Flughafen. There is a reasonable menu of dishes from lighter things like soups and salads to main meals such as steaks and goulash or ham and eggs. However, like the majority of diners, we now go for the daily set lunch which at around €6 is excellent value. Sometimes tables have been reserved in advance but you can almost always get a table immediately. I think the tables are only reserved if a larger group wants to sit together in a particular part of the restaurant. Like I said this is the only place around and there’s a friendly community atmosphere; from dustbin men to business men, and grandparents with kids to ladies who lunch, the place is packed over the lunch time session.
The lunch special is usually written up on a chalkboard by the door but I’ve noticed that most people tend to barely look at it. There is always a soup to start; possibly homemade, more likely (given the overall price of the meal) from a packet or catering tin. It’s a small portion but as the main course is usually pretty hefty then this does not matter. What is described as a salad is served next; I say “described as” because it’s usually very simple indeed, sometimes just iceberg lettuce leaves with a dressing. However, the salad is usually dressed with pumpkin seed oil which makes the most dull salad absolutely delicious. Feldkirchen is in the region known in English as Styria, and in German as Steiermark. This region also covers part of Slovenia where it’s called Stajerska. In both Slovenian and Austrian Styria, pumpkin seed oil (‘kurbiskernol’ in German) is very popular and produced in large quantities; it’s so popular that it’s actually used in several desserts and is often served poured on vanilla ice cream or with caramelised apples. What’s more, if you arrive at the right time of year, you’ll see a glorious sight between the restaurant and the airport – a field full of lovely big pumpkins just waiting to be picked.The salad is served separately as a course and everyone tucks into it as soon as it arrives. I prefer to eat it more slowly so there is some left when my main course arrives (depending on what the main course is) but the temptation of the wonderful pumpkin seed oil is too great. Last time we visited the main course was schnitzel in a pumpkin seed crust with crushed potatoes and mixed vegetables. The schnitzel (a pork one I think) was enormous and covered over two thirds of the plate. The crumb crust contained pieces of bright green pumpkin seed and it was just about the best schnitzel I’ve ever eaten. It wasn’t too greasy and the pumpkin seeds gave a really unusual taste to it as well as a different texture from your usual schnitzel. The crushed (or maybe just badly mashed?) potato tastes suspiciously like something which has had copious amounts of butter added, but what the heck, I’m on holiday after! The vegetables are more than a little disappointing: definitely from a bag of frozen mixed vegetables – usually peas, carrots and sweetcorn – but at least it has been cooked in a stock, to make it a bit livelier, rather than just water. It’s a bit school dinner-ish but at this price we really don’t mind too much.
You can order from the menu at lunch time but as the place is so busy and most people are having the special, I feel almost obliged to do the same. I have ordered from the menu one occasion when - had the goulash which was very good; the pieces of meat were chunky and tender and the sauce was very rich and flavoursome. There are fish and vegetarian options on the menu which is means that almost everyone is catered for (I think vegans might struggle!) but the drawback is that the dishes on the main menu are overpriced in comparison to the special.The restaurant won’t ever win any Michelin stars but it is (mostly) good home cooking. I’ve never had anything that was really bad, but the reality is that while the meat item is always excellent, the accompaniments could be better (except for anything which has been liberally doused in pumpkin see oil!). Schnitzel tends to be the main dish on the lunch time special, although breaded fried chicken is also common.
This is a family run restaurant and while the service is always polite and efficient, it’s ever particularly friendly. Even customers who seem to know the staff are treated in much the same way as everyone else, whether this is because it’s lunchtime and it’s busy or because they just aren’t very friendly, I have no idea.
Given that I’ve made criticisms about the food and the staff, you might wonder why I rate this place at all. Firstly, the food that is good is excellent. Then there’s the good value of the lunch special. You wouldn’t get close to this at the airport itself where eating options are very limited. Finally, while the staff are not that friendly, the ambience is still quite pleasant; there’ a bit of life here and it’s a more enjoyable place to sit than the sterile environment of the airport.
I've awarded Gasthof an der Flughafen three stars which may seem quite mediocre but I've knocked stars off for the lack of friendliness and the mixed quality of the food. Overall I'd recommend this place if you want a decent cooked meal before flying and want to avoid airport prices.
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