The urge to transform something grand into an experience gave me pause as I passed by the former headquarters of Veitscher Magnesitwerke AG on Vienna's magnificent Ringstraße. The building belonged to one of Austria's great businessmen, Karl Wlaschek – and unfortunately he didn't survive to experience its transformation. With three clear ideas, my wish was to breathe new life into the landmarked building dating from the 1950s.
Celebrating tradition at the Grand Ferdinand is about moving forward, not looking back. Free of forced flashbacks. With an openness to continuing times past. We haven't set out to redefine the restaurant and hotel business. What interests us is tradition. We want to recapture eras in Vienna in which nothing was more meaningful than embodying what was good. Setting the stage: Lobmeyr chandeliers, Wiener Silbermanufaktur silverware, the best French champagne, and at the centre of it all, grand Viennese cuisine.
A line in Austria's national anthem goes, "A nation blessed with beauty". And it is this beauty that we're bringing back to Vienna's magnificent Ringstraße. Fittingly, the Grand Ferdinand is permitted to be decorated with the coat of arms of Austria. An honour only bestowed on very special businesses. I’m thrilled about this – and feel strengthened in my sense of identity. I am certain that anything you do can be done beautifully. Everything that is built can be built beautifully. Beauty is in no way a matter of money, or design, or a creativity competition. It's simply a matter of attitude.
A life full of relish is necessarily a beautiful life. And a life full of relish doesn't mean simply doing one's job well. It also means eating well and enjoying the various cultural offerings available. My idea is to bring this life full of relish to the fore at the Grand Ferdinand.
The Viennese have always had exceptionally high standards. Second-best has never been good enough. Whether in music, literature, theatre or handicrafts, and especially cuisine. Perfection has been the ultimate goal for everyone and in all things. So nothing seemed more logical to me than to choose this ambition to create something grand as the fundamental attitude behind the Grand Ferdinand. Emperor's soup, devilled eggs in the 1898 Prague style, table-side Tafelspitz service, veal shank in the style of Maria Theresa, minced meat fritters à la Metternich, violet ice cream and much more. Believe me, you'll enjoy it.
In many grand hotels, exclusivity is a part of every gesture. For me, hotels have a cultural role to fulfil: they should be open to anyone and everyone. Yes, we have a suite for EUR 1,500 a night. But we also offer beds in our beautiful eight-bed room for EUR 30 a night – can be booked on Airbnb.
You can sip the very best champagne at Gulasch & Söhne for EUR 16 or enjoy a tasty Velkopopovicý beer for EUR 1.50. Anyone who would like to can enjoy life and Austrian culture at the Grand Ferdinand and will receive top service.
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