As the partner of a gourmand, K2 often finds himself in sticky situations, but this time it was more slimy than sticky as he was forced to eat snails. Cooked snails, even if they are edible snails, not the common backyard variety have never been on his must-do list.

Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

Walking through the streets of Vienna. Photo: Kerry Heaney

Lost in Vienna

Slow and steady wins the race is my mantra as I retrace my steps through the streets of Vienna, lost again en route to dinner with Vienna’s most famous snail farmer.

It’s just a short walk said the hotel concierge, and there was plenty of time for a casual twilight stroll through the streets of this city.  When asked about dangerous areas to avoid there was a shocked, laughable response. “Don’t worry, Vienna is a very safe city.”

Safe or not, when the instructions don’t add up, and the phone GPS won’t help, it’s time to ask a local. So I’m standing in front of another hotel help desk with yet another map and more directions.

Wishing there were walking shoes rather than my cute black flats on my tired feet, I finally arrive at the understated entrance of Konstantin Filippou. I’ve been promised a special dinner menu at this Michelin-starred restaurant, and I’m expecting to eat snails.

Snail course at Konstantin Filippou, Vienna.  Photo: Kerry Heaney

Five-course snail degustation

Snail farmer Andreas Gugumuck is excited when he arrives at Konstantin Filippou straight from a Slow Food Movement conference. He announces I can look forward to a five-course degustation dinner with four cooked snail courses.

I have to confess I’m both excited and terrified by the prospect.  Excited because this is new ground and bound to be a taste sensation.  Terrified because I know how my partner feels about eating snails and I assured him he could have a different menu that doesn’t seem to be available.

“Disgusting, slimy-like-snot creatures” are the words he uses to describe snails.

Snail farmer Andreas Gugumuck. Photo: Kerry Heaney

The largest Vienna snail farm

Andreas Gugumuck owns and runs Vienna’s largest snail farm. He exports snails, snail caviar and snail-liver all over the world and also sells locally to Austrian gourmet restaurants.

His snails are grown in fields and feed on cultivated in breeding plots filled with sunflower, beet, canola and herbs such as thyme and fennel.

When the bread arrives with house-churned butter, it’s a good start and at least something that K2 will enjoy.

More Vienna snail courses. Photo: Kerry Heaney

Time to eat snails

As the dishes roll out, it is clear that the meal is going to be a challenge for a non-snail lover.

There are dishes where the cooked snails look like snails and meals where it’s hard to tell where the snail starts and ends. Snail caviar sits like little balls on top of emulsions, the flavours are astounding, and the presentation perfect.

It’s a dinner I’ll dream about later.

When we leave and stumble our way back to the hotel, The Guesthouse Vienna, I’m excited by the experience and surprised by K2’s ability to make the best of a challenging meal.

“Wasn’t that fabulous!” I say to him. “Great company and a wonderful meal.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” he says. “You owe me double time for eating snails.”

Moral of the story is never play poker with K2.

The Gugumuck Farm

Andre gave up his job in IT to take over the Gugumuck Farm and started raising snails in 2014.

He sees edible snails, which grow with minimal use of resources, as the new agriculture fed on locally grown herbs and vegetables. Between May to October, visitors can tour the snail farm with Andre as he explains snail husbandry and breeding. Tours cost 19 euros per person and include a snail tasting matched with wine.

Dining on cooked snails first became popular in ancient Rome. It remained popular throughout the centuries partly because of a quirk in Christianity.  It seems the church regarded snails as neither fish or meal, so they were able to be consumed during Lent. Monks bred snails in their monastery gardens and ate them all through the year.

What you don’t know about snails

You know those silvery trails of glistening slime that mark the trail of a snail in the garden? That’s snail slime which is actually a natural remedy for skin repair.  It reduces wrinkles and rejuvenates irritated skin tissue, and it is an antibiotic and exfoliant.  However, I am not suggesting that you try this at home folks.

The restaurant

Sadly, the snail degustation at Konstantin Filippou is no longer available.

Chef and owner Konstantin Filippou now serves only fish and seafood in this elegant restaurant which seats a maximum of 35 people.

Find it at Dominikanerbastei 17, 1010 Vienna, +43 )1 512 22 29

More about Vienna

Disclaimer: Ed+bK stayed in Vienna as a guest of The Guesthouse and Vienna Tourist Board.