When in Lech, Eat at Hagen’s

by Chikashi

When a butcher has a restaurant attached to the shop, you can usually count on the food being good. Hagen’s Dorf Metzgerei in Lech, Austria is one such butcher with a restaurant but with one difference. Their food is not just good; it’s excellent.

Leberknödelsuppe at Hagen'sWhen butchers get things a bit wrong, it is when they try to get a bit too creative with their dishes and lose sight of doing things well by focussing too much on being different. No such problems here. At Hagen’s, they stick to the basics and insist on doing them well. In a way, it is a necessity because simple dishes cannot hide imperfections. For instance, the Leberknödel soup above was, well, perfect. It might seem a little odd to wax lyrical about such a thing, but the homemade broth was divine. Perfectly balanced, uncorrupted by clever ingredients that some include only for the sake of being clever. Alchemy for alchemy’s sake can be very tiresome, but none of that nonsense here. The Leberknödel tastes like something that was lost a couple of generations ago, like the great grandmother’s long-lost receipt.

If I had been alone in the restaurant, I probably would have licked the soup bowl clean.

Veal chop at Hagen'sI was tempted to try one of the aged beef that has a pride of place in the shop as well as on the menu. However, I chose the veal chop this time.

I was a bit surprised by the condiment. I spotted the Kräuterbutter in the shop as I was scanning the case upon entry, but I hadn’t expected it to appear next to my veal chop. For some reason, I have a very low opinion of Kräuterbutter so I was a bit hesitant at first. The yellow tint suggested that there is a bit of tumeric / curry powder in it, which got me even less enthusiastic.

With the risk of sounding a bit silly, this was the best veal chop that I have ever had. Sweet, tender and juicy. Golden on the outside, pastel pink on the inside. In other words, excellent raw material prepared to perfection. And, I have to admit that the parsley and curry powder being released from the butter actually worked very well with the veal. My prejudice against Kräuterbutter turned out to be completely unjustified (on this occasion).

They have a fairly extensive wine list with a good assortment of Austrian production, a diverse assortment of French production, and a limited selection of Italian goods. Some wine lists smell very much like a convenient recommendation of the local wine wholesaler. Others have a feel of a selection made by the proprietor with care. Their’s is the latter. You might be surprised by some of the wines on the list.

Leberkäse at Hagen'sIf you are in a rush, you can get a Leberkäse sandwich in the shop to take away. They looked so good that I was tempted to get one for the road even though there was no space left in my stomach. Truth be told, I wanted to move into Hagen’s. As is sometimes the case with these sorts of discoveries, I discovered Hagen’s only the day before leaving Lech. Otherwise, I would have lunched there everyday during my stay…

The shop is open until 19:00, and the kitchen closes at 18:30. On one hand, it seems a shame that one cannot have dinner at Hagen’s. On the other hand, it is a commercial and personal choice that the owner family have made and probably reflects on their principled approach to their business, which I think is a good thing.

During the ski season, the restaurant gets absolutely packed at about 17:00. In contrast, it is easy to get a table and linger in the early afternoon. It is a blessing that it is located a few hundred meters away from all the bars and eateries popular with the hoi polloi.

One word of caution: your canine friends are not welcome inside (there are a couple of tables outside), so make necessary arrangements before you go.

The staff are friendly and helpful, and the food is excellent. If you are in Lech, make a point of eating there. If you are in one of the neighbouring villages, it’s well worth the detour.