“ Address: Franziskanerplatz 10 / 8010 Graz / Austria „
Unless it's a special occasion, the norm in central/eastern Europe is to eat your main meal in the middle of the day, and something lighter in the evening. This suits me well because I tend to rise early and so I am ravenous by lunchtime, when I could quite easily polish off three courses. Conversely my early start averse partner prefers a smaller lunch and a more substantial evening repast. This only becomes an issue when we're on holiday; the rest of the time we're forced by work constraints to eat a quick lunch and we like to eat together in the evenings as a matter of course. However, in the countries we tend to visit it's the usually the case that the best value is to be had at lunchtime when set meals are being served. My travelling companion struggles to reconcile his parsimonious nature with his desire for a light lunch when he sees that he can have a whole meal at lunchtime for the price of a main course in the evening.
Finding a suitable place for lunchtime dining can be tricky when we want different things and are trying not to spend too much. Earlier this year we trudged round central Graz one cold Saturday lunchtime seeking out a place to eat. After much deliberation we chose Leiner's a classy looking café-bistro type affair on the Franziskanerplatz. We'd already decided against Leiner's thinking it looked too expensive for lunch but when my toes started to become numb I insisted on going in. It turned out to be a good choice Leiner's is actually not as expensive as it looks and it has a varied menu offering hot and cold dishes, light and more substantial, making it an ideal place for people like us who want different things at lunchtime.
On a slightly warmer day I might have wanted to sit outside with one of the lovely soft sheepskins over my knees. They are actually there for smokers, Leiner's being an establishment that does not have a separate smoking room (yes, you might see Austrians looking very energetic as they stride off with their walking poles but there is no smoking ban here) though only a few die hard smokers were outside on this particular day. Leiner's is situated on one of Graz's smaller, more intimate squares overlooking the old convent church, not the grandest of the city's spaces, but certainly among the most characterful and charming.
Inside there are two rooms: the larger one is much lighter with a big old fashioned bar-counter and a grand chandelier. The overall look is contemporary with a few classic touches. We sat in the quieter, second room. The rooms are separated by heavy doors with opaque glass but the staff on came through regularly to check customers were happy and to make sure tables were cleared. The menu is in German only and I ordered in German so I can't say whether English is spoken by the staff but I'd be surprised if they don't all speak excellent English, most people you meet in hospitality in Graz do.
One of the things I really liked about Leiner's is that you can have exactly what you want with no worries that you aren't perhaps spending enough. That may sound odd (and certainly Himself is always reminding me that if something is on the menu it means they are happy for you to have it) but sometimes I worry that I should maybe be ordering a side salad, or some other accompaniment I don't really want, just because the staff might think I'm mean. At Leiner's you can order what you want and the staff don't bat an eye; neither do they assume that whatever you've ordered can't possibly be enough.
I quite fancied the pumpkin soup (Euro4.40) but I decided on the chilli con carne (Euro5.40) and a glass of white wine. Himself chose a sandwich (Euro4.00) and a beer, a local one from Graz, Puntigamer. Not long after our food came a group of eight students came in, perused the menu at great length and then asked for coffees; the waiter didn't flicker and my worries about not spending enough dissipated. In my mind it's not fair to take up two tables at Saturday lunchtime when most places are busy and just order coffees but nobody seemed to mind.
The chilli con carne was very good though more of a soup than your typical chilli. I could have tolerated a bit more heat but it was enjoyable all the same with good flavours and good meat. For the price the portion was fair and the amount of meat in the dish was not stingy: it was just right for a modest lunch but perhaps smaller than you'd receive as a main course in a Mexican restaurant. It came with some crusty bread which I was pleased about because I was planning to have a curry that evening and didn't want to eat rice twice.
Himself had picked a tomato, rocket and mozzarella sandwich which was made with lovely fresh crusty white bread. The sandwich was generously filled with though a little more rocket would have good. Again, the price seemed fair given the location, the size and the quality.
We really enjoyed our lunch at Leiner's and we're likely to visit again in the future; there are changing daily specials and they are big on using seasonal produce so there'll always be something different to try. Considering the location and the offering the prices are excellent, while the service is excellent and the food of a high standard. What more could you want?
Note: I've quoted the prices in Euro but not given a Sterling equivalent. Most readers know roughly how that converts and it's quite easy to do an online conversion if you really need to.