Delish fish others will miss

David Whitley goes downmarket in Salzburg for an upmarket feast ... and not a sausage in sight.

WHAT Fisch-Krieg

WHERE Salzburg, Austria

HOW MUCH From EUR1.90 ($3.70) a meal.

WHY GO Eating options in this part of the world tend to come in three categories. First of all, there are the overpriced restaurants aimed squarely at tourists and rich local businessmen who can happily put things on expenses.

Second come the beer halls, which sell the Germanic equivalent of pub food. Their food, both hearty and heart-attack inducing, is generally a giant portion of pork with dumplings. And maybe a massive helping of red cabbage if they're catering to vegans.

Last of all, there is street food, which translates as a sausage on a polystyrene tray with a dollop of mustard.

All three have their merits but it doesn't take long for things to become a little samey. Finding something healthy, of good value and not made of pig becomes something of a holy grail.

That's why Fisch-Krieg is such a great find. It sits on the cusp of Salzburg's old town, which is probably why most tourists will miss it. It's south of the river but on the other side of the road from the maze of alleyways, churches and kitsch shops that draw people to the city of Mozart in the first place.


It is also obscured by buses. There are usually two or three parked directly in front and because the building is drab and utilitarian, it could easily pass for a small bus station. It's not - it's the fish market.

This means it gets the freshest fish in town. It's caught, brought up the river and unloaded here. Opposite the Fisch-Krieg counter, fish is sold by weight to other restaurants but the smart cookies eat it here.

They're not coming for the decor. The seating is basic cafeteria-style and the walls are enlivened only by posters that show how to identify lobsters and crabs.

Rather randomly, there is a large tree in the middle of the room that ploughs on through the roof. Everyone ignores it as if this is perfectly normal.

The regular customers are not coming for the smell, either - it's unmistakably that of a fish market. But the food and lack of wallet damage more than makes up for this.

Prices start cheap - and don't climb much higher. The most basic options are herring baguettes for EUR1.90 but a variety of fish dishes (from salmon to carp) are available for EUR3.10 per 100 grams. All are displayed in front of the customer, so it's easy enough to just point at the one that looks the best bet.

A few meal deals are also on offer for about EUR5 , such as a fish dish and a drink, although these don't tend to be significantly cheaper than just buying a bottle of Coke or mineral water separately.

For those fancying a bit of everything, a portion of paella is the clever option.

Unlike the measly paellas found elsewhere, this one doesn't cheat by making it 90 per cent rice. It's brimming with prawns and chunks of miscellaneous denizens of the deep and costs just EUR6.90 for a sizeable plate. While the Valencians would probably look sniffily at what has been done to their city's signature dish, to anyone else it tastes mighty good.

The food at Fisch-Krieg is fresh, considerably lighter than most of the fare available in Salzburg and represents an absolute bargain. Oh yes, no pigs had to die during the making of it.

FREE STUFF For entertainment, concentrate on the fishmongers counter opposite. There's a tank with live fish at the back elevated to eye level and while hardly the greatest aquarium in the world, it's a nice touch.

Also, it is one of the few eateries in Salzburg that has river views. It's possible to watch boats trundle past lazily as you sit enjoying your meal.

BONUS Salzburg is one of the most touristy cities in Europe - justifiably so, as it's beautiful. But it can be quite hard to escape the herd. Fisch-Krieg is one place to do it. It's very much a local joint - no translated menus, no big tour groups barging in and a clientele largely consisting of old women in silly hats and earmuffs carrying their shopping. All in all, it makes for excellent people-watching and a chance to get a slice of real life rather than the Mozart and Sound Of Music stereotype.

DETAILS Fisch-Krieg, 4 Hanuschplatz, phone +43 662 843 732.