There are beautiful things in Prague. Castles. Bridges. The old town. The astronomical clock. Funny how not that many people mention the food.
I’ll say it upfront. Not everything we ate in Prague was great. There was a good portion of stodge and some squeamish slabs of salted meats during our time there. There were knuckles of pork where the fat and cartilage wrinkled like flight support stockings. There was fried cheese and other courses which called heartily for the digestive qualities of plum brandy. On the flight on the way home I napped- and was visited by visions of twirling green vegetables.
But here it is, in a nutshell. One full day of good eating in Prague (we whittled it down from three to find one). It can be done.
Please, benefit from our experience. And if you find other winning spots, report back. Nobody else needs to spend their holiday eating a pork schnitzel with chest hairs stuck through it.
On a wide corner of the old town, near the Jewish quarter and about six minutes stroll away from the Town Square is the Bakeshop. There are gluttonous displays of pastries, fresh baked muffins, cookies and bagels. At lunch there are bowls of fresh salads and dips to choose from. The window is filled with celebratory cakes. It’s not the cheapest place in town, but it’s well priced compared to London bakeries (Ottolenghi, I’m looking at you). The staff are largely cheerful and there are spots to sit in the window. The coffee isn’t bad.
My advice; go to the juice cabinet and fetch a portion of of their natural yogurt studded with cherries, with a separate canister of granola for a cap. Eat the yogurt. Then share a few rugelach. When the rest of your day is going to consist of meat and starches, it’s not a bad way to start.
110 00 Prague 1-Old Town, Czech Republic
222 316 823
Lunch (or dinner):
Not far from breakfast, not far from the centre of the old town and not far from the action. Kolkovna is what you imagined a Czech dining experience to be when you first plotted your trip. The inside is gilded with artefacts from beer brewing, capturing the history of Pilsner Urquell (the most popular of Czech beers). There are tall tables and stools by the window where you can nurse a beer, or a glass of local pink wine. If you’re in the mood for something heartier, it’s worth heading to the restaurant downstairs, the benefit of it being; it’s a non smoking area.
You’ll find most of the Czech classics on the menu; from pork knuckle, through to 1/2 roast duck, served with bread dumplings and potato dumplings, white and red sauerkraut.
For just under 300 KC (around £10) you’ll get half a duck and sides. It could happily feed two. The cabbage is nicely piquant, the skin of the duck spotted with fennel seeds and the dumplings a comforting muddle of heft and lift. The pitcher of clarified butter may have been extraneous.
We had no troubles walking in without a reservation. Though walking out after consuming that quantity of food, proved more of a challenge.
V Kolkovně 8, 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město
224 819 701
Open every day from 11:00 to 24:00.
U Prince Hotel, terrace.
If you’ve walked up to the castle and across the Charles Bridge and you’re hankering for somewhere to sit, watch the sunset and have a tipple before dinner, this is where you want to go.
The U Prince Hotel is on the Old Town Square. Go inside and turn right, go up in the lift and you’ll come out at the Terrace bar.
From here there’s a view of the skyline, the square, the castles and the clock. There are outdoor heaters and blankets if the weather is nippy and awnings to protect from the elements. The food seems pricey for the quality, but it’s a grand spot for a drink. There are speakers hidden in the stone borders of the bar and the music (of the easy listening variety).
For a true Prague experience try a cocktail that mixes Becherovka and tonic. Becherovka is a local herbal bitters mixing anise,cinnamon, and 32 other herbs. It has a faint echo of Christmas to it.
Hotel U Prince
Old Town Square 29
Praha 1, 110 00
Cestr is both the name of the restaurant and the abbreviation for the black and white breed of cows historically bred by Czechs. Beef is celebrated here; from the overlarge prints on the wall of butchery cuts, to the hanging room where the beef is being dry aged, through to the jug in the shape of a cow which will dispense the milk for your macchiato
It’s an open space of a restaurant, with large windows and blonde wood furnishings. Tucked near the Museum station, it proved trickier to find than anticipated.
It’s good food, polished service, but without the fuss. There’s no problem walking in from the cold wearing boots and jeans. On the Saturday night we arrived there was a relatively mild bucks part of nine gentlemen behind us. There was a toddler gnawing on steak at the table to the side. In front, on the foor, was someone’s sleeping dog.
We opt for the three course menu for CK 548 (around £20), which includes a starter, main, and a portion of grams of your chosen style of with a sauce, side dishes. It also includes an appetiser that sets the tone for the meal; It’s soldiers of bread, topped with thick butter, slices of radish and salt. Both rustic, and refined.
Other winning dishes were a starter of Talián; home made beef and pork sausages, boiled in beef broth with a horseradish cream. The sausage has chew and heft, but the broth and the cream are ethereally light.
Our other entree of aged cheese from Olomouc, fried with bacon and homemade mayonnaise may looked like dainty crescents, but they’ll sit in your stomach like only fried cheese can.
Then we move to a goulash style presentation of beef neck, cut with a sauce of peppers and a hearty thwack of sour cream.
Both mains and the subsequent steaks come with sides; copper pots of mashed potato (which could have done with a touch more seasoning) and potato dumplings- small hugs of warm starch.
Portions of steak are restrained; as they should be, coming at the close of two other courses. A 125 gram serving of one of eight different cuts of beef allow you taste and appreciate the meat, without groaning from the heft.
Frites and a leaf salad are solid choices for sides, and while there’s plenty of beer to be drunk the wine list traverses across all of Europe. We elect to stay local and a Moravian red is gutsily tannic and brings enough berry fruit to contrast such a meat heavy menu.
And then there’s dessert. Make sure you save some room, because the beer ice cream with slivers of plum and malted crumble is something you probably don’t want to miss.
Legerova 75/57, 110 00 Praha 1
+420 222 727 851