I’m tucked comfortably into my tiny apartment at the base of Paris Street, right up against the Vltava River in downtown Prague. Like the Seine, its views are beautiful. Prague has always been influenced by Paris and it’s visible everywhere through the stately, white architecture to the mini Eiffel Tower to the restaurant right across the street from me, Le Moules.
But that’s not to say Prague doesn’t have its own identity because, as everyone who’s ever visited this magnificent city knows, it surely does. Prague is known as the town of a hundred spires but in truth, there have been over 500 spires inventoried. The spires come in all sizes, colours and shapes, some with statues, others with flags, some singular, others multi-spired. It gives Prague it’s own singular identity of beauty that becomes especially magnificent at dusk. But Prague is slowly becoming known for more than just it’s visual appeal; food lovers are flocking to this Eastern European city to get a taste of the new Czech cuisine. From a North American perspective one may envision the food of the Czech Republic as being pork, cabbage, dumplings and beer but it has deliciously evolved into some pretty amazing nouvelle cuisine.
Eating in Prague With Eating Europe
To find out more, I took a food tour with Eating Europe. They are headquartered in Italy with tours running in Rome, London, Amsterdam and Prague. Eating Europe is opening doors to the kitchens of their perspective cities and satisfying the appetites of mouthwatering foodies who lust for new food experiences.
On the four-hour tour you not only visit six culinary destinations but in between, you enjoy what our guide Mirka calls ‘digestive cultural walks’. That is simply identifying everything along the way.
Eating well in Prague isn’t a problem, Lokal is a bar serving up great casual fare, La Degustation, is one of the two Michelin-Star restaurants in the city and U Modré Kachnicky (The Blue Duckling) is a romantically delicious place.
The first stop on our food tour was Sisters on Dlouha Street for some modern, lighter versions of the traditional chlebíčky (open faced sandwiches). Owned and operated by Hana Michopulu, affectionately known as Prague’s own Alice Waters, Hana was responsible for bringing farmers’ markets to Prague and she only uses locally sourced foods in her modern looking eatery tucked into an ancient building.
Chlebíčky is an old Czech food that dates back well over a hundred years. It’s the Czech’s most popular finger food but contrary to soft, thick slices of bread piled high with over mayonnaised potato salad and slices of fatty meats, these small melba-toast sized slices of deliciousness are eye-candy to the modern palate. I picked up a blood red, pureed beet topped chlebíčky with a chunk of Czech goat cheese and diced walnuts on top. The beets drenched their natural sweetness over my tongue while the tang of the sourdough bread and earthiness of the cheese layered with the walnut tannins to make for an elegant mouthful.
As our little group of six savoured the chlebíčky in Sisters, our eyes were fixated on the butcher shop next door. People were seated at the window bar digging into mounds of glistening tartar on small wooden cutting boards, plates of shaved Prague ham and grilled sausages in soft white buns. We didn’t have to go far for our next tasting, we just walked right next door into the butcher shop.
Like a restaurant with an open kitchen Nase Maso’s has an open butcher block buzzing with blood stained, white-jacketed butchers carving, chopping and slicing. It’s all too exciting for our small group of carnivores and we start chatting rapidly about meat.
Out of the back comes a young man with a clean chefs jacket holding a large platter of meats. He offers it up to our group. The first sample was a slice of meatloaf (more like a rough terrine) on top of rustic sourdough and spread with spicy mustard. The loaf is rich with a peppery flavour that takes on the challenge of spicy mustard skillfully. It’s a full, robust mouthful. Next were warm, pieces of juicy, smoked Přeštice sausage named after the region it is known for. It filled your palate with powerful robust smoky-rich flavours, a burly character sure to warm any heart on a Prague winters day.
As Mirka guides us to our next destination she talks of Czech food and beer, of historic buildings and statues and of course, more restaurants. Bellevue Restaurant has the most beautiful views of Charles Bridge and some stunning seasonal dishes with a touch of traditional Czech cuisine. Café Imperial is a must stop because it’s run by Executive Chef Zdenek Pohlreich, claimed by some to be Prague’s Gordon Ramsay.
Prague is the beer capital of the Czech Republic with citizens drinking a whopping 157 litres per capita. Pilsner and Budweiser are both brewed in the Czech Republic, but unlike the cheap watery beer brewed in the U.S., Budweiser here is a very high quality beer.
After all this talk of beer, we drop by Pivovarský D’m, a microbrewery and restaurant serving up Czech pub food. Giant copper stills sit in the middle of the restaurant and we wander down to the dark underground tank cellar to sip some good Czech beer.
We leave a little thirst quenched and walk into the sunshine again. We pass a modern looking ice cream shop called Beautiful Me. Mirka says it’s her favourite in town. We pass a stand filled with rotating poles covered with cinnamon sugared bread. They’re called Staroceske Trdlo. The dough-covered poles rotate over hot coals and cook the bread. When they’re removed from the poles, they’re rolled in more sugar. Imagine that, warm, just cooked bread with sugar melting over it – yum.
Moving on we arrive at Choco Café, a family-owned chocolate café serving traditional Hořice, rolled wafers, stuffed with whipped cream and dipped in shot-glasses filled with thick hot chocolate. The wafers took me back to communion in the Catholic Church. They had the same texture and flavour, but no church wafer was ever stuffed with the seductive textures of whipped cream or dipped in thick sultry chocolate. The chocolate drinks menu looks more like a wine list with dozens of plantation designated chocolates that are melted into seductive drinks. Hot chocolate is a bit of a thing in Prague and it’s here where I had my first taste of whisky hot chocolate.
Mirka is a foodie and when she wasn’t talking about her love for Prague’s food shops and restaurants, she was gushing with pride over its history and historical beauty. We experienced some of Prague’s hidden treasures, learned the history behind some of its magnificent buildings and best of all, cut through the thick layer of brash tourism that sometimes interferes with a first timers experience.
I give Eating Europe a 10/10.
Where To Eat in Prague
Bakeshop, on Kozi for amazing pastries and great coffee.
Gingerbread Museum on Neruda, they sell gingerbread cookies with intricate icing lace. It’s pure culinary art.
Old Town Square: Eat the ham roasting over coals and dripping on the potatoes below.
Dunkr Parukarka. Go for drinks in a graffiti-covered, underground bunker.
Wenceslas Square. It’s the best place to get a Staroceske Trdlo.
If you go, check out these websites:
Eating Europe: www.eatingeuropetours.com
Prague Tourism: www.czechtourism.com