If you’re thinking about your next city break and need some inspiration in regards to the location – please don’t look any further. Prague is the most enjoyable European city that I have visited so far (with some fabulous little culinary delights). If you haven’t already been there, I urge you to go. It’s the perfect time of year to visit as well, this place needs to be experienced in the winter months. In fact, I’d love to see it in the snow.
As a holiday destination it lends itself very well to cold weather and you are sure to feel at home wandering around the cobbled streets, decked out in a scarf, hat and gloves. Warming mulled wine is available around every corner and the chill in the air somehow adds to the beauty of Prague.
On arrival you will be greeted by spectacular architecture and some breath taking views across the river and looking up towards the caste:
If you can make it up to the stunning building (the distance is short, but some may find it a little steep in places) then you can expect views like this from the top – well worth the trek:
It can also be a romantic getaway – if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for (we normally just go for the food these days). That said, an unforgettable moment springs to mind. My husband to be and I were walking across the Charles Bridge one evening on our way to scout out some fine Czech cuisine, and we met with a local musician half way across who was playing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on a plethora of wine glass rims, by candlelight, with his fingers. It was note perfect. I have never heard anything quite like it, and probably never will again. In complete astonishment and awe I filmed it at the time – sadly our camera gave up on us the next day and the footage was gone forever. But never from our memories. We often mention it when reminiscing about our adventures pre-children.
There are lots of things to do and see in the Old Town, including the Astronomical Clock and the Powder Gate, and of course taking a walk around the town square itself (take heed – the prices are extortionate for food and drinks around this area, but if you are willing to hunt around just five minutes or so off the beaten track, you will find some fantastic, traditional restaurants and bars that don’t make a huge dent in your spending money.)
We discovered a little underground bar in the Lesser Town which we then frequented for the rest of the holiday as the beer was decent (strong) and very well priced. It was like drinking in a cave, and it soon became apparent that we were among the very few folk that ventured there in the day time during the week (this meant that we had full control of the juke box – and no one was going to complain about my eclectic taste in music):
We were lucky enough to stay in a gothic fifteenth century building that was a former medieval brewery – now a hotel, restaurant and bar (we found out later that it also stayed open until 3am daily – excellent, and very handy). It was called Hotel U Medvidku also home to a very strong Czech beer (X-Beer 33) of 12.6 percent alcoholic volume! We had to sample it of course, it would have been rude not to. Needless to say, you wouldn’t want too many of those of an evening (or more than one serving). Saying that, I’m not really a beer drinker. Give me a nice chilled, crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc any day, but when in Rome…and at those prices!?
We ate at our hotel twice during our stay, partly because it was convenient but mostly because after the first sitting we just wanted more. It was our aim to get involved with all of the traditional fare (personally I don’t see the point of travelling anywhere outside of the UK and ordering British food – such a waste of the opportunity to try something new and different) and I was very curious about Wild Boar having never tasted it before. I went for that, which came with a portion of creamed spinach (one of my favourite vegetables) and potato dumplings:
I made very light work of this plate of food – the creamy spinach perfectly complimented the deep richness of the Wild Boar (similar to eating very flavoursome pork, a little tougher in texture) and the dumplings added yet another pleasing texture to the dish. They certainly fill you up, I must say. It’s great value for money as you walk away feeling content and well fed (I did anyhow).
Wanting to try as much Czech food as possible in a relatively short space of time, Dan opted for a starter. He choose what was essentially a jam jar packed full of different varieties of cubed cheese – it appeared on the menu as an assortment of cheeses in oil and beer! We were surprised by the choice of presentation, but he assured me it was highly tasty:
With both mains, I loved the way that the sauce provided filled the plate, giving lots of liquid for dumpling dunking (we are big sauce appreciators) which certainly met with our approval. You do need dumplings with these kind of dishes as they are very rich and unctuous. It requires a plain accompaniment to balance out the flavours. The second time round, to start I tried these Czech sausages with ‘Oldgott’, which is an unfiltered beer (semi dark):
Dan decided to try the home-made Brawn, something which I neither liked the look of, nor wished to sample! He loves pork in any possible form, so it came as no surprise to me when he ordered it from the menu. He also said it was mighty flavoursome. I will try most things but my memories of Brawn are not the best having worked on a delicatessen in my youth (all that jelly -ugh) so I took his word for it.
We both then went for a house speciality – ‘Beef Stroganoff with Wild Rice’. This came with an equal amount of sauce that was soaked up beautifully by an ample portion of rice.
My favourite meal in all four days away had to be the feast we had in Staromacek. We wanted to push the boat out a little for one night at least, but still keep it very much traditional. After a bit of research I came up with this little restaurant located on one of the back streets in the Old Town. It’s certainly worth a go and I’d go back in a heartbeat. As soon as we walked in and were greeted with a very warm welcome, I took an instant liking to the place. The decor was inviting and the atmosphere very intimate. I knew we would enjoy a meal together here to remember (just pleased I managed to get a couple of photos before the camera gave way – it did, just after we finished eating, luckily all pictures taken to that point were saved).
It was a rather chilly evening as I recall (it may have even been raining) and I needed warming up fairly quickly upon arrival. I ordered a ‘Broth with egg’ to start (sorry but it had to be done, anything that includes eggs always gets my vote) which was like a beefy soup with a lovely poached egg floating on top – good stuff indeed:
Looking through the selection we both homed in on the same main course (we usually tend to pick different dishes so that we can share and critique – but this time we both wanted meat, and lots of it, there was only one choice) of ‘Prague Good Grub’. It sounds curiously ‘touristy’, but it was basically a delectable plate of meat and carbohydrates that consisted of pork, smoked meat, duck and forcemeat (a mixture of finely grounded meats with fat and seasonings, all blended together), served with bacon bread, potato dumplings and cabbage:
I’m not entirely sure that my photograph pays this plate justice, but in my defence I was so excited to dive into it, my concentration was somewhat hindered! You get the idea though. We literally rolled out of the restaurant after this decadent array of tastes and textures, feeling very much like we had achieved our goal and had the true ‘Czech food experience’.
Very fortunately for us we also chose dates that coincided with St Martin’s day which is celebrated during early November in Prague, symbolising the end of the harvest season and the start of winter (including the tasting of young wine). This meant that they had various food and wine tasting stalls set up in the square, which we enthusiastically got involved with (particularly the mead – that stuff has a kick I can tell you, and was a very much needed hair of the dog on more than one occasion), along with various meats roasting on spits in the open air:
Try and catch it if you can, there is a great vibe that surrounds it and you can get your hands on some cracking over filled chicken or sausage baguettes, not to mention lovely little bottles of mead (fantastic gifts).
Just writing about this adventure makes me smile. I took my other half to Prague to celebrate his birthday and it will take some beating. If you’re all about light plates and fine dining this may not be for you, but if you like the sound of a poky beer (or three) followed by a hearty plate of well cooked and seasoned meat – you’ll be in carnivore’s heaven.
Oh, and don’t forget to try one of these, if you want to jump on the ‘tourist’s’ band wagon and you like your liquorice (and if you dare)…