I have been eagerly awaiting writing this blog - our eating experience in Prague was short but absolutely wonderful. We were only in Prague for two days (which you can read about here) so I am very grateful we were able to have such special food-related experiences.
Our first night in Prague, we dropped our luggage off in our Old Town apartment and went straight to dinner. Since our flight from London was only a couple hours, we weren't exhausted and didn't have any major jetlag - a welcome change from our previous travel days.
Unbeknownst to us, we didn't have to go far for our dinner reservation - as I mentioned in my travel blog, Prague is extremely walkable. And walkable as in we paid for travel cards and literally used them once (from the airport into the city). We were able to walk from our apartment to Cafe Louvre in about 10 minutes.
While researching Prague before our trip, Cafe Louvre came up multiple times. Not only is the food good, but the cafe itself has a very rich history. Famous figures like Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein used to frequent this cafe.
I made a reservation online, but when we arrived the cafe was entirely empty. A women at the entrance said "we didn't need a reservation," and told us to sit anywhere. It may not be the most ornately decorated, but Cafe Louvre is comfortable and it's easy to imagine the great minds of our time spending hours there.
I'd read several recommendations to get the svíčková, a classic Czech dish. I sipped my deliciously warm, spiced mulled wine and decided to take the plunge and try the dish. When in Rome, right?
I absolutely did not regret this decision. While some bloggers complained that Prague food lacked vegetables and was too heavy, I did not feel that way at all. Maybe it was the cold weather outside, but this dish was perfect. The dense pieces of bread are actually Czech dumplings, a staple in a lot of Czech food. The meat was flavorful and the sauce was not too heavy or creamy, despite its appearance. We drenched our dumplings and tasted everything together, sweet cranberry and cream. It was so unique and absolutely delicious!
We left our first meal in Prague feeling entirely content, our tastebuds still relishing the rich dinner we'd had. We watched the trams speed by as we made our way back to the apartment and got ready for our first full day in Prague.
One of the major parts of our first day in Prague was a food tour. I try to book these tours any time I can - I have never not enjoyed one. Not only do you get to try local food, but you learn so much about the city and walk to places you'd probably never visit otherwise.
Our meeting spot was actually a brewery on a boat! We all sat around one table and swapped travel stories and Prague experiences. It was wonderful to be in a group of such well-traveled and adventurous people.
The brewery on the boat had a terribly interesting story, which we heard while we sipped on locally brewed Czech beer. I think it's important to learn where your food comes from - it often adds a level of appreciation to whatever you are consuming.
Not to be dramatic, but I still think about our first snack - "pickled cheese." When our guide told us we'd be having pickled cheese and beer, I almost jumped off the boat. However, this cheese actually isn't pickled, it's marinated, and it's exceptional. The cheese was rich and creamy, marinated in spices and oil with a bright red layer of sweet pepper. I didn't even hate the beer! This is truly one of the best parts of food tours - they open your mind to foods and beverages you wouldn't normally try, and often times you are surprised in the best way.
We kissed our cozy warm boat goodbye and started on our walk through the city. We darted through many alleyways and arcades that felt like Prague's little secrets.
Our next stop had two open-faced sandwiches waiting for us. I immediately thought of the smørrebrød we had in Copenhagen and got very excited. Well, I can't say I loved what I had in Prague.
I'm not saying the sandwiches were bad, please don't misunderstand me. They just weren't my favorite flavors! One of them had a strong celery root flavor (celery is one of my top enemies), and the other had some pretty strong horseradish on it.
Our next stop was honestly the most surprising stop for me. It was at a very modern, chic Czech restaurant that specializes in twists on traditional dishes. Our group sat around a long table and were served the above plate. I'll admit, I did not find it impressive until the hot soup was poured and I had my first taste.
This simple soup was absolutely perfect. It was simple but flavorful. I loved this version of Czech dumplings, dense and savory with surprise pieces of ham.
We continued weaving in and out of the city, always floored by how drastically the city could change from one street to another. Our second to last stop brought us back to Cafe Louvre and funny enough, the chosen dish was the svíčková! I think our guide was concerned that we'd already had it, but honestly we were thrilled to be able to eat it again. The atmosphere in the restaurant was also a sharp contrast from our previous night - instead of being quiet and empty, it was incredibly full and boisterous.
Our final tour stop was a bit surprising to me, since it wasn't technically Czech. We stopped at a gelato shop across the street and enjoyed a very sweet ending to our tour.
A Shining Michelin Star
While the food tour was wonderful, the most exciting food experience had in Prague was at La Degustation, an incredible dining experience that has one Michelin star.
Jennifer and I have been lucky enough to have a couple Michelin experiences in Europe, so I did have expectations of an exceptional meal. However, I do believe my expectations were exceeded. La Degustation is a contemporary, clean space that drips with subtle trendiness. The staff was young and very welcoming - the atmosphere was much more 'casual' than a white linen tablecloth type of establishment.
We ordered the larger tasting menu and were not disappointed by any of the dishes. In my experience with Michelin dining, once you order, there are few interruptions in the dining experience. Most of the deliberation is done at the beginning of the meal - wine pairings, discussing allergies, etc. La Degustation was very accommodating in both of these aspects. They took care of my allergies with great detail, and were very accommodating when Jennifer struggled to choose a wine.
The amuse bouche was already impressive - beef tartare, some kind of schnitzel, a pickle (for me) and these gorgeously delicate potato chips. I don't normally like pickles but this one was, for lack of a better term, magical. It was hardly sour and was packed with tangy flavor.
Next we had Tvaružky creamy cheese and truffle. This dish was indulgent, savory and pleasantly creamy. You can't go wrong with truffles, right?
Our next course was trout, horseradish and tomato... but mine was different because of my tomato allergy. I can't remember all of the ingredients but this dish was beyond expectation. The fish was cooked perfectly - it had a very satisfying texture and was perfectly seasoned.
Between courses, service was impeccable but not too formal or "stuffy." Our server was also very attentive when it came to pacing - he asked us if we needed to take a break after a few courses, to ensure that we could fully enjoy the following course. I really appreciated this level of attention. Many Michelin restaurants refuse to do substitutions (understandably) and elevate their specific dining experience above all other factors, often coming off snobbish or pretentious. I did not get any of that at La Degustation - it's obvious that they truly value the guests' experience.
The next course was duck, beetroot and pear. I had some different ingredients once again to accommodate my allergies, but I was fooled - how could this not be the norm? It was wonderfully executed, so it felt like they always did it this way. The duck was tender and not gamey. With every course, we were more and more impressed.
This next course... this was the one: Fallow deer, lard, egg, mushrooms. I asked myself, how could the food get better than a perfectly executed piece of fish, or a beautifully prepared sliver of duck? Well, it got better with the most perfect egg yolk I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
Both items on the plate were wonderful, but I truly cannot describe what it was like to bite into this yolk. When the server explained the dish he mentioned the egg took 7 hours to prepare at a certain temperature and I almost rolled my eyes at how pretentious it all sounded. I immediately retracted any inner resistance when I took my first bite. It was a life-changing yolk slathered in the lightest, rich mushroom cream sauce.
Our fantastic meal ended on a perfectly sweet note. My dishes were different from the others for allergy reasons, but both were balanced and refreshing.
Our last night
Our last night in Prague, we ate at the famous Dancing House. There is a restaurant called Ginger and Fred on one of the higher floors.
I'd heard mixed reviews about this place, and I am about to give you all a mixed review myself!
We found the restaurant easily and I think that was the easiest part of the night. We stood at the entrance for quite some time. Staff would look at us and continue going wherever they were going. It was odd and I actually found it quite irritating.
We were finally shown to our table, which was in a far corner of the restaurant. Our server told us where the coats went. Not coat check, where the coats went. We opened a giant closet and had to put in our own coats. While I do not have issues putting my own jacket away, I do take issue with guests randomly having access to everyone's coats and stored belongings.
Our meal itself was good. Our appetizer was considerably more impressive than I'd anticipated and the chef also provided a complimentary amuse bouche. I was not a fan of the amuse bouche since it was heavily goat cheese (which I do not care for), but our appetizer, foie gras terrine with duck prosciutto, smoked duck breast mousse, fig bread, mustard gel and pear chutney, was quite good.
I can't remember what my entree was but it was tasty!
So my complaint here is not with the food but with the service. Any time we wanted to order, we struggled to flag down a server. I'd be hard pressed to go back again for a meal, but I am still glad we had the experience and can say we dined at the "Dancing House."
In between our more notable culinary experiences, we visited some less exciting spots but still had great meals. For instance, in our wandering around Prague Castle, we stumbled upon a tiny cafe called Bakeshop.
It was perfectly cozy and was one of the only places open that early. We may have expected a regular coffee shop, but there was a hot breakfast menu and it was made to order.
Next, there was an Alice in Wonderland-themed cafe near our apartment called The Mad Rabbit. We'd walked by it a couple times and I noticed that despite being advertised as a "macaron bar," they had a coffee menu and breakfast items. Well, we didn't have plans our second day and we stopped in for a cute bite.
I absolutely adored the decor, and I appreciated the menu. I had a Viennese coffee and chia pudding with mango.
Another pleasant surprise was Knedlín. After our dinner at Ginger and Fred, we wanted something sweet and Knedlín was on our walk home. The whimsical pastries had enticed us several times throughout our trip - this shop is located next to Cafe Louvre. The shop was closing in a few minutes but we walked very quickly and made it before closing! We took a few of these stuffed dumplings to go.
The filling was fresh and not too sweet, and the dumpling around it was pleasantly dense. This is not a donut! I can see a lot of people not enjoying this texture, but I thought it was a perfect sweet ending to our last night in Prague.
And lastly, our final meal in Prague was breakfast at a cafe almost next door to our apartment, the Grand Cafe Orient. This location was suggested by our food tour guide, as there are several items that pay homage to Cubism. Honestly, we decided to eat here because it was nearby and we had to head to the airport shortly after.
The good news is we had a wonderful breakfast. I adored the airy space, full of old world charm. It had the same energy as Cafe Louvre, with a little more elaborate decor.
Rain gently fell outside the large windows, as we enjoyed our hot drinks and breakfast.
There was something so peaceful about this breakfast, wonderful in its simplicity. Gray rainy day, hot coffee, and core memories formed in the amazing city of Prague.
Until next time,