17 Jan Travel Tuesdays, #no.7 – Prague
Travel Tuesdays hits Prague! Some good food to be found in this wonderfully interesting city. My pre-conceptions of Czech food had room only for Goulash and perhaps some decent bread, surprised was I then to find quite a vibrant vegan community. But as I say, these travel tales come from my pre plant based days, so I didn’t explore that scene as much as I would if I were to visit now.
Anyway, much of this segment focuses on my anxieties, which seemed to be thriving in Prague… mainly because I bumped into real life pretty girls!
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague was interesting and definitely a place to go to meet fellow travellers; that is if you aren’t paralysed with social anxiety or have the directional sense of a fly trying to escape from an open window. Let me explain… I travelled on the train from Munich to Prague with a group of boys and girls having met in the cabin. Oh we got on a storm! Being young people as we all were, we of course exchanged telephone numbers and Facebook details and arranged a night out on a famous (apparently) bar crawl in Prague. Now, voluntary social interaction, let alone ‘going out on the lash’ would normally be something I avoid like the Plague.. and bananas (I don’t like bananas), but I was into the last weeks of my trip and despite all the travel forums assuring me i’d meet loads of great people, I was starting to crave a bit of interaction. Not only this, but one of the girls had caught my eye, perhaps tonight, I would get lucky.
We went our separate ways to do a bit of sightseeing during the day, but as the hours past, I found myself disengaged from the gothic architecture of Prague, my mind conjuring up conversation starters for the big night ahead and enhancing otherwise fairly dull anecdotes to see me through my night of actual, real life socialising. With the darkness closing in around me, the heavens opened, the full fury of Prague’s clouds lashing down their watery contents on to the cobbled streets, and I, below. Cold, lost and alone, I took refuge in a little vegan restaurant on a secluded street. The meal fairly palatable, but vegan cuisine is not really known for its comforting, soul hugging dishes; the one time I could have actually done with a bloomin’ goulash!
The time I had eaten enough Vegan food to suitably sate me, find my way back to the hostel and change into some dry, clean clothes (well come on, there were hopefully girls to potentially impress), I was running late. We were due to meet at the Astronomical clock on Old town square, a famous attraction I couldn’t help but find in a jiffy. The specific pub crawl group I was to be looking for were to be adorned in yellow t-shirts. As rainbow cladded groups of drunken youths congregated in the square, with t-shirts ranging from red to blue to green to Indigo all around me, I began to wonder.. “how many blinking pub crawls are there”! Would a nice meal, a glass of wine perhaps, before retiring for an early night (…alone!) not be preferable? As the square emptied, it dawned on me that I may have missed the yellow t-shirts; having known I was in a rush, perhaps I should have forgone dessert for just this one night! I would not be crawling around pubs tonight. And so with one cruel swipe from the hand of misfortune/disorganisation, my one true love, gone (I think I hear Hollywood knocking).
Knowing myself as I do however, if I did meet up with whom I had planned to, I’m sure the night would have played out less Cinderella and more Alan Partridge (you know, that scene where he has such disgust when his lady friend decides to experiment with chocolate in the bedroom – I’m afraid you’ll have to look it up if you’re confused, I am all analogied out… like someone who has ran out of analogies). My night would more have likely ended with me berating myself for reeling off anecdotes that tail off with no real ending or alternatively for not talking or simply behaving like a normal. Well I’d be damned if I were to join another group of unruly youths, I could’t talk to more strangers, not on the same day, that’s far too taxing on my anxious little disposition. Having exhausted my social charisma (and boy, what charisma) for that day then, I thought it best to head on home, an early night, glorious! I think I treated myself to a mug of tea and a couple of biscuits courtesy of the hostel, before retiring for my perfect eight hours of sleep, my kind of night baby!
Anyway back to Prague. I spent a good portion of my time there exploring its Jewish heritage of which is vast and great. The rest of the time I sat on a bench somewhere and listened to music, cocooned in the bubble of social protection that are my headphones!
Oh, I also visited the Torture museum! A great place for introverts like me. The building was empty, leaving just me to wander around the bizarre exhibits. It was quite a relaxing, peaceful environment actually, away from the masses of people that is Prague during summer time, I closed me eyes, exhaling a relieved sigh (a sigh of relief if you like), blessed peace. The screams of the fake witches being burnt at the stake soon put an end to that.
So, to the food of Prague. Pretty good it was too, pretty, pretty good.
Valentinská 11, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
I really felt like I had stumbled across a treasure upon entry of Mistral cafe. The place was filled with locals, with a menu of dishes I couldn’t choose between. It’s strange though, I ate here twice and was a little disappointed both times. My first meal consisted of a mushroom ragout with thyme served with a potato cake. Unfortunately, seasoning and depth of flavour was just a little lacking. Also the proportions of mushroom to potato were heavily in favour of potato, which wasn’t quite well made enough to satisfy on its own.
However, there was potential here and with plenty left on the menu to plump for, I went back a second time.
Annoyingly, but rather inevitably and in keeping with my trip, I mis-organised my day and so when I had ran out of things to do in the morning, it was time only for breakfast, not for lunch as I had planned. I plumped for the Austrian breakfast. Basically sausages, eggs and bread. The sausages of poor quality and the eggs reminiscent of the scrambled eggs that had been left standing on a buffet. The bread and butter however was delightful and is probably why I still hold Mistral cafe in decent regard. Or more likely me not wanting to fully admit I was wrong with this one!
Must go rating:
Ummm, 8, no 6, no 7. Ok, go, just don’t order the Austrian breakfast or the mushroom ragout!
Casserole – restaurant review
Karlova 147/44, 110 00 Praha, Czech Republic
Despite readying myself with a couple of choice Czech phrases, I was greeted by the restaurant’s hostess with a friendly ‘hello’ (I must have that tourist look; I don’t know if it was the backpack and trainers or the slight cockney twang to my accent).
To my giddy delight, I was quickly served an amouse bouche; a duck pate, wrapped in bacon on a bed of caramelised onion. It was not the best dish for a nice Jewish boy to eat*, but realising that translating the rules of Kashrut (kosher eating) into Czech would stretch beyond my limited grasp of the language, I graciously ate it. All I’ll say is, if that’s what they’re serving in Jewish hell… sign me up! It was delicious. The pate was rich in Madeira and meatiness, counteracted by the sweet onion and salty bacon, all my taste buds were satisfied!
*(or now jewish plant based boy!)
The menu was once again full of things I wanted to eat. I plumped for beef cheek in red wine, served with celeriac puree. The beef was really beautiful, it fell under the weight of my fork, just as Cristiano Ronaldo dives to the floor upon the most minimal of contact, (basically it was soft and tender, thus required no effort to come away – I find it’s easier to just explain my similes than work on ones that may actually make more sense!). The sauce was rich in red wine and quality, deeply flavoured beef stock. The celeriac puree was the creamiest, silkiest puree, celeriac or otherwise I’ve ever had… and boy have I had me some purees in my time.
Before I went on my trip, I visited the Taste of London festival, where I also sampled beef cheek. I have to say, the cheek at casserole was superior to the cheek at the festival … ooh beef… (For those from a certain generation and thus not up to date with 21st century slang, us kids use the word beef when someone has been dissed. For those from a certain generation, ‘dissing’ can be interchanged with insulted).
For dessert I went for the (apparently) traditional Trhanec pancake, which tasted exactly like a pancake (now, that’s what you call a simile). It was served with caramelised apples and rum. Unfortunately, the apples needed more caramelisation and the rum needed more rum! And this from someone who doesn’t drink.
Must go rating:
A lovely little restaurant near the main square with friendly staff, set in an interesting environment. Food was most satisfying, without being amazing. Oh, I also had my second best bread basket here.
Na shledanou Prague
Prague had it all really. Some really interesting food, fabulous architecture, amazing history and despite the main tourist sites being extremely crowded, there were beautiful places one could wander on the outskirts of the city where you could escape the mayhem.
However, I just wish to point out a shop I saw. The reason for this is because it was called ‘Goebel’, which near the Jewish quarter of the city, I found a little insensitive!
So there we are, Prague. I hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Travel Tuesdays.
P.S, ladies, two years on from this, I’ve still yet to find someone, so you know, maybe visit the contact page and we can take things from there.
…Thaaanks. Recipes soon, I promise.