A Taste of Prague
“I’d LOVE to come to Prague with you!” I told my parents, whom I’d not holidayed with since I was a (grumpy) teen. With my Mum’s birthday coming up, we felt a city break would be the perfect way to celebrate as a family and Prague had come highly recommended by the neighbours. Moments later our BA flights were booked and Mum had picked out her perfect hotel – the Art Deco Imperial Prague.
A few weeks prior to our Czech Republic adventure, we got to loosely planning what we’d like to see and do. Prague is often associated with stag dos and cheap beer, which granted it did have in abundance, however a quick Google made it immediately apparent that the city was about far more than that. Of course we wanted to walk across the Charles Bridge, visit the Jewish quarter and take a look around the Prague Castle as most tourists would but I’m from a family of food lovers, so we also wanted to ensure that we ate well. Knowing how much I love eating out my parents handed over all decision-making in this area to me. When it comes to taking short breaks away, in my opinion, there isn’t the time to waste eating less than average food at bad restaurants so I turned to the only tool I trusted, Instagram, for help.
Having spent some time searching #Prague I stumbled across the Harry Winston of accounts – simply and accurately titled ‘Taste of Prague’. In appearance the account is the love child of Clerkenwell Boy EC1 and Rosie Londoner, beautiful shot after beautiful shot of delicious foods and coffees being enjoyed in romantic cafes. I was particularly impressed with the creative style and consistency of the account. The photographer had carefully made sure to show the hands of those enjoying the cuisine in each shot, giving life to the feed and adding significant interest. I hit “follow” without a second thought and commented on the latest post that I’d soon be visiting the city and asked for the curator for their top tips. I was quickly pointed in the direction of founders, Zuzi and Jan, downloadable ‘foodie’ Google map. It was as though they’d read my mind and all my food related prays were answered. I downloaded the map to my phone and instantly, little coloured dots covered the city, pin pointing where I’d find the best coffee, the best local fast food, casual cuisine and fine dining destination. Each dot also featured a description that included the best time to go, the best day, the best seat to sit in even!
Zusi and Jan started ‘Taste of Prague’ to help give visitors to the city an alternative perspective to travel. They encouraged me to leave Prague tourism behind and travel the city using their map and suggested restaurants and cafes as my landmarks. It was certainly an alternative approach but one that we were willing to try. Their map promised to lead us to the best food the Czech Republic had to offer, served in the best restaurants & cafes, via the most interesting of sights. We couldn’t wait!
After a smooth flight, we were greeted in Prague by our very friendly and incredibly informative taxi driver. He ushered us to the car and much to the delight of my father, began talking about Prague’s world famous beer, where to get it from and what to eat it with. Of course Dad made a beeline for the pub within a couple of hours of arrival and enjoyed every sip of his Staropramen! We learnt that the price of beer in the city is cheaper than water so to drink lots of it, the city would be full of Segway’s, and that we should avoid the retro car trips as they rip off the tourists and you can see the city far better by foot.
The hotel was as promised, art deco in style, glamorous and ornate. If it has been me booking we’d have stayed in an Air B&B but this level of luxury was certainly a welcome change. It was all very ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ but in Prague of course! Having travelled in April the weather wasn’t too dissimilar to home so we threw on coats and headed out for a stroll around the city. Following our foodie map!
Throughout the duration of our trip, Taste of Prague never let us down. We enjoyed local pastries such as rohlicek at Mujsalekkavy (a charming and trendy café just outside the city center, full of locals), tunnel cakes purchased at the food market by the tram station in the center of the city and my favorite, kolache and ginger tea which we found at a café just around the corner from our hotel, EMA Espresso Bar. Whilst walking from café to restaurant, we enjoyed the sites around us, including this, the Lennon Wall:
And the many bridges that crossed the Vltava River, connecting north with south, including the famous Charles Bridge.
THE very best discovery and the meal of our trip (and quite possibly my year) had to be Sansho. A stylish eatery with a menu of modern Asian dishes made from ethically sourced ingredients. We spotted Sansho on the map and thought, as it was such a short walk from the hotel that we had to try it out. We only wish that we’d gone back a couple more time before we left. Nothing topped this!
Sansho, as described by the owner, unites chef-owner Paul Day’s inventive approach to pan-Asian cuisine with a commitment to supporting local farmers raise happy animals. Sansho opened in 2011 as Prague’s first whole animal restaurant and the food was out of this world. We enjoyed the taster menu, which included: Salmon sashimi, Jasmin tea smoked trout salad, Pork belly with watermelon and hoisin, Lamb penang, roti, rice & greens and their legendary soft shell crab slider. I’d fly back to Prague in a heartbeat just to eat at Sansho again!
On Mum’s birthday, the hotel woke her with a bottle of Champagne and bowl of juicy, deep red strawberries, which of course made her day. After a hearty breakfast enjoyed at the hotel’s restaurant we planned a walk through the park, Kinskeho Zahrada. We were looking forward to seeing the city and it’s many bridges from one of the highest viewpoints however the rain somewhat ruined our plans. Instead we walked around the edge of the Old Town to celebrate with birthday cake at Café Savoy. Being such a popular café and most probably not helped by the rain, it was ram packed so we ran into a restaurant a few doors down. This place wasn’t on the map and for obvious reasons. It was a ‘smoking allowed’ restaurant, not a huge hit with tourists, but it was warm and dry so we took a seat in the no smoking section and began flicking through the tattered menu.
The birthday girl opted for the chef’s ‘specialty’ mushroom soup, which we felt would be a safe bet. How wrong we were. Out came a bowl of what can only be described as hot double cream seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with a handful of sad, grey slices of something which once might have been a mushroom. Her face dropped. It wasn’t quite the birthday treat she’d hoped for.
The following day we returned to Café Savoy, this time having booked ahead, and it was as we imagined. We were in another world yet only a stones throw from the worlds worst soup. We ordered the finest traditional pastries on the menu and began to indulge.
Before returning to the hotel we walked through the cobbled streets and up to the castle. Visible from just about everywhere in the city, we thought it would make for an enjoyable afternoon activity. The hill up to the castle was steep so we stopped at a café for a break. Again, we’d gone off map and again we came to regret it! We ordered two lattes and a cup of tea which we sat and enjoyed whilst people watching. When we requested the bill it came to almost £20. Naturally we questioned this but the waiters went dumb and claimed not to understand. We’d been had.
Trying to put Latte Gate to the back of our minds we continued our trip to the top of the hill. The castle looked beautifully grand and offered the perfect viewpoint to gaze upon the city and all it’s wonderful sights.
During our 4-day trip we fell in love with Prague and all it had to offer. We drank the beer, we ate wonderful traditional foods (away from the tourist hot spots), we enjoyed their coffee and delicious pastries, no matter the cost, we loved the cobbled streets and the cities architecture but mostly we enjoyed how happy the people were and how incredible Sansho was.