Whether it’s superlative svíčková or a modern artisanal bakery, blogging and restaurant critiquing collective, Taste of Prague are committed to sharing the city’s most delicious locations. Launched in 2011, the group helps visitors discover fabulous Czech food with their popular food tours. Here, we chat to Taste of Prague about the city’s latest food trends, must-try local delicacies and the best cocktail bar in Prague.
If you had to sum up Czech food in three words, what would they be?
Rich, comforting and caressing.
What was your experience of Czech cuisine growing up, and how has it changed since then?
Our grandmas knew how to spoil us. They came from a time where fat was beautiful, especially when it came to kids. Restaurants under Communism were owned by a single company called “Restaurants and Cafeterias”, and they cooked according to a standardised cookbook so the food was just utility food and pretty much the same in every restaurant. Things changed dramatically when Communism came to an end. Private ownership of restaurants meant owners and chefs started to care about the food they served, and open borders brought in more exposure to foreign cuisines.
How did the idea for the Taste of Prague food tours come about?
We loved food and travel and wanted to mix the two here in Prague. Back when we started in 2011, Prague was not known as a food destination, and good food in Prague and tourism did not necessarily overlap as tourists were just getting ripped off in horrible restaurants selling overpriced food. We wanted to bridge that gap and show that Prague has a lot to offer when it comes to food.
What local delicacies must visitors try?
Czechs are really good at soups and sauces, so we’d recommend trying a bowl of kulajda, a traditional potato soup with mushrooms, dill, vinegar and a poached egg, and svíčková, braised beef with a creamy sauce made from root vegetables and served with dumplings. That’s a recipe that people can spend hours arguing about!
Czech sweet dishes are also unique and interesting. Try seasonal fruit dumplings or povidlové taštičky, a pasta somewhere between ravioli and pierogi, filled with plum jam and served in melted butter. Czech pastries are delicious too, especially kolache, větrník, venecek and laskonka. We won’t spoil it with descriptions.
Finally, you should try Czech wine, because nobody else has! Go to Bokovka for a streamlined but carefully curated selection of the best local bottles.
What new food trends have you noticed emerging in Prague?
Younger chefs and owners have mostly focused on things that are inherently cheap: hot dogs, donuts or specialty coffee. Now, we think the new trend will be reinventing Czech cuisine and giving it a modern feel. Eska restaurant started the trend and Bistrot 104 is taking a slightly different approach, but the jury is still out on the predominant form modern Czech cuisine will take. We also think artisanal bakeries are the next big thing.
Who are the city’s hottest chefs right now?
The hottest chef in Prague must be Přemek Forejt. The only problem is that his restaurant, Entrée, is in Olomouc, a beautiful medieval university town a two-hour train ride away. We still think it’s worth the day trip, though; a visit to his restaurant is what memories are made of. We are also big fans of Michal Černý, who headed up the kitchen at the mythical Story restaurant and now quietly cooks wonderful dishes without fanfare at Café Lounge. Finally, Markéta Libova – head of the Grils bistro in the Karlin district (which focuses on rotisserie chicken) – is a member of a new wave of exciting Czech chefs. She’s the closest we have to April Bloomfield.
If you’ve got friends visiting from out of town, where do you take them to eat?
We usually take them to Café Savoy, because it’s a reliable workhorse that serves breakfasts and dinners and everything in between, and their traditional Czech pastries are just fantastic. They also happen to serve some of the best schnitzels with potato salad in town, along with a great wine list.
What are your favourite bars to visit for a post-dinner nightcap?
We hope we’re not spilling the beans on a hidden local haunt (because our friends would probably kill us!), but our favourite bar in Prague is Parlor. It’s located on an unassuming street towards the end of the Wenceslas Square, and doesn’t have a drinks menu. One of the two bartenders comes to the table, asks you a series of questions, and then proceeds to blow your mind with an incredibly crafted cocktail in a beautiful vintage glass. And whether you like it or not, a visit to Parlor always ends in the KFC down the street, because they are open all night and a bucket of chicken just speaks to you after drinks. Trust us – we’ve been there.