For a long time, Czech food has been famous for its heft. Goulash you can stand a spoon up in. Dumplings the size of bowling balls. Sausages by the cart load. In short, restaurants in Prague have developed a reputation for rib-sticking fare.
While these staples haven’t lost their allure, Czech cuisine has evolved beyond the realms of traditional Czech cooking. From Prague’s most classic culinary standard-bearers such as Mlejnic, to upstarts like Mlýnec and Kalina, cooking under the banner of “new Prague cuisine”, these restaurants capture the capital’s thriving dining culture.
Parnas combines two of Prague’s specialities: elegant, early 20th century décor and, naturally, a menu of exceptional Czech cuisine. A stone’s throw from the National Theatre and within sight of the Charles Bridge, the restaurant offers dishes that combine the rarefied with the reassuring (like goulash doused in Armagnac and crowned with bacon dumplings, or roasted duck breast served with apricot coulis).
U Modré Kachničky may have the most endearing name of all the restaurants in Prague (that mouthful translates to “The Little Blue Duck”), but that’s not what draws in the punters. Across its two locations – one in the Old Town and one just across the river – the restaurant’s interpretations of Czech fare, like fallow deer saddle with cranberries, offer the right balance of hearty and refined.
Who would’ve thought that traditional Czech cuisine would mingle so well with Indian spices? The unexpected pairing is proven at V Zátiší. Helmed by chef Mahavir Kanswal, the menu comprises favourites like pumpkin soup with autumn pear and South Bohemian duck with cabbage and fresh herb dumplings alongside dishes slung piping hot from the tandoor.
Whole roast ducks, veritable trays of schnitzel and never-ending Pilsner Urquell on draught: yup, you’re definitely in Prague. At V Kolkovně, the portion sizes are only part of the reason diners fill up the sprawling, ex-industrial space in droves, though: once you sink a fork into the melting pork knuckles, you too will want to settle in for a delicious hibernation.
A line of dark tables flush against Lokál’s long, narrow arcade looks traditional enough…but then you catch sight of the restaurant’s glass bar, where the normally hidden beer kegs are displayed in all of their shiny glory. A studied mix of old-meets-new, Lokál complements its frosty pours of Pilsner with traditional Czech pub fare that’s soulfully homemade.
Its Gallic moniker may not scream “traditional Czech cooking!”, but La Degustation Bohême Bourgeoise, one of the best-rated restaurants in Prague, in fact pulls its inspiration from a 19th century Czech cookbook that captured the richness of the country’s culinary heritage prior to the Communist era. Sample the fruits of such historic research for a passport to Prague’s golden era of cuisine.
Poised just on the base of the Charles Bridge, Mlýnec’s impressive environs would be reason enough to wander in. But then there’s the food. Young chef Marek Šáda leads the kitchen in marrying Bohemian ingredients with modern techniques, and dishes like veal fillet mignon à la schnitzel are as visually stunning as they are delicious.
A rustic tavern of a restaurant, with candlelit walls and antiques suspended from the sloping ceilings, Mlejnice is the place to venture out for a restorative bowl of beer goulash – preferably served in a hollowed-out bread boule, that is. Though pilsner might seem the natural choice, don’t bypass its extensive selection of Moravian wine.
There’s traditional Prague cuisine, and then there’s “new Prague cuisine,” the latter of which is proudly served up at on-trend Kalina. Begin with veal tartare, lightly smoked, before sampling a plate of ceps, scented with cumin and enriched with goose fat.