Pálffy palác: Cuisine fit for a king
Written by: John Letzing
Photo by: Dorothea Bylica
As the original standard-bearer for local fine dining, Pálffy palác has a lot to live up to.
Its creation myth is a well-worn tale: a Moravian waiter barely into his twenties, Roman Řezníček, leases the cafeteria in a music conservatory in 1994, and just happens to transform it into a delicious dining experience truly befitting the surrounding architectural glory of Malá Strana. Since then, Řezníček, an angular wisp of a man with glimmering eyes, bald pate and a voice that is as soft and welcoming as the atmosphere in his restaurant, has made something of a local institution of himself. The proprietor also of uber-hip nightclub Mecca, as well as a soon to be opened restaurant at Sovovy mlýny, Řezníček has excelled in peddling decadent entertainment to an adoring public. Whether presiding over a throng of clubbers or attending to the needs of buttoned-down diners, he has a distinctly high-profile presence.
The interior of Řezníček’s seed of success, Pálffy palác, is a mélange of drooping palms, gold painted trim and vintage photography that makes for a properly lush, fin-de-sie`cle setting. But the main attraction is the glorious terrace, wedged against Hradčany’s dramatic topography, where diners sit among green slopes and gaze at cascading ornate stone walkways and palace rooftops. As far as cuisine, Řezníček says that the recent promotion of creative ingenue Lukáš Vácha to head chef has helped ensure that even the most regular of visitors won’t tire of the international selections. High on Řezníček’s own list of favorites is the baked salmon steak, stuffed with lemon sole filets and Dublin bay prawns. But exploring the more unusual offerings is also strongly encouraged, as the bold may sample, for example, quail. “It’s not very common to see that on a menu,” observes Řezníček, “and to tell the truth people are often a bit afraid to go for something new, so they stick with the classics. But I’d like to make things like this (quail) more understandable for them.” The seafood is well worth an effort at understanding on its own terms, and can (depending upon daily specials) include things such as monkfish served on wine sabayon with fresh sage. Wines range from a bottle of Czech Cabernet Sauvignon to a Grand Cru^ Cha^teau Canon for CZK 5,200, and there are also proper party treats available, such as a 1988 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne for CZK 22,000.
Thankfully, proximity to senate buildings has not meant the restaurant serves as a smoke-filled den of deal-making, because most public servants opt for the canteen-style chow at discount rates offered beneath their chambers. Truth be told, most legislators are probably unable to navigate the Palace’s dramatic carriage entrance, grand stone stairwell, and then locate the fairly well-hidden dining room (which is denoted, after the climb, only by a plain wooden doorway, as though you’ve accidentally entered a private flat and not a restaurant). Rather, the clientele is made up mainly of the high-flying corporate and diplomatic variety, alerted via word-of-mouth. Also in attendance are what Řezníček terms “high-profile travelers,” shuttled in from elite hotels, which in the past have included personalities as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne and Sigourney Weaver. “Our marketing plan is to not do any marketing,” says Řezníček, who abides by the idea that visitors would rather be charmed by his restaurant’s secretive perch than confronted by a more straight-forward street presence. So far, he seems to be right – just one more example of how his quirky, yet accurate business acumen has reaped healthy rewards for the better part of the last decade.
tel.: 5753 0522,
Open daily: 12-24:00, AmEx, Visa, MC
FARTHER AFIELD: Petrovický dvůr
In a 600-year-old former inn set in the meadows and within easy reach of the Moravian metropolis Ostrava, is the county’s premiere Spanish restaurant, Petrovický dvůr.
Although the magic of authentic Spanish cuisine has been making headway in the Czech Republic, there is far more to it than chilled gazpacho and tapas. These tasty morsels feature among the starters, and include sour anchovies in extra-virgin olive oil, fresh tiger prawns or mussels in vinaigrette and cured hams (jamon serrano and iberico). Other southern European favorites include a selection of wines, such as Rioja, by the glass.
With its ample garden and private terrace for grilling, the establishment maintains its reputation for being customer-oriented amidst tranquil surroundings. This makes an ideal spot for private functions, including wedding ceremonies and receptions.
Příbor, ul. 9. května 1212
Open Mon-Sat 12:00- till the last customer,
Jan a Geeke Kostkovi, auditor and project manager, Quality Management
What is your favorite terrace restaurant outside of Prague?
“We live in the centre of Podluží, an area in South Moravia, rich in wine and living traditions. When we want to go distinguished, we go to Hraniční Zámeček built in Paladium style in Hlohovec, a nice atmosphere and a fantastic view on ponds. When we go common, out favourite is hidden yard restaurant in the middle of vineyards in Nechory u Prusánek named “U Jeňoura”. It has a garden and sandpit. Ideal for people with lively children. Fresh food, grilled meat and self produced wines. You can visit the wine-cellar as well and taste all the wines.”