|Written by: Klára Smolová
Photo by: Dorothea BylicaWhen an endeavor is successful, why not try to repeat it? The younger sister of the U Modré kachničky (The Blue Duck) restaurant on Nebovidská street is every bit as fine as its namesake.
Fall is the season for hunting and game feasts. But you’ll find two restaurants in Prague that are famed for their game specialties, which you can enjoy throughout the year, even in mid-summer. The operators of U Modré kachničky on the Malá Strana decided to get closer to their clients on the other bank, and two years ago they opened a restaurant of the same name (with the suffix II), on Michalská street in the Old Town. They chose a property in which the first Jewish kosher restaurant, Mesáda, was established after the revolution. Was naming the new restaurant after the old one a strategic move to assure success? “We named it Kachnička to let our clients know that the concept is the same,” admits Otakar Žák, manager at U Modré kachničky II. “But at the very beginning the name was of no help at all. A new restaurant must build its reputation from the start and win over clients through the quality of its food and service.”
According to Viktor Šefl, the operator of the Modrá kachnička restaurants, the two banks of the river differ somewhat in their atmospheres, and this is reflected in the restaurants’ respective concepts. “Malá Strana is more picturesque, and life is slower there. In the Old Town the pace is different, busier,” says Šefl. Today U Modré kachničky II is popular among financiers and managers from nearby multinational firms, who like to stop in for business lunches. The restaurant’s interior is perfectly suited for such lunches. The two-floor restaurant exudes coziness and times gone by, featuring many discrete nooks for private working meetings.
Modrá kachnička offers typical Czech cuisine, but you can also select salads and vegetarian or international dishes. According to Žák, the menu is continually altered to reflect changing eating habits. For example, the salads have been transformed from several-gram dish-trimmings to main courses, so you can order a special house salad with escargots, quail eggs, and asparagus. But duck and game dishes dominate the menu. It is difficult to decide between the roast duck with Brussel sprouts, drake breasts in honey or with mushrooms, leg of boar in rosehip sauce, saddle of deer in wine, or hare in a rich cream sauce. “At the beginning of the ’90s, many foreigners came to Prague to open restaurants. Typical Czech cuisine could be found only in beer halls,” says Žák, explaining his venues’ strategy. “We decided to present Czech cuisine on a luxury restaurant level.” For instance, diners can find their favorite roast pork with dumplings and sauerkraut, but it is disguised under name roast pork spiked with bacon, served with sauerkraut and potato rolls. “It’s a simple meal, and it is offered everywhere – you just need to add a dash of fantasy,” Žák says with a smile.
But good meals must be backed up by fine beverages, and the operators pay close attention to their wine selection. Moravian wines form the base, but the list also includes French, Italian, Chilean, and Spanish labels. “We buy our wines from a supplier in Moravia that sells wines from small, very high quality producers,” Šefl comments. The staff is also knowledgeable about wines, and can recommend the best vintage to accompany a meal. And what combination would Šefl recommend? Roast duck with stuffing served with white and red cabbage with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Sedlec 1999, or for fallow deer medallions with juniper berries flambéed in “borovička” with mushroom potatoes, and Modrý Portugal 2000 barrique from the Michlovský wine cellar.
U Modré kachničky II,
Michalská 16, Praha 1
tel.: 224 213 418
All credit cards
FARTHER AFIELD: U anděla
It’s just five minutes from the main square in Olomouc to the U anděla restaurant, but if you don’t know the neighborhood you could miss it on this remote street. That would be a pity. Pleasant, quick service and excellent food attract both the local elite and students from the university – who, thanks to the reasonable prices on the menu, can forget about the university dining hall. The offer of international dishes includes everything from juicy steaks and seafood to salads. If you want to really enjoy your lunch or dinner, reserve a table in the glassed-in alcove that is set up like a winter garden, offering a lovely view of the park.
Hrnčířská 10, Olomouc
tel: 585 228 755
all credit cards
LIMELIGHT – Café Savoy
DATING BACK to the reign of František Josef II, this Jewish café was the favorite haunt of artists and aristocrats alike. Although much has changed since then, much has also stayed the same: the clientele still reveals an equal blend of the ritzy and the bohemian. When Savoy’s extensive reconstruction is completed, patrons will be able to enjoy international cuisine, fresh seafood and a selection of fine wines in the chic, modern lounge (now open), or in a room vaulted by the café’s famed neo-renaissance ceiling. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all prepared by skilled chefs, and the friendly staff welcomes parties for (almost) any occasion.
Zborovská 68 – Vítězná 5 Tel: 2 5732 9860
Desmond Mullan, managing director, Volvo Auto Czech
What is your favorite wine bar in Prague, and why?
“There are many gems in Prague, precious and rare. However there is one that for me has an extra-special sparkle, and that is Atelier in Na Kovárně 8, Praha 10 Vršovice. Top French wines at reasonable prices; the owner, Vladimír, together with his ‘sommelier’ waiters, serving and advising their guests on what food to order with the wine (not the other way around); and a beautiful interior design giving a modern but relaxed ambience – simple but very stylish, like a studio or atelier. You will be hard-pressed to find a better venue. I recommend it!”