Written by: John Letzing
Photo by: Dorothea Bylica
Salvaged from a watery grave by its never-say-die owner, one of Prague’s finest restaurants is again prepared to impress diners with the culinary expertise of its award-winning chef.
Sanjiv Suri, citizen of Prague and native of India, has seen a lot of things come and go during his 12 years here, from collapsing governments to rebuilding economies, the growth of consumerism and the death of pub food as the last word in local dining. But in the summer of 2002, Mr. Suri saw something most extraordinary of all: one of his restaurants disappeared.
Well, not completely. The top half-meter or so remained visible, while the raging waters of last year’s flood poured through the riverside building as though it were a large piece of outdoor plumbing. For Suri, it was a visual association with the location’s storied past, as a home to water wheels powering nearby mills, that he’d much rather have avoided. Mlýnec has now fully recovered – polished, primped and ready to receive guests.
He arrived here in 1991, following a career in hotel management. Being the sort who prefers eating out (otherwise known as a bachelor), he quickly realized Prague was sorely lacking. “If you (eat out) for six weeks, and can’t get one decent meal, it’s clear you’re not the only one having that experience,” he says. So he promptly opened the still extant restaurant V Zátiší, to which expats soon flocked en masse. Parnas followed in 1992, U Modré růže in 1993, Avalon and Circle Line in 1994, U patrona and the Corona salsa bar in 1995. Parnas moved to Bellevue in 1997, and Corona was transformed into Mlýnec in 2000. A catering business also emerged somewhere along the way, and now accounts for, by Suri’s estimate, some 30% of his company revenues. This is an impressive list of triumphs in what is a notoriously troublesome line of business.
The interior at Mlýnec is not meant to capture the imagination, rather its dark hues and unremarkable furnishings remain firmly in the background. The most prized bit of floor space isn’t even inside, but rather on the narrow balcony that hangs from the restaurant’s rear, offering a great view up to Charles Bridge and down to the stone walkway and inlet below. What sets Mlýnec apart, according to Suri, is the vibrant creativity of Chef Marek Purkart, a two-time winner of the Michelin Bibendum award. “His rabbit, for example, is prepared with sun dried tomatoes and rucola, a completely different thing from anywhere else,” says Suri. Purkart’s other specialties include yellow fin tuna tartar and a delectable shrimp-salmon kebab appetizer, grilled monkfish fillet with spinach leaves, and duck foie gras with pear chutney. Desserts include anything from the homey “Granny’s” apple tart to a slightly more sophisticated panacotta with raspberries. There is no particular national angle to the cuisine. “You can’t fall into those brackets anymore,” says Suri, “those borders are gone, they’ve disappeared into simply things that people like.”
Suri points out that the steady clientele is made up of locals both Czech and foreign. Business, more than a year after the flood, is brisk – but it could be better. “It’s not quite running at full steam,” says Suri, adding, “it’s one of the top five restaurants in Prague, but it has the potential to go further.” Suri is one of those rare people who can then go on to say, “we intend to double its revenues in the next 18 months,” and have you actually believe him.
Mlýnec, Novotného lávka 9, Praha 1
Tel.: 221 082 208
Daily 12:00-15:00 lunch, 17:30-23:00 dinner
CC: All major
FARTHER AFIELD: Hrad Červený Újezd
Photo by: Archiv
If you’d like to return to the past, take a short jaunt out of Prague to Červený Újezd. Pavel Orna built a castle there as a museum for his collection of 20,000 items documenting peasant life. Rustic costumes, furniture, toys, tools, kitchen utensils and other things that illustrate what the world was like in those days. In this town you will feel closer to our ancestors when you have lunch at one of the local restaurants, four of which are in the castle itself: Panská krčma (The Gentlemen’s Tavern), Stodola (The Barn), Vinný sklep (The Wine Cellar), and Rybářská bašta (The Fishermen’s Good Eats). The first two are open daily, the last two are open only with prior reservations. The castle, surrounded by greenery, is a great destination for a weekend excursion, and children are always welcome.
Hrad Červený Újezd
Červený Újezd 280, Praha – západ, tel.: 312 243 518
open daily 10-22, museum 9-18
How to get there:
Take a bus from the Zličín stop, or drive towards Karlovy Vary, then follow the signs from the village of Jeneč.
|Photo by: Archiv|
Josef Šesták, general director, Carlson Wagonlit Travel CZ
“Two of my favorite restaurants are in Prague. The first, Kasta, is in Prague 6. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Holeček, always create a great atmosphere, and the quality of the food and drink is tops. The menu is extensive, with both Czech and international dishes, and will satisfy anyone. When I want to take care of my own cooking, I order slabs of meat (mixed), and I prepare them according to my own taste on a lava grill table that they provide. And in the city center I like to go for private and business lunches and dinners to Portobello Road W11. Their Mexican soup, served in bread, and crispy steak, are among the finest in Prague.”
Kasta, Stochovská 19, Praha 6, tel.: 235 316 703, (http://web.quick.cz/kastarestaurace)
Portobello Road W11, Americká 18, Praha 2, tel.: 222 522 734