Written by: John Letzing
Photo by: Dorothea Bylica
A Spanish specialty is added to Café Patio’s signature blend of wicker and potted palms, attracting both finicky eaters and chic shoppers.
Tourists ambling into the back streets of Prague’s Staré Město quarter are confronted with a scene that’s more Kabul than central Europe. There is, in Haštalské náměstí, the anticipated mix of spires and art-nouveau facades. But then, there’s also a big mess. An enormous gash of brick and dirt, where once was cobble stoned street, remains, more than a year after the floods of 2002, constantly operated on by truckloads of pot-bellied workmen in coveralls. So much the worse, then, for the latest edition of Café Le Patio, Resto Café Le Patio, which sits on a lonely corner amid the chaos.
This is a pity, because this café/restaurant, opened last April, offers a unique product with seemingly strong potential. Tarted up in deep amber and plum hues, the interior is a largely informal space, airy and pleasant enough for casual upscale dining. Michaela Poláková, the restaurant’s manager, says that business has been rather slow, due in large part to the street work going on daily outside its doors. But more than enough tourists have managed to find their way here, and Poláková also boasts of a diminutive but regular local clientele. What these people get is essentially a calmer, more secluded atmosphere than what they would find at the other Café Le Patio, located on the relatively bustling thoroughfare of Národní street.
Le Patio, a veritable Prague institution of home furnishings stores and café-cum-restaurants, has cultivated a signature aesthetic. It’s sort of like an antiseptic casbah, with enough visual flair to qualify as having been inspired by the Levant, yet also with enough cold austerity to remind you that you’re still in Europe. This style, or “lifestyle” as Le Patio likes to call it (which is applied to their restaurant interiors as well as the home furnishings in their shops), is not unlike what you might find in an above-average timeshare condo, or perhaps your grandmother’s apartment. Different, but just sedate enough to give the wary a knowing wink; you’re really not in unfamiliar territory here.
The menu at Resto Café Le Patio, while small, is rich, heavy, and calibrated for those that tend to think in terms of hard currency. That is, foreigners and local businesspeople. Poláková describes the philosophy behind the establishment as “an emphasis on café, together with a mixture of French cuisine.” The French element is composed mainly of a filet mignon served with veggies and couscous, a tri-color salad with diced salmon and French dressing, an undeniably evil chocolate mousse, and a range of galettes with goat cheese, chicken, and bacon and eggs. There is also lighter fare on offer, including fresh salmon sashimi with wasabi, bruschetta, grilled tofu with tamari sauce, and a vegetable antipasta.
But the main attraction is Spanish cuisine, served in the style of La Plancha; extremely hot saucepans are used for flash-frying, without oils, a variety of vegetables and meats. Poláková says that the owners of Le Patio were eager to be the first in town to present this particular style of Spanish culinary flair. Different La Plancha patrons are offered varieties of this cuisine that range from salmon mixed with tuna and trout, to calamari on a bed of saffron risotto, and (in a nod to Iberian-Czech relations) pork medallions tossed with quail and chicken.
Poláková says they plan to eventually add outside seating, thus substantially augmenting the rather small interior capacity of 45. But she allows that won’t be possible any time soon, as work crews plan to continue kicking up dirt outside at least until January. It just wouldn’t do to have latte-sipping guests glared at by soiled workmen slugging 10 crown beers on their lunch break.
Resto Café Le Patio
Haštalská 18 · Tel. 224 819 767
Open daily 11 – 23
CC: Amex, MC, Visa
FARTHER AFIELD: Barabizna
Photo by: Jan Vágner
Five years ago, the Gmuzdeks opened the Mexican restaurant Barabizna at Zbraslav. Last year they opened again, 10 weeks after the floods rushed through the popular venue. Fortunately nothing changed -the stylish interior, great service, even their famous specialities stayed the same. These include “Piri piri” – chicken with jalapeňos peppers and cheddar cheese, fried hyena steaks, numerous side dishes and desserts like fried ice-cream with caramel and nuts or delicious tiramisu with hot raspberries. Barabizna has its stable clientele from the neighborhood, while most visitors and newcomers gladly return. The rosy and rustic interior seats about 90, and in the summer you can sit outside, day or night.
Pod Špitálem 363, Praha 5 – Zbraslav
tel.: 257 921 362
Open daily 11:30-23:00
No cards accepted
How to get there:
In Zbraslav, turn right on the street next to the castle.
|Photo by: archiv|
public relations director, Weber Shandwick
“I must confess that I like all Ambiente restaurants in Prague. But if I had to select just one it would be The Living Restaurant. The atmosphere is pleasant, the service is very efficient and accomodating and their kitchen is excellent. For starters, I prefer carpaccio or marinated vegetables. As the main course, I would recommend some of the home-made pasta, for instance the pappardelle with mushrooms, cream and parmesan. Their cheese cake is just a must, and the wine cellar is also well stocked. Exactly the combination that you need when you invite a client for lunch or for dinner.”