“No-one brunches in New York any more,” she deadpans. “That’s so Nineties! If you tried to get brunch and a Cosmopolitan, the waiter wouldn’t even serve you, they’d be so disgusted.”
Well, we in Prague still do, so back off, Zadie Smith. We like our eggs neatly poached by someone who had to get up way too early for a Sunday morning while we chitter-chatter away about our Nazi hairdressers (“Some people just bring nothing to the society and frankly should not live.”), mysteriously shrinking underwear and, last but not least, the classic what-do-you-guys-think-he-meant-by-that. And burning political issues and how to be an upstanding citizen, obviously.
So where to go and what to eat, I hear you ask in despair, hands thrown up in frustration. Here’s a clue.
I like Eska. Michelin guide likes Eska. In fact, the only person loving this place more than us - and by us I mean pretty much everyone in Prague, judging from the number of my turned-down reservations lately – is A.
Treating every life situation from a job promotion to flatmate’s just not cleaning up the bath after himself enough with a “Shall we go to Eska, then?”, A. developed serious obsession with their 66 bread (yes, they have them numbered) and, deeply understanding as we might try to be, we just think it’s perhaps now time to collect her dignity and switch to an extremely time-consuming hobby or a religion of sorts instead.
Granted, Eska currently rules Prague’s brunch scene. The combination of their suspiciously happy staff (some of them reportedly working there in their free time, for fun!), a beautiful interior of a former bicycle factory, and literally everything on the menu being a winner just gives me a sweet headache everytime I am to decide what to have.
There’s their amiable “More bread?”, “Here’s our little turnip crisp with a bit of mustard ice-cream for amuse bouche” and “We’ve just taken out the plum pie from the oven – you should reserve a piece as it will be gone in 5 minutes.” – all to make you fall in love with plain-Jane ingredients like parsley, wheat and sour milk in a Prague minute.
First time caller? Try their signature “Eska breakfast”, their duck with aronia and cinammon or anything with their brown butter. I am not drooling. You are drooling.
Eska, Pernerova 49, Prague 8 (metro B: Krizikova)
Speaking of the very best brunches, have you been to Café Savoy? If not, drop everything. (*Except an Iphone 7 Plus. You wouldn’t want to drop an Iphone 7 Plus. Or a baby. Don’t drop that either.)
2. MASO A KOBLIHA
Another Bib Gourmand holder, this sister venture of arguably the best restaurant in Prague, Sansho, is the perfect stop for hangovers, PMS, diet dropouts, butch boyfriends that generally get offended by the mention of oatmeal and/ or smoothies, and prospect employers who really maybe have no open vacancies but like to flirt a little with random applicants over brunch from time to time.
Paul Day, the genius of a chef behind this restaurant, is famous for his free-range, slow-grown, dry-aged but most of all dee-lish meats (check out his butcher shop!), meaning you should never leave without making your paleolithic ancestors proud. My personal favourites include the Staffordshire faggot (I mean, the fried sage!!!), pork skins with spiced avocado, and their legendary homemade doughnut with custard.
Maso a kobliha, Petrská 23, Praha 1 (metro B or C: Florenc)
3. BISTRO 8
I did laugh when New York Times recently published an article featuring Bistro among the very hottest places in Prague right now. My memories of visiting this place have often haunted me in my sleep – hair in food that seemed to be their signature touch, tired-of-life staff and sad open sandwiches with an occasional dead fly as a bonus.
Slightly allergic to places hyped up just because they serve drinks in gherkin jars, I decided to discuss my dilemma with B., who works nearby.
“They did improve massively, I mean they even have a proper kitchen as opposed to a single rice cooker now! At times though, they still have this weird thing of making a meal out of what is definitely two side-dishes or making a perfectly nice meal taste odd by adding St John’s wort or some other silly herb, so watch out.”
And so I went, as neutral as Switzerland, except for the detailed dissection of each bite to avoid any hairy surprises. And then again and again, due to a work project that tied me to this artsy neighbourhood for a fortnight. Now I can say their coffee and imaginative brunches are seriously good and decided to include them into my little list here. Perhaps because it’s so close to my favourite park, Letná, where any sunny day feels like perfection; perhaps because we all sometimes feel like we could use some unpolished adventure in our diets – or perhaps it’s just that love and mouthwash conquer all, even hipster hair and herbal fails.
Joking! It’s lovely! Give it a go.
Bistro 8, Veverkova 8, Praha 7 (tram: Strossmayerovo Namesti)
When I like a place, you can sort of tell. Momoichi’s sweet staff once saw me stay there for 10 consecutive hours, cunningly diverting all my work meetings and dates into this Vinohrady gem of a café, up until there was no more bancha to be drunk (they roast the tea leaves on the spot!) and no more sophisticated Japanese toilet features to be tested. Last time I went, I got a bit tipsy on their yuzu cocktails (even the cocktails are perfect here! And they have orange wines!) and got emotional with our waitress, deeply thanking her for her service – and only realizing this is a first date and I’m making a total fool out of myself in time enough not to give her a hug. It didn’t last with the guy, but they still greet me with a smile.
Themes! Must talk about the themes! They have baguette nights and English tea parties with scones and Fortnum & Mason teas; and taco Saturdays and Shanghai style pork belly bun whatnots… Yum and yum! And even if they didn’t, their Okonomiyaki cabbage omelette and their wonton dumplings are so good you’ll forget your name. As for desserts, subscribe to my dedicated three-hour webinar as this cannot possibly be covered in a few sentences.
Oh, and they have the cutest little tip collecting cat you have ever seen!
Momoichi Coffetearia, Rimska 35, Praha 2 (metro A: Namesti Miru)
5. LA BOTTEGA GASTRONOMICA
The trouble with posh friends is, you can’t take them anywhere these days. I made a genuine effort to introduce them to a hip new place everyone raves about and all I got was “Really, a smiley face instead of a mirror?”, “At these prices, I would expect not having to use a spoon for my hand soap,” and “I’m most definitely not going to Prague 4 with you.”
These are all valid points, well especially the last one. Sometimes, you just really want to go somewhere you know for a fact there’s no experimenting with a no-toilet-seat toilet, no having to watch waiter’s crack while you try to enjoy your chia pudding and definitely no “Sorry, out of coffee. Made you decaf.”
La Bottega Gastronomica is a proud antidote to all the new bistro additions where you find yourself forgiving more than enjoying. Because restaurants should make you feel appreciated and relaxed, right?
Gastronomica just does it right – the buzz of an Italian deli, the pretty tiles, the delightfully balanced dishes and actual customer service… What a sweet relief and an absolute joy of a place!
P.S. Before committing to anything from their menu, I highly suggest that you inspect the choice of beautiful salads, antipasti and cakes in their deli counter.
La Bottega Gastronomica, Ondrickova 17, Prague 3 (metro A: Jiriho z Podebrad)