Monday, 29 October 2012

edible prague

meat in the kitchen at cestr
i wonder how a city like prague with beautiful and delicate architecture can produce such hefty cuisine. my abiding memory of eating in prague is of meat with veins of fat running through it, accompanied by large coins of bread dumplings that tasted like untoasted toast. it was the kind of food that endears itself to discomfort resting in the belly like stone. but there is one dinner worth talking about and that was at cestr. cestr is a modern czech canteen and is a mecca for red meat lovers. it is about uncomplicated and simple food executed to near perfection. the menu is cleverly designed like an invitation. when you lift the sticker to reveal it, there is a postcard detailing the ethos of canteen along with a cattle shaped guide detailing twenty-seven different cuts of meat. o chose the three course and i picked two first courses. to drink we had a czech wine called zweigeltrebe cepage that o had picked. it had a peppery bouquet that mellowed as it breathed. 

double beef broth

i started with the double broth with egg which was a clarified consommé served in a heavy bottom copper saucepan to be eaten in a shallow soup plate. its surface was pearlescent with a sheen of fat. a soft ovoid of egg so gently boiled that its white was as silken as its yolk sat in its centre. o’s tartare was a finely minced circle of meat made richer with yolk and cream. chubby cloves of raw garlic were to be rubbed on the surface of the toasts to cut through the richness. 

beef tartare
o’s second course was golden muscle and shank that had been treated to a combination of goose fat and slow cooking resulting in meltingly tender meat. it fell gracefully from the bone. the potato dumplings were surprisingly feathery. i had the carpaccio, which arrived in a floral overlap with a sprightly crown of rocket. i believe the gran moravia had been treated to a little heat to crisp it for texture. it was salty like a pecorino and stood up well to drizzle of strong sunflower oil. 

cestr, a modern czech canteen
we barely had time to contemplate the fullness of our appetites when the skirt steak arrived. it was beautifully red in the centre, graduating to pink and eventually to a brown sear and was presented on a warm wooden block. a sauce of chanterelle mushrooms was dainty and was the feminine element on the plate. spinach stewed in butter was refreshing in colour. 

despite being very full i was very tempted by dessert, in particular the master dark beer ice cream. this ice cream had an assertive somewhat bitter flavour that was mediated by a caramel froth and chunks of plum. a crown of deeply crunchy malt cookie crumbs was the perfect finish.

coffee and a milk jug in the shape of a cow
cestr made us forget the mediocrity of the food from the rest of our trip. it also demonstrated how good quality produce is at the heart of good cooking. the compliment of excellent service adds our dinner at cestr to our list of memorable dinners. 

 - a round-up of other places to eat in prague - 
here are a couple of recommendations that may be helpful if visiting prague. brasserie la gare a boutiques gourmandes serves excellent cheesecake. o had a pistachio one that was luscious with a buttery crust around its edges. bakeshop is a local neighbourhood bakery and is good for a light lunch. i had a refreshing gazpacho although restraint would have been welcome over the raw garlic. o’s walnut and blue cheese quiche was good as well. i’ve been told that bohemia bagel is a good options for tourists and locals alike. mistral café in the jewish quarter serves a mix of czech and continental food. it’s a bright and simple space accessorised with magazines and soft lighting. café savoy owned by ambiente group who also own cestr is known for their breakfast particularly fried eggs with black truffles. i had really wanted to have coffee at the grand café orient famously designed by josef gočár. i have no idea what the food is like but the dining room itself is very glamorous. of course beer is a plenty in prague but we’d recommend trying the st. thomas’ dark beer that was originally brewed by augustinian monks in saint thomas monastery. it is served at the lichfield café and bar at the augustine hotel. 


  1. I love the way you write m. how do you think of so many adjectives for food?!

  2. Right, am saving this for when I go to Prague! Never knew Prague's foodie scene would sound so yummy!

  3. Shu Han, thank you for the compliment. I'm not sure how I do think of so many adjectives but I am constantly looking to improve myself. I read a lot and that helps in writing.

    Vivi, Prague was actually a difficult city to navigate by mouth. Unlike other cities there is little by way of food recommendations online. But I am hoping this will save people from endless bread dumplings. I can't take the credit for Cestr as that was a suggestion from another friend but the rest is purely trial and error.