Eating the Czech Republic
Our trip to the Czech Republic started in Brno, Moravia – in the heart of the Czech wine region. While I will occasionally indulge in a beer, I was surprised and delighted to find that there WAS such a thing – although we learnt the quantity of Czech wine is so small most of it is reserved for local consumption. And, as I discovered, the white wines, in particular, are really rather good. So perhaps it’s just simply one of those closely guarded secrets?
Our meal on the first evening was at Retro Consistorium, which claims to have started because they couldn’t find anywhere in Brno where both wine and food were understood. True to form, we began the evening with a local traditional method sparkling wine, Samsula Moravsky Sekt, a chardonnay and pinot noir blend that made an excellent aperitif.
Our starter of taglierini with baked beetroot and goats cheese was paired with a local dry late harvest Reisling
And our main of sea bream with potatoes and salad with CH Chardonnay, another late harvest dry wine.
I was impressed. We were eating from a special menu, but starters here are around 150 – 180 crowns while mains are from 255 – 475 crowns (about £8-£15). We finished with a honeyed and aromatic Vinarstvi Vratil Gewurztraminer, a biodynamic white wine from a young vineyard in Velkopavlovická.
The next day lunch was at a local restaurant where the menu included ‘Deer Ragout with rosemary and green pepper and cream spaetzle (149 crowns or around £5) and chicken paprikash with pasta (119 crowns – less than £4).
So, in Brno at least, it’s not expensive to eat out and eat rather well. And there are excellent quality local white wines – though it’s worth noting that late harvest here with the word suché is a dry wine, however counterintuitive that may seem.
Wandering through the town, it’s impossible to miss the excellent local cheeses, pickles, bread and pastries. For breakfast, we were served with traditional wedding pastries (koláčace), local cheeses, meats and sausages in addition to a regular breakfast buffet. Indeed, just to the north of Brno, the Unesco-listed city of Olomouc has its own cheese festival (from 28th to 29th April this year). The city is famous for Tvaruzkova Cukrarna -Tvaruzky cheese pastries. I missed the afternoon trip there but have every intention of returning. What could be better than unique food AND fine baroque architecture?
Our final day in Moravia included a visit to the tiny village of Vortova for Masopust. More of that in a separate feature. However, it’s a place where I tasted my first Slivovice – home distilled plum brandy. The Czech Republic has a number of distinctive distilled alcohols which you may come across if you visit. I rather liked Slivovice – the version I tasted was just like sloe gin, but I couldn’t quite get to grips with Becherovka, a bitter tasting spirit made from a secret recipe based on a wide variety of herbs and spices. And, of course, there’s Absinthe, which doesn’t originate from the Czech Republic but is still widely consumed and produced there. It was, apparently the affinity of Czech artists for Paris which led to this particular liquor becoming so popular in Prague. Be warned, the home made versions which you may be offered in the villages, can be very high in alcohol…
As a Londoner, I am all too aware that finding good food in Capital Cities can be a challenge. And, I have already tried the Eating London Food Tour, from the same company who took us ‘Eating Prague’.
Our journey started with Gingerbread…at Pernikuvsen where we tried a number of traditional gingerbreads and learnt that the original 14th-century recipe came from an Armenian monk and contained 13 different spices – cinnamon, cloves, star anise etc…but no ginger, together with rye flour, honey and butter. Delicious and beautiful, if I had been looking for something to take home this is where I would have shopped.
Although I’d then have spent the flight home worried that my beautifully crafted gingerbread house was getting damaged in the hold! This tiny, traditionally styled shop is the work of two sisters in law who are trying their best (and succeeding rather deliciously) to revive Prague’s gingerbread tradition.
Next we went to try chlebíčky at ‘Sisters‘. If you ever thought that open sandwiches were a uniquely Scandinavian tradition, prepare to be enlightened, in the most delicious way, with these contemporary takes on traditional Czech open sandwiches.
Opposite Sisters, is Nase Maso, an upmarket Czech butcher offering cuts of meat from traditionally reared animals, together with a wide range of sausages and preserved hams and meats. You can pop in for a plate of beef tartare or freshly grilled Czech sausages.
On to Zvonice, a restaurant uniquely situated in the bell tower of one of Prague’s many beautiful churches. There we enjoyed a Saurkraut soup – along with stories about making Saurkraut – apparently traditionally a man’s job due to the need to press the salted cabbage down firmly.
A fantastic setting for a traditional Czech dish of sour and sweet creamy soup.
There was a lot more on the tour, which finished, appropriately enough at one of the Grand Cafes of Prague, Cafe Louvre, where Kafka and Einstein used to dine. I have to admit, I couldn’t really appreciate the dumpings, despite knowing that I was eating traditional Czech cuisine. But, leave me the Strudel, please!
Besides the Prague food tour, I really enjoyed our dinner at Vzatsi Restaurant, with a menu which offers a range Indian and Czech dishes. Given the plethora of good Indian restaurants in London, I was happy to stick with traditional Czech dishes and really appreciated the quality of cooking.
Even the ‘local’ Vinohradsky Parlament restaurant offered great food at very reasonable prices. Pictured below is a hearty dish of dumplings, pork belly, onions and red cabbage. Enough to feed me for a day of hard work in the fields!
My personal taste didn’t really extend to Czech dumplings. But, I really appreciated the overall quality of the food and the excellent pricing. Any visitor to Prague with an interest in food or beer would be well advised to check the Eating Prague site and consider taking one of their walking tours. And, now I’d really love to return to Moravia and learn more about the wines of the region.
Thinking of going there yourself? Why not pin this post for later.
I was a guest of the Czech Tourist Board
For more about Food Tours in Prague, contact Eating Prague
I travelled with Ryanair from Stansted to Brno. There are currently daily flights from Thursday through to Monday, with no direct flights on Tuesday and Wednesday until the summer season (April). Tickets start from as little as £14.99 each way