Normally when I book a trip I like to do a little research on the best restaurants and local places to eat. I have always been a firm believer that if you want to get a real feeling of the place then eating local food, in restaurants frequented by the resident population is a good place to start.
After some careful reading and research on the various food tours offered in Prague I chose the Eating Europe, Prague Food Tour. I selected the four-hour tour which promised “Old world charm & local history told through cuisine”, on all fronts I was not disappointed. Four hours spent in the company of Neil our guide was both delicious, insightful and left me feeling like another trip to the Czech capital was needed!
The trip to Prague was a surprise for my birthday this summer so I booked rather late on to the tour however, we managed to snap up 2 places on a Monday morning commencing at 11.30am. I would definitely recommend booking as far in advance as you can, particularly during the summer months. Although this is a mid-morning start time I would hold off on the big breakfast as four hours of food, even with bite sized portions left me feeling very full and in need of a nap!
- Dreams are made of…gingerbread:
We arrived at what can only be described as a real-life gingerbread house, it looked super cute with beautifully baked and iced treats adoring the doorway and the aroma was incredible. As soon as we walked in we were met by our guide Neil; although originally from Scotland his knowledge of local history and food was detailed and brought to life with stories from his Czech wife and in laws of their experiences living and growing up in the Czech Republic. We were lucky enough to have Neil to ourselves for the whole tour!
The shop is called Pernickuv Sen, located at Hastalska 21 which is approximately a ten-minute walk from the Powder Tower. Pernickuv Sen is owed by two sisters in law who create and ice some of the most beautiful gingerbread creations.
Our first tasting comprised three different traditional cookies, my favourite was definitely the poppy seed kolache however my husband preferred a crumblier vanilla flavoured cookie. As we devoured the cookies we heard how they were made and some of the stories behind their creation.
- 2 slices of bread are overrated:
Having visited Norway, Sweden and Denmark open faced sandwiches are a common place food however there are few which rival the taste and careful craftmanship of those presented at the Sisters Bistro. The Sisters Bistro takes classic Czech flavours and brings them into the 21st century with stunning presentation and bold flavour combinations.
Our guide liked to see how many flavours we could identify in each of the mini sandwiches, needless to say my taste buds were far superior compared to my husband! We tried three different offerings, my personal favourite a beetroot and goats cheese sandwich. There was also a ham and boiled egg and a shredded cabbage with fresh tomato. When presented with the ham and boiled egg morsel Neil informed us that this was the height of Czech party food, good to know!
- Meat, meat, meat:
Without even moving from our little table Neil whipped away the empty sandwich plates and returned with a platter of meaty goodness from the butcher Nase Maso. Naso Maso state that they are a “Small butchers with a big heart” and it is clear from the bustling huddle keen to get in and snag a lunchtime hotdog that this small local butcher is attracting a lot of love from local Praguers. Not only does Naso Maso serve pre-cooked meat products but you can also select your meat have it cooked in front of you and you’re good to go. The owners have also sweetened the idea of waiting for your meat to cook by installing a beer tap so; with a cold one in hand you are free to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience.
The smell from coming from the plate in front of us was intoxicating, sweet, juicy and lightly caramelised. Neil carefully directed us first to the ham then onto the sausage. Whilst the ham was delicious, soft and melt in your mouth it was the sausage which truly reminded me why I am not a veggie! The first sausage we tried was affectionately called the ‘little fat boy’; reason being that it is a small, short, fat filled sausage. This little delicacy burst with flavour and the mustard accompaniment provided the perfect balance to the rich flavours. After devouring the ham, sausage, bread and gherkins I needed a walk!
As we left Nase Maso we were able to walk past the long window showing the butchers in action, this visual spectacle seemed to be getting as much attention as those eagerly waiting for their food.
- Soup in the bell tower:
After a short but much-needed walk (despite the 30 degree heat!) we arrived at a rather imposing yet unassuming venue for a restaurant. Our walk to Restaurant Zvonice was filled with insightful glimpses into times gone by helping to give a really good background to the city.
Restaurant Zvonice occupies two floors of the Gothic bell tower. The bell tower comes complete with 15th century bell and enormous yet characterful oak beams. As we sat down Neil informed us that we would again be guessing the ingredients of our soup. We were presented with a generous portion of steaming hot soup; not quite the dish of choice for a swelteringly hot August day but this reimagined Sauerkraut soup was a true and unexpected treat. The sauerkraut was mixed with potato, ham and cream, the result was a lightly pickled warming and hearty soup.
Even if sauerkraut soup isn’t your thing then the view from the bell tower is pretty impressive and worth the trip!
- Czech Tapas:
Next on the menu was a tapas restaurant with a twist. We arrived at Špejle at lunchtime and already the tables were filling up. Špejle are small wooden skewers mostly used for shish kebabs. Špejle use these little wooden skewers in all of their delicacies. Their concept is brilliant; you choose whatever delights you like hot or cold, you are then charged for the number of skewers you accumulate over the course of your meal.
Our tapas treat was a beautifully cooked duck breast partnering a dumpling loaded with cranberry and red cabbage on the inside. The dish was topped off with crunchy fried onions and washed down with crisp, sharp Czech cider. Although it was bite size this was more than enough to satisfy any lunchtime munchies.
I would recommend prior booking at Špejle as their growing popularity for flavoursome food presented in a new and quirky way is gaining momentum.
- Svickova; a Czech tradition:
As we made our way to our final destination we stopped for a while in Wenceslas Square where Neil gave us a brilliant insight into what had occurred there during the Soviet occupation and why it was such an important place. It was fascinating to stand in the square which we had read so much about at the Museum of Communism and join together some of the dots.
Our penultimate dish was in Neil’s opinion worth waiting for and was set to be the highlight of our tour. We arrived at Café Louvre; a beautifully grand building with a significant history. After learning that Einstein and Kafka used to frequent these rooms I was eager to get inside!
Our first dish was Svickova, a traditional Czech dish made with a spiced root vegetable sauce, beef steak, cranberry sauce, slice of lemon, 2 fluffy dumplings and of course a generous dollop of whipped cream. When the curious dish was presented in front of me I wasn’t quite sure where to start it seemed to be a strange combination between main course and dessert. However, Neil stepped in and advised that everything should be mixed together into the vegetable sauce (which I was reliably told when cooked properly should have more of an orange/yellow colour rather than the much darker alternatives often served in some of the more touristy spots). Well my first taste blew all my scepticism away, it was delicious! The only down side being that after so much food and drink that afternoon I struggled to finish it off.
Our tour concluded with a final course at Café Louvre; traditional apple strudel with whipped cream and vanilla custard. Now, I am not a fan of cream or custard however the pure unadulterated strudel was warm, lightly spiced with melt in your mouth pastry. The Czech’s really know how to make a strudel, you can find this staple dessert on most menus across the city.
The Eating Prague tour was an excellent way to spend our last day in the city and I would thoroughly recommend it.
Food tours can be booked on the eating Europe website https://www.eatingeurope.com/