â€ś Address: TyrÂšova 1832/7 / 120 00 Prag 2 â€ž
Getting to our second home in Slovenia has been increasingly difficult since Easyjet axed the flights to Stansted from our regional airport, and Ryanair stopped flying to the Austrian city of Graz. As a result we've frequently taken the step of flying into Prague and making the rest of our journey by train; as the winter schedule has us arriving in Prague in the evening, we tend to spend the night there and get on our way early the next morning. We are invariably famished by the time we've dumped our luggage so we were pleased last time we were in Prague to find this gem of a restaurant in the Stare Mesto (Old Town), just a few footsteps from the main square but without the hefty price tag the area often attracts.
Zlaty Hrozen (the name translates as 'The Golden Grapes') is a simple but stylish little place that serves traditional Czech cooking, along with a few international dishes such as steak, salads or risotto, with contemporary presentation. The daily specials chalked up on a blackboard propped up on a wine barrel outside the restaurant were what tempted us in; the choice of specials is limited but you can also order off the menu. Vegetarians are catered for but may not be inspired by what's on offer. Pork dishes dominate the menu which is written in Czech and English. The menu is a single A4 sheet, easy to navigate but not extensive in terms of choice; that said, unfussy eaters will find enough to choose from. Obviously opting for one of the daily specials offers the best value for money. At lunch time you can get three set courses for 200 Czech Crowns which is about ÂŁ7 but this seems like the sort of place where you can just go in for a bowl of soup and nobody will bat an eye.
We were dining late in Czech terms, after 9.00pm but the staff made us welcome nonetheless. When we arrived we were the only customers and while we were there only one other table became occupied. Given how quiet the restaurant was we expected to get prompt and attentive service and we weren't disappointed; the waiter was there when we wanted him to be and didn't loiter when not needed. We both ordered from the specials and there was no pressure to spend further. The restaurant appears to offer a good choice of wines but we were happy with Czech beer.
The restaurant interior is quite simple; you might describe it as traditional in a contemporary way. The vaulted ceiling gave the place a look of age but the white walls and ceiling kept the place looking airy and spacious. There were framed mirrors on the walls, each one a differently ornate frame, which looked good and added unfussy decoration, while also making the room look larger. Colourful and unusually shaped squashes were displayed on the wide window sills and made a simple seasonal dĂ©cor statement.
Himself chose the slow cooked pork belly which was served with three generous slices of bread dumpling and a mound of warm sauerkraut. The piece - of rather chunk - of pork belly was generous and together with the bread dumpling it made a filling meal. A bread dumping is a funny thing and not at all like the things we call dumplings in Britain. It is formed from pieces of bread and fat (and sometimes bacon or cheese squashed in with it), and it is boiled then sliced, usually with a cheese slicing wire. At least that's what recipes I have found suggest. We both had the same kind of dumpling on our plates and they were really delicious, perfect for mopping up the gravy. The sauerkraut was not too sharp, having probably had a lot of the pickling liquid drained off before being warmed through; it was studded with tiny cubes of smoked pork.
I chose the duck; this was served with red cabbage and those bread dumplings. There was a good serving of duck and it was cooked just right - tender and pink in the middle but definitely done. The red cabbage was delicately spiced and not too sweet: I do like the traditional red cabbage with apple that is often served roasts in Britain but I find that it is often just a bit too sweet. The dish was finished off with a red wine gravy which complemented the meat very well without dominating the plate; with such lovely duck it would have been a shame to overpower its flavour with too heavy a sauce.
Czech food can be quite heavy and stodgy but we found that the portions at Zlaty Hrozen were filling without being too much of a challenge. An overfilled plate can make me feel full before I've barely picked up my knife and fork and there's a tendency in the Czech Republic to pile the food high. We both felt full but not so uncomfortable we had to waddle back to our hotel.
Zlaty Hrozen is a good choice for people who want to try something traditional but don't want all the hoo-hah that comes with a touristy restaurant; there are lots of these so-called traditional restaurants in Prague promising an authentic experience but most of them are tourist traps. Do you really need someone wearing breeches and a jerkin serving your dinner to make it authentic?
We paid a bit less than ÂŁ15 for two excellent mains and beers which, given the location, the service and the standard of food, is very good value. With so many more restaurants in Prague to try I can't say I'll go back, but I would happily recommend this place to others.
Zelezna 544/7, Prague