We awoke to what we thought was our final day in the beautiful – yet hectically busy city of Praha. We checked out of the hotel Corinthia – which took a lot longer than one might imagine for a five star establishment and headed into town for our final activity of the trip. I love food. For any regular readers this, I am sure, will not have escaped your attention. So one of the activities I most like doing in any new city is a food tour. They usually come with a local guide and if organised for the start of your holiday can help you find some local gems rather than trawling the tourist hotspots. However, timing had not been on our side for this trip and so we had to schedule the tour for the final day instead – just an excuse to return to try some of the recommendations we thought. The tour starting point was a place called Pernickuv Sen – so we made our way here after leaving our bags with the concierge with empty stomachs full of anticipation. As soon as we arrived I had high hopes. ‘You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ went through my mind but this small gingerbread shop looked like a fairy-tale house set in the middle of the city. We were the first to arrive and were welcomed by our friendly guide from Eating Prague Tours with a gingerbread heart with the tour companies name iced on – this was definitely a high end operation. Since we were early we wandered around the shop spending all of our money on tasty gingerbread treats before the others arrived. Once we had gathered – there were 10 of us in total – we were served up our 3 tasty specialties. The sakrajda; a sour and sweet gingerbread laced with plum jam. It was moreish and deliciously soft, kolac – the round gingerbread with poppy seeds on top which was harder and less tasty than the sakrajda, albeit still delicious and finally the Vanilkove Rohlicky aka the vanilla roll. This biscuit was so light it literally melted in your mouth. It was a great start to the tour. The gingerbread shop is definitely worth checking out on any visit to the city, particularly during the Christmas period, as our guide explained the biscuits are a Czech tradition with each family wanting to offer the best variety of Christmas biscuits. As a result historically many Christmas weekends were taking up with baking these yummy treats – whereas now most family’s have a favourite baker where they buy the treats instead. This is a tradition I can get behind!
As we moved through the city the tour – while clearly food focussed also discussed a lot of the history of the city and famous food traditions – such as the carp and potato salad Christmas meal consumed on Christmas Eve. The next part of the tour took us to 2 establishments directly opposite each other where we learned about living environments in the city. We walked into a dark walk-through shopping area, very popular in the city and learned that while the ground floor is made up of shops and restaurants, the first floor is generally offices and then on top of that is housing. Pretty economical really. Our guide ran off to collect food and returned with a massive plate of meat from Nase Maso and a plate of beautiful open sandwiches from Sisters. We started with the meat platter which included sliced beef, sliced ham and 2 types of sausage all served with a spicy mustard and freshly baked bread. The butcher is famous in the city and while selling a lot of produce to be cooked at home also has a restaurant section for those looking for meat on the go. Meat, particularly smoked and cured, is a huge part of the Czech cuisine and we loved all of the varieties on offer. The butcher is a fan of minimal waste and so you will find a lot of interesting ingredients that a lot of British butchers might tend to throw away. We followed the meat feast with some traditional open sandwiches; beetroot, goats cheese and candied walnuts was fresh, creamy and delicious, the sauerkraut was a lot nicer than expected and the ham with a whole egg was pretty epic. Again, they were outstanding quality with a focus on fresh local ingredients and a piece of modern food mixed with the traditional Czech ingredients.
This far in we were feeling full and starting to become conscious of the time of our flight. We had booked the tour based on the 4 hour duration on the website giving us enough time to scoot off to the airport in an uber afterwards. However, already more than half way in with 3 further stops still to make this was looking less and less likely. What to do other than power on, the guide was fantastic at telling us of the history surrounding the city, just not great at time management. Our next stop was one of the most impressive – a bell tower right next to the huge lady bell which can be viewed as part of the museum tour as well as in the restaurant. Restaurant Zvonice was beautiful and definitely fit for a special occasion. We were one of the first here and so settled right next to the bell taking in the posh surroundings. But what for eating? Well, sauerkraut soup of course! At first I was very unsure, but the soup was creamy and delicious and definitely something I would order again. I also think the restaurant would be a lovely venue for a nice dinner in the city.
But onwards we continued to the next stop by which time we were about to give up all hope of completely the tour and dashing to the airport. However, after our historical chat outside we headed into Styl and Interior, a home furnishing shop with a cracking café and made our way to the pretty greenhouse in the garden at the back. A strange venue for food you might think, or at least I did, but our trip was about to be thrown into the air in an exciting way. Just as we were taking our seats in the wooden wicker furniture we received an email from Brussels Airlines informing us of our flight cancellation. I was of course delighted, with 3 weeks left in my job and a decent excuse to spend more time in delightful Prague, what more could I ask for? Nicola however, as a trainee took the news in a slightly more frightful fashion. After a lot of running around we decided we might as well finish the food tour before heading to the airport to work out a plan of action. And so, we sat back to enjoy a gorgeous local fruit wine served with some tasty stewed lamb, potatoes and glazed carrot. Not being a big fan of lamb, this was, well lamby, but the fruit wine was super tasty and I managed to eat the lamb in my delight at getting stuck in Prague. In all honesty this café was probably my ‘find’ of the tour. It is not somewhere I would ever have thought about eating but the surroundings and the service and the quality of the locally sourced food was standout.
With the sun having set it was on to the final stop of the tour, Café Louvre. An interesting choice on a Czech food tour given that the décor is very French in style. There was again a beautiful Christmas tree to welcome us out of the cold and we sat at long tables to enjoy, not just a taster, but a meal. After everything we had consumed this almost broke me. We were served a piece of beef served in a creamy vegetable sauce with traditional bready Czech dumplings. The bread dumplings are much plainer in flavour than the likes of the rounded balls often flavoured with meat dripping that we would think of as a dumpling in the UK. That is the idea in the masses of sauce really, to flavour the bread. It was an interesting concept of simple flavours but really just very hearty. This wasn’t all, we were then served with an apple strudel with vanilla sauce and whipped cream. I think apple strudel should be warm – particularly when serving with a warm sauce but it was nice all the same. We washed all this down with some local wine and it really was a lovely end to a busy and eventful day.
Unfortunately for us, the ability to have an early evening nap was off the cards. After a mad airport dash, which involved me calling the hotel and asking them to send our luggage on (thank god we picked a 5 star one with concierge) we made it to the airport only to join the longest queue of all time. Funnily enough, flights were leaving from Prague without a glitch, but since we were transferring through Brussels which had been shut due to a crazy snow storm we were well and truly stuck. For those regular followers, you will be aware this was my second flight stranding of the year (not great luck really) and so I had this down. We took our place in line, switching out to update family and friends of our predicament before paying a visit to the airport newsagent to buy a bottle of sparkling wine to enjoy during the wait. If you can’t beat them, join them! We waited in that queue for hours, only to realise our best option was to book our own Easyjet flight the next day (for the excellent price of £45) and claim our flight price back from Brussels Airlines at a later date. 6 months later we have yet to receive any monetary compensation from them. They did however, provide us with a hotel voucher for the airport hotel for the night and give us vouchers for airport food (which we forgot to use in our tired drunken state). After nearing 5 hours in the queue we finally retired to the Courtyard by Marriott for a lovely night’s sleep, with inclusive breakfast! It’s the little things right?