As you may have gathered from the dearth of posts on here, I’ve been rather busy recently – who knew that trying to hold down a full time job, a freelance career and a personal life whilst studying for a digital marketing qualification could take up so much time? The past fortnight has seen me pretty much living out of a suitcase, and being forced to buy clean knickers from Tescos because I had no time to go home and fetch a fresh pair. I’m scared I’m going to become one of these women who carries emergency underwear in her handbag, next to the lipbalm and the loose change.
So, finally, last Friday I decided I’d had enough. It was time for me to leave these shores and head to pastures new for a few days. Those pastures new being Prague, land of churches, cheap pork products and a strange foodstuff known as “beer cheese” (the promise of beer cheese alone was enough of an incentive for me to be honest). The holiday didn’t really get off to the best start when we were faced with a seven hour delay after one of the engines of our plane set on fire whilst we were on the runway. However, when faced with such a setback, I turned to the one thing which I know for a fact will bring me succour in times of woe. Namely, booze.
Some would say that 7.30am is too early in the morning for Breakfast Martinis. I am not one of those people. Especially when aforementioned Martini comes with a (frankly ridiculous) slab of cold toast shoved onto the side of it.
By the time we got to Prague, both myself and Mr. Cay wanted to do nothing more than go to the pub. Which we duly did. This decision was justified when we discovered that beer in the Czech Republic is both cheap (an average pint will cost you around £1.20) and delicious, and that you could smoke in pubs. Which led to us both getting rather tanked, smoking like priests and eating pizza in bed. A very fine way to start a holiday by anyone’s standards really.
Being sensible and ridiculously gluttinous types, we decided to spend our holiday eating, drinking and looking at beautiful (and occasionally strange) buildings. Here’s some of the highlights:
WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU HAM
On our first day there, we decided to go exploring, and upon entering the Old Town Square, our nostrils were immediately assailed by the delicious smell of roast meat. I’m a sucker for any time of pork product, so I couldn’t really turn down the opportunity to feast on some authentic Prague ham, served up with rye bread and plenty of mustard.
It might possibly be the best ham I’ve ever eaten – juicy, smoky and with a delicious layer of crackling which we crunched between our teeth whilst watching a Czech television personality sing traditional folk tunes. It was so good, that I’ll even forgive the bloke who sold it to me for ripping me off after I handed him the wrong bank note.
It transpired that the ham man was there as part of International Chefs Day. Which meant that it would have been rude not to try some of the dishes being served up, like this amazing homemade lamb sausage from Apartmán hotel Jítrava . Served with garlic spiked mashed potatoes and an apple relish, it was just the thing to keep out the chill of a rainy October afternoon.
BEEF AND BREAD
The evening saw us dining at U Pinkasu, a cute – if slightly touristy – restaurant situated in Jungmannovo Namesti. U Pinkasu specialises in traditional Czech cuisine which, it transpired, is exceedingly heavy on the whole ‘meats and carbs’ side of things. Seemingly every dish on the menu appeared to contain ‘bread dumplings’ (which weren’t so much dumplings as very soft, doughy slabs of white bread), potatoes or (frequently) both. This is not the kind of food you want to be eating if you’re on the Atkins diet. Full marks must also go to our waitress – a woman who could not only carry five steins of beer in each hand, but who also appeared to speak four different languages (whilst we were there, we heard her speak to diners in Czech, Italian, English and Russian), and the section of the menu which was entitled ‘For Gourmets and Feeders’.
Beef goulash with bread dumplings and horseradish
Old Bohemian Beef in Cream Sauce with Cranberries and Bread Dumplings (apologies for the poor pictures, beer had been consumed at this point).
STUPIDEST THING I ATE
The award for ‘most outrageously stupid thing I ate on my holidays’ undoubtedly has to go to this heart attack on a plate -a deep fried potato pancake filled with pork & chicken, and covered in cheese. For some bizarre reason, I decided to order this for my lunch. In my defence, I think I might have been slightly under the influence of strong drink at the time. It would be wrong to say that this wasn’t delicious, but it was also absolutely bloody enormous. I ate about half of it before I gave up, and spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the bed in my hotel, rubbing my distended belly, and feeling like a boa constrictor who has just consumed a large deer.
You would think that after that little incident, I would have learned my lesson. No. No I didn’t. On our final day, prior to boarding a flight back to the UK, I had these potato dumplings filled with smoked meat and fried onions on a bed of cabbage. Undoubtedly tasty, but not the kind of thing you want to be eating when you have to be wide awake and drag a heavy suitcase across a city full of cobbles. They also gave me a raging heartburn that took me a good 24 hours to eradicate.
JEWISH FOOD AT KING SOLOMON’S
On our final night in the city, we decided to treat ourselves, and dine at King Solomon’s in the Jewish Quarter, allegedly the oldest Jewish restaurant in the Czech Republic. The meal wasn’t perfect – they don’t serve wines by the glass, the restaurant was dreadfully quiet and one of the waiters appeared to having an argument with one of his colleagues about the music on a Jewish radio station which was being played in the background – but the food was excellent, and there’s always something quite lovely about an intimate candlelit dinner. The standout highlight of the meal for me was their chicken soup with herb knedlich. I always thought that my Bubbie made the best chicken soup in the world, but sorry Bubbie – you’ve got competition.
Goulash with Matzo and herbed dumplings
Veal with bread dumplings (which, slightly bizarrely, came with a large squirt of whipped cream on the side of the plate)
We washed this all down with complementary shots of slivovitz, a potent plum brandy that you’ll find being served up at restaurants and bars across the Czech Republic. We would have had dessert, if it wasn’t for the fact we’d consumed this bad boy earlier that day.
Baileys Chocolate Mousse cake, aka three layers of chocolatey-dessert-joy. This was sinfully, indecently good. Especially when coupled with a strong espresso.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BOOZE?
Ah yes. The booze. Czech beer is possibly some of the finest beer I’ve ever tasted. Crisp, refreshing and punchy with hops, it’s a million miles away from the bland swill you so often find in British pubs. There’s a seemingly giddy array of Czech breweries, with Pilsner Uruquell being the most common. A lot of pubs also served Kozel, a dark beer, that looked like ale, but had a surprisingly light, almost fruity taste to it.
I also – in a fit of post dinner madness one night – indulged in a shot of the local spirit, Becherovka. It’s pretty interesting stuff, with a taste that’s a cross between floor cleaner and cinnamon tictacs, and a kick like a donkey. The lemon version is slightly tastier, but it’s definitely not something I’d advise you to try if your preferred tipple is Malibu. For reasons I’m still not entirely clear of, I bought a bottle to take home with me which is now taking pride of place in my drinks cabinet. I’m thinking of making cocktails with it. Does anyone know what mixes well with alcoholic Dettol?
SO, THAT WAS PRAGUE
After five days of Central European bliss, me and Mr. Cay finally returned to Liverpool on Wednesday pickled in alcohol, marinaded in pork fat and – very probably – two stone heavier. It was worth it though. We’re already fantasising about where our next adventure is going to take us. But for now, back to the real world. Thanks Prague. You’re really something.