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Travel
September 28, 2009

Czech it out!

Text by Devanshi Mody

Prague is more than old-world charm and Eastern European architecture. Devanshi Mody whets her appetite with the glamorous restaurants and chic bistros of the city

Prague is famed for its fairy tale old city untouched by time. Dreamy spires, clock towers, churches and choirs, operas and concert halls lure one to Kafka country. But lest the picture-perfect stillness be too arresting, Prague has decided it is time for a little facelift. The city has changed over the past few months. Prague is being relaunched as the ‘new Prague’. Behind the historic and romantic façade thrive ultra swanky new restaurants which fascinate with originality of concept, eclectic interior décor and innovative cuisine that promise to make it a gastro destination.

When in Prague, everyone wants to stay in the quaint and charming Old City that transports you to another era. Immerse yourself in history at Prague’s Four Seasons, which seamlessly combines convenient location, tradition and the ultimate in luxury with unrivalled river views framed by the hilltop Prague Castle yonder. The hotel, integrating three different buildings and different period architectural styles, took a decade to complete. But like Prague, it too has just undergone jazzing up. The suites in the villa section of the hotel enrapture with views of serene waters flowing under the city’s stream of historic bridges, notably the famous Charles Bridge that seems like it is standing before you. The hotel has just completed its suites dazzling with Bohemian crystal chandeliers and glitzy contemporary art.

Enjoy breakfast on the hotel’s al fresco terrace overlooking the river and offering the most beautiful views in all Prague. But don’t forget to relish supper on a romantic evening at Allegro. Considered Prague’s best, find some of the world’s finest gastronomic Italian cuisine at this restaurant. You can even have lunch there at 10.00 a.m. Think of innovative lasagna, along with the chef’s specialities available on request – the kind that titillate your taste buds with extraordinary flavours, textures, aromas. If Vienna offers the sound of music, Prague it is for the taste of music.

The celeb-swarmed Kampa Park is completely missable unless you find it worth suffering awful food teemed with snooty service merely to spot George W. Bush! Instead, check out the other fantastic new additions to the city’s gastronomic scene. Notably, V Zatisi. It has become very trendy to have facelifts in Prague. So, this award-winning Prague institution, declared ‘Eastern Europe’s Restaurant of the Year,’ is having one too. Celebrated Czech designer Barbora Škorpilová presents four uniquely decorated rooms, including one with sumptuous olive satins offset by swanky mirror-panelled walls, eclectic white flying candles and red ceiling lights, with its wall of books, ingeniously arranged to look like bricks. With still pictures, including originals from Špáta, Švabinský and Zrzavý hanging around, the ambiance is of an artist’s atelier, which the restaurant’s name evokes. The inspired décor is reflected in the Michelin recommended French chef, Jacques Auffrays’s wondrous culinary creations. A seven-course gastronomic extravaganza is accompanied by the most discreet service and the finest Czech wines, which the lady sommelier selects from the restaurant’s unrivalled local wine collection. Ground-breaking advances in design and cuisine explain why the ‘new Prague’ is being launched as a gastro destination. V Zatisi also boasts the city’s finest local wines. Over the past decade, Prague has also acquired a reputation as a stag night hot spot frequented by lads on beer-binging weekends; but it’s time in the timeless city to break with tradition.

This is certainly true at La Degustation, which has become the talk of the town. Set in the enchanting and picturesque old Jewish quarter of the city, here, presiding over an open kitchen in a historic building, a young chef who has worked at the celebrated El Bulli, offers gastronomic delights to rival the finest Michelin-starred cuisine. Strongly recommended is the eight-course option where each course, an extravagance of ingenious creativity, is served with the finest world wines. Ensure you have at least four hours to pay homage to the exciting preparations that marry seemingly contradictory flavours, fusing sweet and savoury in inspired ways. The sommelier resembles Brad Pitt and is very popular with the ladies; when Brangelina were in Prague last year, even Angie apparently did a double take!

You will also require four hours at the Mandarin Oriental’s sexy Pan Asian restaurant, a byword for style, with its swanky décor, cutlery and table layout and the elegantly presented fine dining oriental cuisine with innovative twists. However irresistible the main course and starters, do leave room for dessert. They are a revelation. And don’t forget to start the meal with some Czech bubbly and continue with fantastic local wines on par with the world’s best.

Michelin stars might not yet have descended upon Prague in a flurry, but the city is seeing stars of another kind: heroes (Brad Pitt), heroines (Angelina Jolie) and villains (George Bush). One must never visit Prague when an American President does, for Prague Castle will be shut for three days and it would a pity to miss out on the newly opened picture gallery that brings together a meagre but fascinating part of the original royal collection, despoiled and dissipated over the years. Prague is picture-perfect in more sense than one. Indeed, Bollywood too seems to have taken to Prague – so you see sultry sex-goddesses performing hectic hip-swings outside quaint churches as a horse-drawn carriage wonders slowly by on cobbled streets. No doubt, this has inspired the Czechs to bedeck themselves in exotic saris, Indian jewellery et al, just to go for supper and whet their appetite with some local curry….

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