***this post is from 2013***
If you need to make plans for Christmas in Prague this year, there’s still time to find somewhere with a traditional Czech menu that won’t break the bank.
But first, it probably helps to know exactly what Czech Christmas dinner consists of – and when to eat it.
Did you know that the Czech Republic’s big Christmas meal isn’t on the 25th, but the 24th of December?
This year, I’m organising a British/Swedish/Polish family Christmas in the Czech Republic. It’s not the simplest thing to plan, especially since it means there will be not one but two “Christmas days”. Like the Czech Republic, Sweden and Poland have their big Christmas meal on Christmas Eve (the 24th.) So being English I’m the odd one out. I eat mine on the 25th after opening presents… and that routine is not going to change for anyone!
To make things more interesting, all four of these countries eat completely different things for Christmas dinner. Since we’re in Prague, we’ll do what the locals do. On the 24th, at least…
So now I need to find a good Czech restaurant for the 24th, and ingredients for my version of Christmas dinner on the 25th. Finding the turkey for mine wasn’t difficult. We ordered a turkey crown from Robertson.cz which can be picked up from the shop on the 23rd… and stuffed into my little fridge. They’re taking orders until the 18th. (I’m also getting chipolata sausages and goose fat from there.) Not particularly cheap, but much more reasonably priced than Marks & Spencers and less hassle than trying to get it from a Czech butcher (how do you say “please take the giblets out” again?)
A three course Christmas dinner for five people is enough work, so I won’t be attempting to cook the Czech version as well! So where to go?
Well, as you may have also noticed, there’s serious lack of helpful info online.
The usual websites (no names mentioned) have little more than lists of their advertisers, whose menus are invariably overpriced and/or not particularly Christmassy, since they consist mainly of truffles. These places also usually ask for big deposits upfront – I don’t know about you, but I haven’t got that sort of cash going spare, especially not just before Christmas!
One of the many great things about Prague, though, is that good food really doesn’t need to cost so much.
So here’s my thoroughly unsponsored take on possible choices for Czech Christmas Eve, if you’re not a revoltingly rich truffle addict and/or don’t want to end up in a tourist hell-hole. All of these options will cost less than 1,000 Czech koruna (about £30 or $50) per person for at least three courses.
Lots of places are closed on the 24th and 25th, and wherever you go, make sure you book ahead. Seeing groups of obviously freezing tourists wandering in to the restaurant on Christmas Eve and being turned away is just TOO SAD. Don’t be them.
Restaurace pod Vezi. Right by Charles Bridge? I must be joking. But this is no tourist trap. Although this restaurant really couldn’t get any closer to that bridge, the food I’ve had there before has been perfectly cooked, very reasonably priced, and everyone in there on my last visit seemed to be Czech. It’s cosy, classy in an old-school kind of way, and not at all pretentious.
Their three-course Christmas Eve menu gives you the choice of either fillet of carp or a beef flank steak (for the carp-haters), carp soup, and a choice of foie gras or smoked salmon to start. The best bit is it’s only 790kc per person, and they don’t charge for a reservation (you do need to give them your card details). http://www.podvezi.com/restaurant-pod-vezi
Aureole It’s usually Asian fusion, but at Christmas this fine-dining restaurant on top of the City Tower in Prague 4 has a couple of very special Christmas menus for the 24th. The Traditional Christmas Menu features smoked South-Bohemian trout fillet, creamy fish soup and fried, breadcrumbed carp from the Třeboň region. The five course dinner including coffee is just 890kc. There’s a Christmas lunch menu allowing you to have fewer courses if you prefer, and there’s also a children’s Christmas menu. http://www.aureole.cz/vanoce.php
Piano Terra at Villa Richter on the hillside just below Prague Castle, a gorgeous modern Czech restaurant with views over the city and, most importantly, a very reasonably priced a la carte traditional Czech Christmas lunch menu. The restaurant is only open for lunch on the 24th from 11.00-16.00, with a menu of fried carp or pork schnitzel with potato salad or a vegetarian mushroom dish, fish soup with cheese croutons, and baked apples with honeyed walnuts. cinnamon and vanilla cream. http://www.villarichter.cz
If your party includes fussy eaters or people with very different tastes, the Christmas menu at COMO on Wenceslas Square is a good choice. It has carp, turkey or a vegetarian option (Jerusalem artichoke flan), plus starters and desserts including several Czech-style dishes like fish soup with fish roe and herb croutons, and apple strudel with quince jelly, plus more Western and Mediterranean-inspired dishes like tuna “Prosciutto“ with fennel salad, or Eggnog creme brulee. 795kc for three courses. http://www.comorestaurant.cz/en
Plzeňská restaurace v Obecním domě I mainly included this one because the interior is interesting (see pic below) and this place is about as traditional as it gets. The restaurant is in the basement of the grand art nouveau-style Obecní dům, or Municipal House, The food is good, simple and very Czech indeed. They have a special advent menu for 890kc which seems to include creamy carp soup or roast chicken followed by a choice of either pike or carp with potato salad and dessert. http://www.plzenskarestaurace.cz/en
Wherever you end up and whatever sort of food you end up eating, I hope you have a very merry Christmas! And if you’ve come across any other good traditional Czech options for less than 1,000kc a head please do leave a comment and let me know…
Dobrou chut’, a vesele vanoce!