The eighth Prague Food Festival kicked off at noon yesterday at the Royal Garden (Kralovska Zahrada) by Prague Castle, and will go on until Sunday evening. It’s a gorgeous location, and luckily the sun was shining – for the time being. A thunderstorm was forecast for around 3pm, but that didn’t seem to deter anyone. We arrived just after it opened to make the most of the weather while it lasted. After all the preparations, everyone was set up and ready for a busy weekend. The guys as Naše Maso, the hugely popular new butcher’s shop on Dlouha street, were expecting plenty of customers. In last few years, we’ve ended up waiting in long queues, especially on Saturday and Sunday in the late afternoon. It’s worth getting there early if you can.
The first stand to amass a queue on Friday was U Emy Destinnové, the American-owned restaurant in Prague 2 known for its Black Angus steaks and seafood.
Their festival offering included the Black Angus, and it was impossible to resist. Along with some creamy pepper sauce and even creamier mashed potato, it was divine. Succulent, tender, full of flavour, and just pink enough.
They also had a bison steak from Nebraska, with a honey and balsamic demi-glace and mashed potato; a gigantic grilled king prawn with a pea and wasabi sauce; and a mixed dessert of pistachio cheesecake, brownie and strawberry sauce The festival was starting to get busy by around 2pm. Every time I go it seems like there’s a severe shortage of tables. Luckily it was nice enough weather to sit on the grass, too. While I like my steaks pink and bloody, I also (perhaps weirdly) love vegetarian food. Raw food, however, is an oddly fascinating thing that I just don’t quite get.
After hearing only bad reviews of Secret of Raw from everyone but the most die-hard of vegans, I could never muster the enthusiasm to go and try it myself. But here it was right in front of me. And it looked good. The strawberry-lime cheesecake was all vegan, made with almond and coconut milk. But I was after something savoury. I tried the “sunburger”, which was a salad with peppers and pistachio pesto between two crunchy, spicy wafers.
Not everyone’s ideal burger, but it was full of flavour, light and fresh – not something I minded as the weather was now scorching, with no sign of that promised thunderstorm. The raw “fries” weren’t my favourite. Though spiced and somehow quite soft, the problem was that, well, er, it was still uncooked potato, and so unsurprisingly tasted quite bitter. The creamy cashew tartar was fantastic though.
Even more refreshing was coconut milk, from coconuts apparently picked four days ago in Sri Lanka. They were extremely refreshing and tasty. I didn’t see a stand selling them – it seemed that you could only get them from a couple of guys wandering around talking to people, showing no sign at all of the fact that they were selling coconuts until they suddenly produced some from a bag. Most participating restaurants were from Prague, but there were a couple from out of town including Zamek Liblice, a castle hotel with a menu I’d call “posh Czech”. Here’s the stewed bull’s neck with tvaroh gnocchi and wilted spinach (being pointed at), the fallow deer with mashed potato, burgundy sauce and fried onions (on the right), a chestnut-chocolate cake with mascarpone ice cream and orange sauce, and a veal pate.
The verdict around the table was that the pate was middle-of-the-road and forgettable, and the fruity sauce needed seasoning. But everything else went down a storm.
Hotel Yasmin’s restaurant, Noodles, was also attracting quite a queue by this point. We tried their roast duck breast with lychee, rice noodles and sukiyaki sauce. It’s not a sauce I’ve had before, but I found it overpowering and sickly sweet, especially with the lychee. The duck breast was absolutely perfectly cooked, though. (Sorry about the lack of picture – we got a bit carried away and ate it before remembering to get the camera out. it just looked too delicious!) The best-value deal at the whole festival, we thought, was from Lindt. The chocolatiers were offering a 0.1 glass of wine (we had Porto and Pinot Noir) with a square of rich, super-dark chocolate for one Grand (the festival currency, worth 30k each). With just a few Grands left and the sky rapidly darkening, we made a dash for sushi at Sakura, another place I’ve never got round to visiting despite a few recommendations.
We had the spicy tuna, “inside out” salmon (though I’m not sure what was inside-out about it), smoked salmon and avocado maki. as you’d probably expect, it was a cut above most popular sushi places in Prague. Even the wasabi and fresh pickled ginger were in a league of their own. By 3.40pm the sky was getting seriously dark, we were out of grands, we could barely eat another thing, the rumbles of thunder were getting louder and the first drops of rain were falling. It was definitely time to go. We made a run for it, and got on the tram just as the heavens opened, feeling very glad we’d left when we did!
Though some of the offerings seem a little pricey at up to 10 grands (300kc) each, and the selection of restaurants this year wasn’t as interesting as it has been in the past, for the most part, Prague Food Festival is a great chance to try a little something from all those great-sounding restaurants you’ve heard about, but never got round to trying. You might even find a new favourite. And it’s a nice way to spend a (hopefully) sunny afternoon in beautiful surroundings.
If anyone else goes today or tomorrow I’d love to see your photos and hear what you thought!