Review: is Miminoo a big no-no?

miminoo

Miminoo is the rather silly name of the restaurant sitting beneath the TV tower in Zizkov.

I like the sort of places that attract a wide mix of people from all sorts of backgrounds. A famous example would be Lokal on Dlouha, the tunnel-like Pilsner pub where you’ll find young, old, rich, poor, Czechs, tourists and everyone else besides coming for the tank beer and consistently good pub food.

These places attract a mixed crowd because the food is affordable, unpretentious and good quality, and the place itself is warm and welcoming, but without a particularly strong character.

Then, there are the places that attract a mixed crowd because they seem to be having an identity crisis.

The area around the Vinohrady-Zizkov border, where the TV tower is found, is the perfect location for a slightly upscale family-friendly hangout. As anyone who’s visited the Jiriho z Podebrad farmers’ market on a weekday can testify, there are plenty of yummy parents with big designer prams around here. On a sunny day, you’ll see they gather here to drink slightly pricey lattes while their little darlings run free, with plenty of space to play. There’s a big, fenced off grassy area with lots of kids’ toys and big, comfy swing seats.

It’s a far less perfect location however for a place to ‘see and be seen’. The conspicuous consumption brigade, made up of new money and Prague’s minor celebrities, are at home in the trendy bars in the vicinity of Wenceslas Square and the Old Town. But they aren’t often spotted tottering around the mean streets of Zizkov in search of an Aperol Spritz.

Or so I thought.

Having walked past Miminoo countless times and stopped in for a coffee during the day, I’d got curious about the food. So we found ourselves here on one of the last warm nights of summer.

Something seemed different about the place, though. On my daytime visit I hadn’t noticed the giant ice bucket filled with champagne bottles, plus a giant bottle of Aperol, waiting to greet you by the entrance.

Inside, the bling continues with a prominent display of big, expensive-looking watches. In the middle of the room, there’s this big, shiny meat cutter. I’d be willing to bet that cost a pretty penny.

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Then there’s the display of the cold cuts themselves, lit up in a display case. There’s Dolomite ham and various imported sausages. The menu, too, is out to impress; stuffed with steak and prawns, with truffles shaved here, there and everywhere. It seems to be attempting a mix of Czech, Italian and… well… things that sound expensive. Not what I expected at all.

Crusty bread and Miminoo’s pork crackling spread was brought to the table. I have to admit I don’t know the Czech name for this spread – I just call it schmalz (or smalec if I’m with the Polish family) and everyone seems to know what I mean. Here, it tastes less like schmalz and more like they’d put bacon and cream cheese in a blender.

Their “Linguine con gamberi aglio” is a simple pasta dish containing one of their favourite ingredients: prawns. Big, juicy prawns. Mine came with enough of them (six), and they were cooked well enough. The dish also contains spinach, cherry tomatoes and some enormous chunks of garlic.

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The problem was that, other than the prawns, nothing tasted of anything.

I ate one of the big garlic chunks by itself and found it was mushy and tasteless, as if it had been cut up a long time ago and left hanging around. The linguine stuck together in dry, lukewarm clumps and there was no sauce, seasoning, oil, or anything else to hold the dish together. It was as if someone had taken ingredients that had been cooked separately the day before and thrown them onto a plate at random before reheating. They charge 229kc for this tragic dish.

Their mini-burgers are even more disappointing. Three pucks of fatty, chewy meat, which managed the surprising feat of looking raw and tasting burnt all at once, came on dry, untoasted Kaiser rolls; not soft enough to be used as burger buns, and completely identical to the ones found at the nearby Albert supermarket.

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The burgers are topped by some anonymous plasticky cheese, and bacon that makes the beef incredibly salty. The sauce was the only good thing about it. Tomato and cucumber ‘toppings’ are underneath the patty (which I know will leave some burger fans incandescent with rage but, with all the other problems going on, it seemed pretty minor.)

These disappointing burgers are almost 100kc each (289kc for three.) They come with a small bowl of oily crisps/potato chips. The weird hot-cold casually thrown together mix on a plate felt like kids’ party food. There was a little bowl filled with what tasted like a mix of shop-bought tomato salsa and mayo, presumably to dip the crisps in, in case you hadn’t had enough unpleasant textures in your mouth already.

The dessert display case, which is outside, was all fogged up with condensation and didn’t look appealing, but we’d lost our appetites anyway. The disappointment would have been harder to take if it wasn’t for the wine.

Everything we tried – red, white and rose – was good (although we didn’t try any of the Czech wines, just because they didn’t appeal as much.) Our favourite wine on the list by far was the French ‘Hob Nob’ Pinot Noir, at a very reasonable 100kc per 0.15l glass. They also sell Staropramen beer, which I didn’t try here.

Our plates of half-eaten food, the bread basket, cutlery and solitary menu were left on the table forever. They were still there when we left after about an hour of drinking wine and people-watching. All the staff wear these little earpieces which don’t seem to help the standard of service and just look a bit daft. It’s not even a particularly big place.

After dark, the patio draws groups of young guys with designer stubble and loud voices who, in between attempting to out-brag one another, have to keep getting up from the table to take Very Important Phone Calls.

Then there are the small groups of long-legged, perfectly groomed Russian women who gaze intently into their iPhones while picking at their salads and ignoring their wine – which can’t be easy, since it’s in a massive ice bucket in the middle of the table.

There’s also the occasional man wearing shiny gold shoes and carrying a tiny dog in a handbag. There’s a glam-looking middle-aged lady who’s here with her dog and toddler, for a glass of wine and a spot of chain-smoking. Last of all, a couple with dreadlocks and tie-dye clothes arrive. It’s a mixed crowd, all right.

 

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The interior is cosy enough despite all the neon lights, and the whole thing is floor-to-ceiling glass, so there’s no danger of not being seen (if anyone’s looking, which in this area is pretty doubtful.)

We went back for a glass of wine another night and sat in here. I asked for some olives, and it couldn’t be done.

I still couldn’t figure the place out. Despite the fancy cuts of meat and meat slicer, they don’t seem to have any interest in the quality of the food. Despite all the wine and prosecco, they’re definitely not a wine bar. What is this place? Why does it exist? And for whom?

I turned to the restaurant’s description of itself, which was neither illuminating, nor even remotely accurate: “A quiet place in the heart of Prague with a relaxing atmosphere and an offer of excellent dishes and good drinks.”

More fool you if you expect a place that’s always full of dogs and small kids to be quiet. Nor is it in the “heart of Prague”, although looking at the prices you might believe you’re in the Old Town.

For this money, there’s much better food on offer in Prague 3. There are also lots of places selling the same sort of food around here, and doing it better, for much lower prices. Take your pick. And as for the supposedly “excellent dishes”, I think I’ve said enough. But yes, Miminoo’s drinks really do live up to their own stellar description of “good.” So there is that.

If you’re looking for a nice place to sit outdoors and have a coffee or glass of wine on a sunny day, Miminoo is a good bet. But if you’re looking for a sophisticated meal out, keep looking.

Miminoo, Tower Park, Prague 3

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