St Martin’s day, or Martinmas, is coming up and if you like stuffing yourself with Czech food and wine, you’ll want to know about this historic feast day.
I won’t bore you with a long history lecture here – if you want to know all the details of the festival’s origins, there’s Wikipedia for that, and countless other blog posts on the topic.
It’s not all that different from the French Beaujolais tradition: bottles of young wine are opened in wine cellars around the country at 11.11 on the morning of 11.11.
The wine itself is different, though. Unlike Beaujolais, St Martin’s wine isn’t from one specific type of grape. Instead, it’s a Czech or Moravian wine from this year’s harvest, which has only had a few weeks to mature. Whites can be Müller-Thurgau or Veltlínské, and reds and rosés can be Modrý Portugal or Svatovavřinecké.
Wine fans who want to indulge in a spot of late morning wine tasting could try St. Klara’s Vineyard in the Botanical Garden or Vinotéka Lucerna at Pasáž Lucerna, where they’ll be cracking open the bottles at the traditional time. Vinotéka Budečská are holding evening wine tasting events from 7pm on the 11th and 12th.
Roast goose with dumplings and cabbage is traditionally eaten with the wine (I love how food accompanies drink here and not the other way round!)
The celebration of the festival isn’t such a big deal nowadays, and it’s not a state holiday. But that doesn’t stop restaurants promoting their St Martin’s day menus every year. If it’s a marketing ploy, fine – its a delicious one.
There’s definitely no shortage of special menus focused on the feasting. If you need inspiration (or help choosing) here are my suggestions…
(If you’re not in Prague on the actual day, fear not. A lot of menus run for several days before or after the 11th, so take note of the dates.)
Restaurace Terasa U Zlaté Studně.
If you’re making a special occasion out of it, you can’t get a much better venue than this top-rated restaurant with views over the rooftops of Old Town. They’re serving a three-course goose menu with St Martin’s wine for 1300kc per person.
11.11. – 16.11.2014
Restaurace Villa Richter
Another one that’s good for special occasions, in the gardens of Prague castle, at the bottom of its vineyards – which are said to be the oldest in Bohemia. Villa Richter is preparing a special a la carte menu featuring roast goose, foie gras, and goose kaldoun, among other treats, to go with their St Martin’s wines
If you prefer roast duck and beer to roast goose and wine (and why not?), all the Lokál branches will be serving roast duck with sauerkraut and dumplings on St Martin’s day itself and over the following weekend.
11.11. and 15. 11. – 16. 11. 2014
This Staropramen pub-restaurant serving modern Czech food at Namesti Miru is fast becoming one of my favourite good-value places to eat, so I was happy to see they’ll have a special St Martin’s menu. There’s a version of roast goose breast with cabbage and potato pancakes, but you can order the traditional goose feast for a table of 4-6 people: 4kg for 1590kc.
8.11. – 11.11.2014
Enjoy wine, goose, dumplings and live music by the river at this year’s St Martin’s festival organised by the people behind the farmers’ markets. The party was at Jiriho z Podebrad for the last three years, but this time it’s at Naplavka on the Saturday after St Martin’s, which I think is a cooler site anyway. Details on their Facebook.
15. 11. 2014
If you need even more ideas, there are some very comprehensive lists online featuring almost every last place in the city with a St Martin’s menu – whether all of them are any good or not is another question. Here I’ve just included my own favourites (and I can’t wait to get to the one I eventually chose – bet you can’t guess which it is!)
If you have any recommendations too I’d love to hear them.