Thursday, August 9, 2007

Hapu

"Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off."

-Phillip Marlowe (as written by Raymond Chandler)
After a nice Greek dinner in Prague's Žižkov district, we decided to take a leisurely walk home on a pleasant summer evening.

It was unspoken, but we both knew there would be a stop for refreshments on the way. The question of where was all that remained.

V takes a certain pride on being an expert on the bars and little-known hideaways of Malá Strana. She loves playing the guide.

"Oh, you don't know about this place? I used to drop in here from time to time," she'll say coyly.

But for her, Žižkov is something of a blank slate. So, when I told her I'd take her to a well-known cocktail bar in the area, she was both mystified and intrigued.

"You've never heard of Hapu?" I asked.

I enjoyed the moment. The tables had turned.

Of course, Hapu is no big secret. I'd seen it mentioned in The New York Times, an airline's inflight magazine, and worldsbestbars.com.

Graffiti covers the wall outside. The English language dominates the subterranean, smoky room inside. It's a big expat hangout.

The thing is, Hapu is no big cocktail bar. It is something of a neighborhood joint, quite small, just one room. There are two worn old couches, and just a handful of tables and chairs.

Anyone who doesn't score some of this prime real estate will consume their drinks standing up. There are not even stools at the bar. Space is tight.
Which is why we received many a jealous glance as we luxuriated on the comfy corner couch. We got to the bar just after 8 pm and luckily scored the sweet spot.

The menu is on a double-sided laminated sheet. The list is not as extensive as some of the cocktail bars in the center, but I always found those tomes to be overly complex anyway. This is not a super-fancy, elite-crowd bar like Tretter's Cocktail Bar. I wrote a post about Tretter's a while back.

Hapu is the anti-Tretter's. A number of articles and guides refer to it as a "cocktail dive." Also, the prices are far different, with most major cocktails averaging around 100 CZK. Similar drinks in the center often go for 160 CZK.
Hapu has a reputation for mixing good cocktails. We had some good ones, but not all were so impressive.

Since we did not have dessert with our dinners, both of us were in the mood for dessert-like drinks. I had a white Russian. It came in a larger than average glass and was made with a very thick cream. It was also pretty strong. It was very good.

V got a strawberry colada. She thought it was OK. I liked it a little more than she did. But neither the strawberry nor the coconut flavors really stood out. It was a little on the dull side.

For the next round, I forgot to take photos. We were consumed in conversation, and it slipped my mind.

Anyway, I had an excellent gin gimlet. It was served in a martini glass of very generous proportions. Not too tart, not too sweet, but it also packed quite a wallop. Good.

V had a frozen margarita with no salt. She didn't like it so much, and I agreed. They are very good at crushing ice into a fine, shape-holding mountain of slush. But there was too much of the ice and not enough lime or even sweetness to it. It was like a SnoCone that had some of the flavor sucked out of it.

For the final round, I decided to keep things simple. I needed a caffeine jolt, so I ordered a Cuba Libre. It comes in a very large glass. It's hardly the most sophisticated mixed drink on the planet, but I've had more than a few bad versions in my life.

This one was good. It was strong, but not too strong. The best part was that the bartender went very heavy on the lime juice. It had a very satisfying sweet and sour tang.

Things get a little hazy at this point, but V's last drink was a Sunrise, which is different than a Tequila Sunrise. The waitress made sure we knew the difference.

The Sunrise comes in a martini glass, the same that the gimlet came in, I think, and has tequila, grenadine, and.. I forget the rest. It was very sweet, but good.

And so, our night came to a close. The crowd had thickened up half-way through our session, but by the time we left, it was pretty thin again. I think it was before 11 pm. Still, as we gave up our couch, a few well-placed people moved in to take our spot.

On the whole, we very much enjoyed our "dessert" at Hapu, our long talk, and the rest of our walk home.

I told V that if she ever needs another guided tour of Žižkov, she knows where to find me.

Hapu
Orlická 8
Prague 3

Tel. (+420) 222 720 158

4 comments:

EB said...

The list is not as extensive as some of the cocktail bars in the center, but I always found those tomes to be overly complex anyway.

The bartenders at Hapu are always happy to do cocktails that are not on the menu. They do an excellent and very popular mojito, but I think the menus were printed up before mojitos became ubiquitous, because there's no mojito listed.

In general, I think their citrus-based cocktails are the best they do. The citrus juices they use are fresh-squeezed, and you can tell.

patrick said...

hey brewsta,thanks alot for wrecking my local,went there the other night and i couldn't get in the door!now the place is full of american over the top yuppies,what i mean by over the top is their voices,they shreek towering above anyone elses conversation.you might not have closed down the hapu but you've closed it down my friends and i!if i want to go to an american bar i'd go to a shithole like the blind eye,all your review has done is turned the hapu into another blind eye,thanks.by the way couldn't you do a review on the blind eye and let people know just how cool it is,or would you not be seen dead in a dive like that?R.I.P HAPU,we loved you

Brewsta said...

I had a feeling a comment like this would come one day. Do I have the power to move the masses? It's possible, but I'm not so sure.

For example, I went to Wigwam a lot last year, and it was easy to get a table. Then I wrote about it, and the next few weeks it was packed. I started to wonder what I had done. Such an ego.

A few weeks later, it was empty again. I had no way to know if the jump was my doing. My honest and humble feeling is that it was a random bump.

I'd been in Hapu before I wrote about it and it was packed to the rafters. Other times not. Last time, the crowd was at least half American -- I could hear it pretty clearly. A very nice Slovak colleague did tell me she visited after reading about it here.

I know Hapu is small, and I do hate the thought of ruining anyone's fun. But that was why I pointed out that it has been pretty widely written about in the NY Times, an airline magazine, websites, etc.

While there are a few hundred readers and half are local, I still don't think they move en masse based on what I write aboout.

Jonny Axelsson said...

I drop by Hapu once in a while as it is on my way home, and I have rarely come across uncooth foreigners, so it is not ruined for me. I come rather late so maybe those loud yuppies have gone home by then.

Not being too keen on the sweet stuff I just wanted to add that they make the best Bloody Mary I've gotten in Prague.