Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hergetova Cihelna Redux

"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai qui tu es."
(Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you what you are)
- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Non, monsieur. I am not fat cow. Despite a recent burger binge.

My friend Grant, of Grant's Bike Blog fame, did a guest post a few months back on the hamburger at Hergetova Cihelna (Herget's Brickworks). It fit in well with my haphazard survey of Prague's high-end burger offerings.

Grant's positive post on the Cihelna Burger intrigued me. I had to try it for myself and formulate my own report.

I certainly am not the first to write about hamburgers in the Czech Republic. The Prague Post's Dave Faries wrote "A quick guide to Prague's very best burger joints," in an October 2006 article.

I headed over to Hergetova Cihelna for a late solo lunch on a Saturday afternoon. As you walk across the Charles Bridge, you can see the Cihelna compound and its terrace, with its great location right on the Vltava River.

The terrace itself is quite large and it does get quite full. I think I was lucky to walk in and find a table because, first it was almost 3 pm, and second, it was a cloudy, rain-threatened day.
The restaurant really does have one of the best views in Prague. Diners get the full measure and beauty of the Charles Bridge from every outside table. Boats glide by ferrying tourists up and down the river. It is a very nice place to sit.
I ordered the Cihelna Burger and a Coke. I waited, the waitress brought bread resting in a bowl of olive oil. The bread was nice, dense and chewy. However, the olive oil was weak and almost flavorless.

The burger arrived surrounded by condiments and toppings: sliced sweet pickle, red onion, coleslaw, shredded lettuce, chunks of tomato, mayonnaise, and ketchup.
Let's talk about these side items first. The pickles and onions were good. The lettuce had a few small brown spots on the edges. I didn't understand the point of cutting the tomatoes into chunks. They'd really get in the way of proper bun top placement. I left them off. The slaw was too salty for my taste and swimming in mayo.

It is interesting to note what was not there: Cheese. I didn't miss it. Others may differ.

Let's move on to the meat itself. First off, I will say that it tasted good. It had a good smoky, grilled flavor. The bacon on top was more of a softer English style than a crispy American style, but very tasty. There was a good quality, well-toasted sesame bun than held together well.
However, all the news is not good. This was a very greasy, juicy burger. This is a double-edged sword. Fat generally doesn't bother me and it does add to the flavor, but this was a bit over the line. It was dripping a fair bit. I have a pretty tough stomach, but I hadn't eaten all day and I have to admit I felt a little woozy after eating this burger.
The meat was very finely chopped. It had a slightly rubbery texture, as if it were mixed with something else. It didn't have the usual, somewhat crumbly texture of regular ground beef.

I can only venture guesses regarding its composition, based on previous burger experience -- perhaps some egg and breadcrumbs or maybe a little pork in the mix. Or it was too finely chopped.

These are the things the texture, flavor, and fat content made me think, but I could be totally wrong. I wasn't in the mood to interrogate the waitress.

All that said, I'd say I liked it. Was it worth the money? I'll get to that shortly.

In comparison, the Potrefena Husa Burger used very high quality, lean beef that tastes great but is always on the dry side. That is both its strength and weakness.

The Cihelna fries were excellent, among the best I've had in Prague. They were large, almost square cut, crispy on the outside, with fluffy and delicious insides. There was a little too much large-grain salt on top, but not a big issue.

I hadn't been to Hergetva Cihelna in a long time. I will admit, the heights to which the prices had climbed caught me a little off guard. The always had some expensive plates there, but there was a wider selection of lower-priced offerings.

The Cihelna burger's price is, forgive me, a whopper at 395 CZK. This is one of the mid-priced items on the menu. The coke was 45 CZK for a small .2 liter bottle. You are certainly paying a super-premium for the view.

Grant reported in April that the Cihelna Burger was 295 CZK. I checked with him again and he gave me 100% confirmation that this was the price back then. And we were saying at the time that the Potrefena Husa burger was seriously expensive at 297 CZK.

So, 395 CZK is off the charts. I'll try anything once, but it's just too rich for my blood, on too many levels. If I happen to go back again, it will likely be with a visitor I'm showing around the city who will really get a kick out of the view. I'll order something else to eat.

The starters range in price from 295 CZK for the salmon gravlax to 465 CZK for the grilled tiger prawns. There is a porcini mushroom pizza for 245 CZK, a sashimi pizza with raw tuna for 365 CZK, and a foie gras pizza 495 CZK. There are no other pizzas offered.

There are pastas that start at 295 CZK, three Czech cuisine dishes for 395 CZK, as well as fish, steak, and chicken. The most expensive item on the menu is a rack of lamb for 695 CZK.

A half liter of Pilsner Urquell on draft is 65 CZK. They also have bottled beer like Corona, Heineken, Becks, and Guinness stout. All desserts are 245 CZK.

The whole menu is available online for your perusual.

The service was a bit brusque and perfunctory. I was not treated badly, but I was not well-looked after either. My little Coke in a big glass went unrefilled after it was finished. I could have used more ketchup, but didn't feel like trying to flag someone down.

There is also ample seating inside the restaurant, but visitors should be aware. It was empty on a warm Saturday afternoon. Very few offer much of a view.Also, the tables are quite close together, and it can get quite noisy when it gets full.
Hergetova Cihelna is not the easiest to find. It helps to look at a map. From the Charles Bridge, you navigate some winding Mala Strana streets until you get to the gates of the complex. There is a big courtyard that has a Franz Kafka museum, a cafe and lounge, along with the restaurant itself.

There is a rather interesting sculpture fountain in the middle of the courtyard. There are two stylized human figures facing each other. They have pelvises that slowly swivel. They also have, ahem, "spouts" that move up and down, sending water into a pool at their feet.
You go down some stairs to get to the main restaurant. There is a small reception desk where you wait to be seated.

On the whole, Hergetova Cihelna could be a good place for visitors who want to take in the beauty of Prague and don't mind spending a bit. I have heard a a few positive comments from tourists about the place and the food. I can't say much more myself because I haven't sampled the rest of the menu in a long time.

It is not cheap, but it is still a fair bit less than neighboring Kampa Park, which has a similar view, and is under the same ownership. Kampa Park is one of the most expensive restaurants in the city.

I think that is enough about hamburgers for a while. For my next trick, I will attempt to turn myself into pig.

Hergetova Cihelna
Cihelná 2b
Prague 1, Mala Straná
Tel. (+420) 296 826 103

Coming soon: Outdoor Dining in Prague: The Movie

13 comments:

Captain Oddsocks said...

Wooo! 395Kc for a burger and a view? 395Kc is about 23 Australian dollars. I'm sure you can get open burgers for about half that, and with a view of Sydney harbour. Guess I'm living in a different Czech Republic to the Cihelna clientele. I'd be looking for a night's accommodation and a meal with a view for that kind of cash!

Captain Oddsocks said...

That 'fountain' is interesting though. It looks like the pool is in the shape of the Czech Republic?

Max Bahnson said...

It could be that when Grant went there the burger was indeed 295Kc. I have heard of places rising their prices during the summer high season.
Can it be HC is one of them? If so, it would be a really pathetic policy for such a good restaurant.

Anonymous said...

Try the burger at the new Bohemia Burger in P7. Had it a couple of weeks ago, was pretty killer.

Also, good not-Caesar salad...

Anonymous said...

The fountain was created by David Cerny who also made the Babies crawling on the Zizkov tower and St. Wenceslaw in the Lucerna palace. The pool is in the shape of the Czech Republic and if I remember well it should be possible to send SMS which is then "written" on the pool by the two figures. But I dont know whether this feature is still working.

Brewsta said...

Cool to know it is Cerny's work. I like his stuff. Found a link on his web page that shows the bronze figures before they turned green, and mentions the SMS feature:

http://www.davidcerny.cz/EN/piss.html

Mark said...

I have not been to HC in ages, but I seem to remember it always struck me as a kind of bargain alternative to Kampa (at least that's how it was originally marketed). Nice to know it's no longer quite so good a deal. I think the pricing for the burger has something to do with the restaurant's own fuzzy concept of what it really is ... Is it a premier destination with high-end food and a view to match (if so, the prices "make sense" in a way) or is it a kind of "informal place with upmarket street food" (burgers and pizzas) and a killer view? This was the original concept -- and if so, the prices are way out of whack for the quality of the food.

Nomes said...

Hey Brewsta.
1stly, thanks for your comments over on expats. Much appreciated.

2nd, I have been desperately seeking a burger since I got here. Similarly, I find Potrafina Husa's WAY too dry, and fractals is lacking something (not sure what; I usually end up there after letna, so it's possibly my taste buds that are 'dampened') but I had quite a good burger down at U Dedku about 4 weeks ago, and would be interested to read what you thought.

Their salmon tartare isn't too bad either...

Brewsta said...

Funny you ask. We went several weeks ago - had the burger and the salmon.

I have to clear the backlog and get that post out - I can't keep up with myself.

In short, it was just OK - the burger had an unusual flavor. I really couldn't figure out what it was. I assumed it was intentional, my health remained intact, but I'd have to try it again to be sure they meant it to taste like that.
(I'll have to reuse this description in my post).

I tend to like more of a char-grilled flavor. U Dedka's tasted more pan-fried, if I recollect.

I really love the flavor of the PH burger the best - but it is always dry. I usually drown it in ketchup which helps a bit.

HC burger goes the opposite direction. I did like it quite a bit, but that price is nuts.

Marta said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brewsta said...

Marta, please stop leaving advertisements for your hotel booking website in the comments section of this blog.

I noticed your blog was just created a short time ago and I was the first one to view the profile. And there is no actual blog to go with it.

If you don't stop, I will name and shame your website. No one wants to do business with aggressive, disrespectful people.

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Brewsta said...

Hey "Sean" -- stop spamming my blog comments with your damn Prague Hotels website, OK?