Friday, July 18, 2008

Grand Café Orient

"Create your own visual style... let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others." - Orson Welles
We were in the center of Prague on a weekday morning, and we wanted some breakfast. The options are not unlimited.

I suggested Cafe Louvre. I often go for a club sandwich and creamy hot chocolate when I need a comfort food fix.

Not today.

"I'll take you somewhere you haven't been before," V said.

On this bright and lovely day, she led me to the House of the Black Madonna (Dům U Černé Matky Boží).The name comes from the Baroque statue on the facade.

I'd walked by this early gem of Cubist architecture hundreds of times. But I'd never ventured inside and up the spiral staircase.At the top is where you'll find Grand Café Orient. The space, described as Art Deco or Secessionist, first opened nearly 100 years ago, but closed around 1920. It was restored and reopened in 2003.There's a brief history of the café and the building, a former department store, on the website. If you want to know more, there's a good article on the BBC News site and a Wikipedia entry.

The dining room was virtually empty at 11 am. We decided to sit outside on the terrace.We had it all to ourselves and took in the sun as we watched the tourists pass underneath.

The menu was pretty basic and limited.

There were a few croissant and baguette sandwiches with fillings like chicken, tuna, cheese, or smoked salmon (62-135 CZK).

There was a variety of salads including a chicken Caesar (135 CZK), a Greek (128 CZK), a goat cheese (148 CZK), and a Nicoise (165 CZK).

There were also sweet and savory crepes and a fair number of desserts, like cake and ice cream, to choose from.

We decided to stick with eggs. I got fried bacon and eggs (85 CZK). It came with three eggs, the yolks cooked all the way through.The bacon was thick cut and mixed in with the whites. I'd say it was more English-style than American.

I have no great need for lettuce, tomato and cucumber with my eggs.

But in an effort put somewhat healthy food in my body, I did have a few bites of these side items.

V got the ham and eggs (85 CZK). The dish was almost identical to mine. However, the ham was a very ordinary type you'd find at a supermarket deli counter.We both love ketchup with our eggs. I understand that nothing is free in this world of ours, but charging 15 CZK each for two small dishes of the stuff seems excessive.

We received a basket of baguette slices to go with our meal.

They were soft and rubbery, which was a shame. I took one bite of one and that was enough.

V had a cafe latte (58 CZK).

We also had two 0.3 liter bottles of Mattoni sparkling water (35 CZK each).

The total bill was 328 CZK.

After breakfast, we browsed around in the street-level gift shop. They have everything from expensive little Cubist porcelain boxes to furniture.The building also houses the modest Museum of Czech Cubism, which is run by the National Gallery in Prague.

Overall, I'd say the food was nothing special.

But, I'd still recommend at least one visit, especially for out-of-town visitors.


The prices were not bad for the tourist center of Prague.

There were plenty of tables to be had at mid-morning.

Plus, there's one more unique and identifiable ingredient that will make it worthwhile for some.

Grand Café Orient is a triumph of style over sustenance.

Grand Café Orient
Dům U Černé Matky Boží
Ovocný trh 19
Prague 1
Tel. (+420) 224 224 240

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