Friday, January 18, 2008

Auberge de Provence

"Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination."
-Swami Sivananda
Prague's dark, gray winter was getting us down, and we had a strong urge to get out of town.

We hadn't made any plans, and didn't want to drive too long, so I came up with this proposal: We'd give the city a rest and go to a roadside inn outside the center for lunch.

We'd drive out, just past the airport, to the Prague West village Tuchoměřice and go to Auberge de Provence.I'd read a lot about this place and had also gotten a recommendation from a friend.

The air that day had the stinging smell of burning coal and an unpleasant inversion haze hung over the valley. Ironically, the air was actually cleaner in the center of Prague.

After getting off the highway, we followed a long and winding road that didn't have a lot of signs. The area is not as pleasant as you might think. The landscape's farms and villages are mixed with mega-warehouses and business parks.

The Auberge de Provence has a courtyard and an outdoor grill. It could be pleasant there in summer.The interior has stone walls and thick wood support beams. There's plenty of kitsch, like antlers, boots, and even a boat hanging from the ceiling.Lots of restaurants do this, but it's not too over the top here.

The waiter brought out warm, light baguette slices served with butter mixed with shallot and chive, I believe. V asked the waiter a few questons about the restauant and the food.

He used a lot cutsie Czech diminutive names in many of his descriptions. V finds this annoying.

There was an amuse bouche of chopped and mixed tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

We were amused that it was served on edible spoons that tasted like bread sticks. We not amused that the spoons were slightly stale.

I ordered the crottin de chevre en croute. The menu said it was"warm goat cheese and smoked duck breast in puffed pastry" (230 CZK). The pastry was coated with honey and had a cinnamon stick in it.Once a fork hit the crust, the hot, liquid goat cheese spread out on the plate.

I could not really detect any smoked flavor and the duck meat was a bit gray.

Still, it was a warm, sweet, salty, and satisfying starter.

V had moules au basilic, described as mussels broiled with tomatoes and basil served with herbed crostini.

The flavor of the basil was very pronounced in the sauce. The cherry tomatoes were on the sour side.It was not served wtih herbed crostini, but I didn't realize anything was missing until I looked at the menu on the internet.

For a main course, I had the steak and "Belgian frittes" (335 CZK). It was a fairly large and thick rumpsteak with a light pepper sauce. I added some extra salt. It said it came with a salad, but the leaf and tomato on the side didn't really qualify as a salad in my book.Regarding the size, it was certainly much larger than the steak I had with frites at Brasserie M a while ago. I wrote a post about that. However, Auberge's beef was very sinewy and not so easy to chew. The flavor was not bad, but nothing to write home about.

The frites were OK, but their standard size, shape, and taste indicated they almost certainly came from a supermarket. I'm not sure what made them Belgian. From Delvita, perhaps?

V ordered the sautéed lobster with herb butter and French bread (680 CZK). She loved it, and not a single morsel went to waste. She justified the extravagance by saying, "Well, we're not staying overnight at the inn, so with the money we've saved.."

It was a fairly small crustacean, split down the middle, heavily seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices, and fried with butter.The waiter said it was being freshly prepared for us, so it was a little odd that it was barely warm when it came to the table.

I thought it was a bit overcooked and a little too salty. But V would not let me spoil her enjoyment with small complaints. She liked it, and that was that.

V ordered a . 1 liter glass of Bohemia sekt, Czech sparkling wine (50 CZK). She followed that up with her favorite beer, Leffe Blond (50 CZK).

The restaurant had Belgian Trappist and fruit beers, if you are into that. They were all around 100 CZK for .33 liter bottles.

I was driving and stuck to Mattoni sparkling mineral water (45 CZK).

The only dessert I considered was a Belgian waffle with warm fruit (140 CZK), but it wasn't available, so we just got the check.

I looked at the bill when we got home and noticed that instead of sekt, it said V had 2 "Prosecco 0,1" which cost a total of 100 CZK. There's no question that the one small glass was .1 liter, and there was a listing for sekt at 50 CZK on the menu, so it looks like they overcharged us by 50 CZK.

My feeling was it was pretty good food that was reasonably priced for what you get. I can't say I loved it. Plus, the mistake on the bill made me regret the nice tip I left. What I liked best, perhaps, was that it was not in Prague.

On the other hand, V said she enjoyed the experience at Auberge de Provence. She really liked her lobster and pointed out that, as expensive as it was, it was cheaper than most lobster dishes in town.

After our meal, we decided to explore the area. On the advice of Grant, from Grant's Prague Bike Blog, we visited the ruins of the 14th century Gothic castle at Okoř.He even said that the Hotel Okoř served up one of the best steaks he'd ever had. Since he is a former food critic himself, I hope we can go for a rest at this roadside inn and taste those steaks ourselves.

Life's pilgrimage toward eternal bliss will have to wait.

Auberge de Provence
U Špejcharu 355

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The Lone Beader® said...

Surf & turf sounds great!

And the tomato on the side is an Irish salad. LOL.

Anonymous said...

The air in that area *can* sting with all that coal. I should know. I live out there! It's the one drawback to living in the country. Somehow it's not as charming as, say, peat smoke from Irish farmhouses. But it is pretty out there. The route you took from the main highway does have a few warehouses, etc., exactly because it is close to the highway. if you approach the village from Roztoky/Suchdol/Statenice, it's much prettier. And there are some lovely drives/bike rides in that area, especially around Okor and Tursko. The orchards out there are spectacular.

And Auberge de Provence is fantastic in summer, with their outdoor seating and garden and a cool play area for the kids. I highly recommend it, as I do the hotel in Okor, but the menu there is not quite as extensive as at Auberge. They don't have fresh seafood. But the steaks *are* fantastic!

Pivní Filosof said...

I agree with Grant about the area. I also live there and it is really nice. Going by the motorway, though, takes all of its charm.
Great area for walking or cycling.
And yes, the coal smoke, specially when going through Cerny Vul, can be pretty nasty....

Sam Beckwith said...

Because I love moules, I went to Auberge de Provence for my birthday last August. They were out of mussels, only had a couple of types of Belgian beer, and our waitress seemed to have been drafted in from a pub. Much of the food was very good, and sitting in the garden's very pleasant, but the service was so slow that the meal ended up lasting at least an hour longer than it should have done. It was an odd experience.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review.

Almost went there last weekend but decided against it after looking at the menu online. It's more French than Belgian, and the pictures don't really get my juices flowing.

The Belgian beers on the other hand...

Will check it out for a beer or two in the summer.