Thursday, March 6, 2008

Restaurant Vikárka

"Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."

-G.K. Chesterton
You've survived a forced march over uneven, cobblestone roads. You've stormed the castle and viewed Prague from its ramparts.

Then, after a long day on thin rations, there's an attack.

The hunger.

You've heard the warnings from traveling troubadours: Danger lurks outside the historic walls of Hradčany.

Legions of rogue restaurants lie in wait. You face the very real possibility they will treat you like a serf, serve up glorified gruel, and levy charges for each crust of bread you eat. Or didn't eat.

Short of self-defenestration, how can you avoid this terrible fate?

It is a prime tourist zone I rarely visit myself, so even I struggle to answer this question.

But I recently visited a restaurant that had good food, a good atmosphere, a little bit of history, and very little highway robbery.

Best of all, it is within the walls of Prague Castle.

I'm talking about Restaurant Vikárka (The Vicarage).The buildings on this spot had many uses over the centuries, including as alchemist workshops and as stables.

But in recent decades, it's been a restaurant. It underwent a renovation in 2005.

The entrance is right next to St. Vitus's Cathedral and there is a lovely view from there.Inside the restaurant, there are a number of bigger and smaller dining areas. It was pretty busy.We were happy to walk in and find a table.

I ordered the hovězí svíčková (195 CZK), which is one of my favorite traditional Czech meals. It is roast beef (often overcooked) in a cream sauce with bread dumplings and some cranberry sauce.I really love the cream sauce, and this was a very good version. It is made with pureed root vegetables, beef stock, bacon, and cream (or sour cream).

There's more to it if you want to see a full recipe.

This version was a sweet, creamy, tangy and I couldn't get enough of it. I soaked up every last bit with my dumplings.

For some perspective, hovězí svíčková costs 169 CZK at the great Pilsner pub, U Pinkasů, near Wenceslas Square.

V had potato gnocchi in a mushroom cream sauce (180 CZK). The quality gnocchi themselves were nothing to write home about. The lighter, fluffier gnocchi at Kogo are certainly superior (and more expensive).But again, the sauce was great. The flavor of the mushrooms was strong and earthy. Overall, it was heavy, thick, satisfying comfort food that warmed me up nicely on a cold day.

I had a . 4 liter glass of Krušovice dark beer (60 CZK). That's very steep. Krušovice is OK, but not a great beer. The price elsewhere is less than half what Vikárka charges.

They did have Pilsner Urquell, but it was 80 CZK for a .33 liter serving. Crazy. At U Vejvodů in the center of Prague, a half-liter of Pilsner draft is only 30 CZK.

When I mentioned "highway robbery" earlier, the beer was what I was talking about.

As for the rest of the menu, soups were 50-60 CZK, and starters and salads were 85-180 CZK.

If you want to loosen the purse strings on the main courses, there was a steak for 425 CZK, lamb cutlets with marjoram sauce for 450 CZK, and grilled salmon for 320 CZK. I'd never eaten here before, so I can't vouch for the quality of the other offerings.

They had a small children's menu with a fried chicken cutlet, fish fingers, or spaghetti. We had no problem with the service.

One of the benefits of the location: There are very nice views of the castle walls from some windows. Cannons once stood in the same location a few hundred years ago.

The threat of Swedish invasion is long gone, but the international tourist invasion remains. As we sipped our drinks, we observed that they made up the majority of the diners.

V had a glass of red wine for 75 CZK, a .25 liter bottle of water for 35 CZK, and an espresso for 60 CZK.

The final bill was 605 CZK.

Yes, you could spend a lot here. But you could also get away with a pretty reasonable bill if you order selectively.

And believe me, you could do a lot worse.

More than a few restaurants around the castle would perfectly respect your hard-earned money.

Restaurant Vikárka
Vikářská 39
Prague 1
Tel. (+420) 233 311 962

View Larger Map


Pivní Filosof said...

That svíčkova doesn't look too shabby, same go for the knedlíky. Now 60CZK for a glass of Krušovice Černé is a bit more than highway robbery.
Pivovar Strahov a bit up the hill has decent food and their beers, for the same price, are MUCH better.

Anonymous said...

The Beef and cream sauce is without a doubt my favorite Czech dish. I found this Recipe.
Does it look authentic to you? Have you found a good recipe you like?

Brewsta said...

Good tip re: Strahov, Max. And you're right -- the Krusovice price is crazy, too. I'll beef up the outrage on that.

Regarding svickova recipes -- I've cooked one. I'm more of an expert on eating them.

I included a recipe from The Prague Post in the post, but I don't vouch for its quality. It is just the first one I came across -- I wanted people just to have an idea of what is in it.

Also, I've heard there is another decent restaurant in the area (though I haven't been myself):

Restaurant Malý Buddha

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Svickova recipe

Well, in my opinion, this is very odd recipe. I never heard about adding thyme to it. I think that this one is more authentic:

But in fact, Svickova is a delicate matter, there is nothing like an original recipe and each family or resturant has its own. It's the same case like with a potato salade, that we prepare for the Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Re Maly Buddha - I hated the food there. I love Vietnamese food and the place was billed as Vietnamese. The best I can say is that it tasted like someone trying to imitate some kind of Asian food. What kind? I can't say. But I'm sure it was [imitation] Asian.

Anonymous said...

Brewsta, you completely failed to explain the cultural context of the Vikarka restaurant.

It is a truly legendary establishment, a Prague cultural institution in its own right. It hasn't been around just in "recent decades" as you write.

In fact, it was a legendary restaurant already more than hundred years ago.

Vikarka features in 19th century novels as well as in a Janacek opera.

I understand that you, as an American, are apparently not into some "historical bullshit" but it would be good to do some research on the restaurants you review.

Brewsta said...

I absolutely love historical bullshit. I just don't always have enough time to indulge.

I was in a hurry to do a post before vacation -- so I read the restaurant's history page (didn't mention exactly when it became a restaurant), scanned the first Google search page, and moved on.

That's how it is in the blog biz sometimes. No prodding editors. Just you.

I always appreciate enlightening and constructively critical comments.

Yours was good until you blew it with the silly national stereotyping at the end.

The Lone Beader® said...

Excellent review. I will invade Prague soon and try the beef with cream sauce!! :) And, your bill wasn't too bad for 2 people. That's only $37.