Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kávovarna at Palác Lucerna

"Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess." - Oscar Wilde
When we last left our story's four insatiable adventurers, they were having beers, burgers, and a chimichanga in the Wild West Show scene at Buffalo Bill's.

For most, this would be enough. For us, the saga continued.

It turned into an unexpectedly long night of wide-ranging social intercourse and eclectic eating, liberally stimulated by the liberating effects of drink.

I was with the Michigan Man, the English Editor, and of course, the lovely and charming V. EE suggested Kávovarna, just off Wenceslas Square.

Off we went.

It is in the Palác Lucerna, which has an interesting history.

It was built by a man named Vácslav Havel, the grandfather of former Czech president Václav Havel.

The first section of the arcade opened in 1907 and it was it was finished in 1921.

A more recent addition was the David Černý sculpture hanging from the ceiling.

It is a comic reinterpretation of the statue that dominates the square outside.

St. Wenceslas is riding his horse, but in Černý's version, the horse is hanging upside down. Love it.

We entered this often crowded, smoky establishment and got a table and stools by the window looking out into the arcade. But the view can be interesting in any direction.This cafe is great for people watching, inside or out, which is the attraction of this place for some.

There were tables "outside" in the passage for people who want a little less noise and smoke, though it's too cold to sit out there in the winter.There was also a non-smoking room inside.

It can get a little noisy, and the chairs are nothing to write home about. But there are other attractions.Kávovarna, along with the rest Palác Lucerna, retains the patina of the past. It isn't fancy, but it has the charm of unprimped age that Nouveau Retro establishments can only aspire to attain.

During our visit, we started with half-liters of Pilsner Urquell (35 CZK). They also have Litovel dark beer for the same price.

There sell Hoegaarden, Guinness, Stella, and Leffe Brune in small bottles.

Bottles of red and white wine were available at 180 CZK to 550 CZK, with selections from the Czech Republic, France, Spain, and Chile.

Other alcohol-based drinks could be had, but what was interesting was the extensive non-alcoholic drink section of the menu.Sure, you can get your basic cappuccinos or espressos at this cafe.

But there were many other more creative options that were made at a separate coffee bar. There were a large variety of flavored syrups on display.On separate visit, I wanted to try a coffee, but I decided to keep things relatively simple. I ordered the Vanilla Royale Iced Coffee (54 CZK).

I really liked it.

Maybe you could take or leave the huge amount of whipped cream and the cherry. But it had a good coffee kick, and the syrup gave it just a touch of sweetness.

It beat the pants off the two different iced coffees I tried at Prague's new Starbucks. Those were truly awful.

At the global chain's outlet at Malostranské námestí, I had an iced Americano on one visit and an iced cafe latte on another.

One was way too watery. The other was way too milky. And they cost almost twice as much for a serving of approximately the same size.

Coffee Heaven is also in Palác Lucerna. It has more comfortable chairs, but it is also quite expensive.

At Kávovarna, without any extra cost, you can go wild with the syrups.

For example, they offered an iced Black Forest Mocha. It had chocolate, cherry, and coconut syrup, whipped cream, and chocolate shavings in a half-liter glass.

I doubt I'll ever try that.

Or an Iced Banana Split Cappuccino. Or a Hazelnut Decadence Iced Latte. Or a Double Decadence Delight, which has creme caramel syrup and chopped walnuts.

The cost for all are the same -- for your wallet or purse, anyway.

If coffee is not your thing, you can have a hot chocolate flavored with peppermint, raspberry or any other syrup. The even have sugar-free flavors.

There were syrup-flavored sodas (44 CZK) and even granitas (39 CZK).

But enough about the drinks. Let's jump back in time to our over-the-top evening adventure and talk about the limited food options.

I'd had a good memory of the spicy sausages with mustard and horseradish (45 CZK). I'd tried them a year earlier.

This year, they looked slightly different (I have pictures of last year's, too). I didn't like these so much.They were not the type you usually find around town. They were more pepperoni-like.

Which I like.

But they were also extremely greasy and a tough to chew, unlike last year. We didn't feel like finishing them.

We also ordered the traditional cheese with green olives for 48 crowns.It was a fairly boring cheese, enlivened by slightly creative presentation.

There are several kinds of nuts, including cashews, for around 40 CZK. Don't come to this place expecting a serious meal.

Like me, V is very curious about trying different foods. She saw some Czech cheese cake, tvarohový dort.It's similar to an American version, but it has raisins and is a bit more crumbly. We enjoyed it.

They also sell chocolate pralines with different fillings. V is always pushing the eating experience envelope, so four of them suddenly appeared on our table.

I tried most of them. Some I liked, some I didn't.

Don't ask me me which ones. At this point, the memory gets hazy. When we got the bill, it showed 18 beers for the four of us.

Spreading them out over four hours certainly helped lessen the intoxicating blow.

The effects of the alcohol were also blunted by the Tex-Mex meal, greasy sausages, olives, cheese, cheesecake, and chocolates.

It's not a pretty list.

You might call it excessive.

But, we all thought it added up to an unplanned and unexpectedly successful evening.

Oscar would be proud.

Kávovarna at Palác Lucerna
Štěpánská 61
Prague 1 - Wenceslas Square
Tel. (+420) 296 236 233

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1 comment:

Michaela said...

oh, this place looks lovely. I should pay them a visit - going crazy with the syrups? now that´s a cafe after my own heart.

Also, Americanos, iced or otherwise, are gross and that´s coming from a Starbucks barista here :)