If you want to know anything about where to eat and drink in Prague, Fiona Gaze is your gal. As a Prague-based restaurant critic and travel writer, she covers food and drink in the Czech Republic for The Prague Post, including the The Prague Post Dining Guide, and she’s also the author Michelin Must Sees Prague. Fiona’s work has appeared in Conde Nast, The New York Times, Hemispheres magazine and the Urban Travel Blog (and, impressively, she also once worked as a speechwriter for an ambassador).
Hg2 sat down with the Prague diva to ask her twenty questions about her favourites in the Czech Republic and around the world.
Favourite restaurant in Prague
Hmm. It’s difficult to say, because it changes frequently for me, based on what type of place I’m in the mood for. But I think at the moment my favourite place is a little Italian café in Bubenec called Café Orange, run by a hyperactive chef who doubles as the waiter. There’s no menu – he just says what he has that day and you say what you’re hoping for, and from that middle ground comes some truly nice dishes. Visitors need to know Czech, though, as he doesn’t speak any English, although his theatrical nature helps with gesturing. The wine also flows very easily, which, combined with Orange’s location spilling out onto the sidewalk of a leafy, residential square, makes it difficult to not stay for hours.
Favourite bar in Prague
This is a tough one. Prague is famous for its beer and hedonistic nightlife, and there’s rightfully no shortage of great places to drink. There’s a certain crossover between straight-up pubs – the kind where the décor, and the patrons, haven’t changed for half a century but the beer is expertly tanked and poured – and cafes, where the likes of dissidents, writers and workers have pondered life and politics for decades (in some cases, even centuries). In the summer, Letna Beer Garden is a favourite, with its laid-back hippy-picnic vibe and views over the cityscape; likewise, Cross Club in Holesovice is an uber-cool place year-round, especially when the weather’s nice enough to sit in its scrap-metal garden, a multi-tiered steampunk creation. For beer with a taste of history, I like trying to get in (or rather, succeeding in getting a seat) at U Cerneho Vola by the castle or at U Hrocha just below. And I’ll always have a soft spot for Café Montmartre in Old Town, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday.
Favourite world restaurant
Nearly every city I’ve visited has had a great standout of some sort, and I’m tempted to say “practically everywhere I’ve been in the south of Italy,” but one of the restaurants I find myself daydreaming about most often is a humble little place by the beach in Middletown, Rhode Island, called Flo’s Clam Shack. Their lobster rolls and fries are amazing, and their clam chowder and fried clams are worth the lines to get in to this bare-bones counter-and-seats by the sea.
The other place – it’s so hard to say just one – would definitely be Café de Paris in Geneva. It’s a brasserie-type place that dates to the 1930s, and has this bustling and yet relaxed chicness that is so unique to that era. They specialise in one thing: unlimited plates of steak with their trademarked “secret” sauce, beautiful pomme frites and fresh salad greens. There’s a set price and the plates just keep coming. There’s a Café de Paris in Prague, too, but nothing can match the original.
Favourite world bar
Hands down, it’s got to be the pub on Inishmaan. It doesn’t even need a name, because there’s only one pub on the middle island off of Ireland’s west coast, but it goes by Teac Osta. The thatched roof, thick stone walls and roaring fire are enough to tempt any wanderer to linger a while, and the Guinness – of course – is always good. You might need to brush up on a few words of Irish, though, before meeting the locals, and if you’re lucky you’ll hear a ballad or two.
Best place to chill out in Prague
Best time of year to visit Prague
Definitely early fall – September or October. We often get wonderful Indian summers here, mild sunny days with a twinge of fall in the air. Often, restaurant terraces and beer gardens will stay open as long as the good weather holds out, and September is also the season for burcak, a tart, cloudy wine cider that is incredibly tasty but dangerously potent. Fall is also the best time to hike in Prague’s parks and see the leaves begin to turn.
Best cocktail you’ve ever had
I think it was a caipirinha that I had at a hostel dinner in Lisbon, made by a Portuguese housewife. It was unforgettable.
Best beer you’ve ever had
I have to say Únětický, especially their 12 degree lager. It’s a relatively new, smallish brewery that opened in 2011 just outside of Prague and skyrocketed to success, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a beautiful pale, unfiltered, unpasteurised brew that tastes like the countryside, and it has so much more complexity than the watered-down-tasting big brands.
Coolest Czech winery
I don’t have a favourite, as there are so many uber-cool ones. I’d say that nearly all of the wineries in south Moravia are interesting, and there’s nothing nicer than taking a few days to travel around, stopping at the grass-covered wine cellars and waxing philosophical about which wine is best.
Favourite day trip from Prague
Hiking along the Sazava River, about an hour south of Prague by train. It’s such a beautiful area.
Best place to spot a celebrity in Prague
For international celebrities, that would probably be SaSaZu, a nightclub/Asian fusion restaurant. For Czech celebs, I think Soho+, funnily enough, which is also an Asian fusion restaurant, down on the riverbank.
Most avant-garde/unusual restaurant in Prague
The restaurant that springs to mind is Luka Lu, an excellent Balkan place in Mala Strana. It’s been around for years but is consistently good, and the incredible design of the place – a sort of whimsical, colourful fantasy world specially created by an artist. The garden out back is full of birds, and there’s even one table up in a treehouse.
Coolest offbeat museum in Prague
The Czech Museum of Music. It takes up a reconstructed former church and has amazing acoustics. The exhibitions there are also thoughtful. Right now, there’s one on that looks at the history of self-playing musical machines, from music boxes through to synthesisers.
Best ethnic eats in Prague
Happily, there are quite a few: SaSaZu for flashy fusion, Sansho for communal dining tasting menus, and Shalamar for firey curries. The Pind, Le Patio, Las Adelitas and Aureole all deserve mentions, too – as does Pho Vietnam Tuan & Lan. And there are numerous Italian must-eats: CottoCrudo, Aromi, La Finestra, Ichnusa …
Secret Prague tip
The Naplavka riverbank is the place to be this summer. The embankment has sprouted exponentially with little outdoor bars and cafes, and there’s often live music and food stands serving beer and victuals until the early hours of the morning.
You can follow Fiona on Twitter @FionaGaze and read her Prague restaurant reviews in The Prague Post here. And don’t forget to check out Hg2’s Prague city guide for more tips and inspiration when travelling to the Golden City.