Food News: Dining deals for the dark of winter
Grand Restaurant Festival returns, this time countrywide, and a celebration of wine
Posted: January 16, 2013
The Grand Restaurant Festival brings affordable set menus to the top 100 restaurants across the Czech Republic.
Now in its fourth year, the Grand Restaurant Festival - run by the gastronomic golden boy Pavel Maurer, also publisher of the annual Grand Restaurant Guide to the country's dining scene and organizer of the Prague Food Festival - is looking bigger and better. Previously, the festival, which offers discounted multicourse meals at top restaurants, only took place in select cities in the Czech Republic. This year, however, it's running countrywide, in 35 cities to be exact, and for longer, all the way through the end of February. That's more than enough time to get excited about a restaurant deal or two, procrastinate about booking it and then actually still have time to get to it.
The festival is tied closely to the Grand Restaurant Guide, which highlights the top 100 establishments in the country; but it is not only these that are allowed to participate in the festival, choosing several courses to offer for between 200 and 600 Kč. This year also features such bright stars as Alcron and La Degustation - a great excuse to experience two Michelin star winners. The festival menu of the former includes, for example, tuna sashimi with beetroot and tapioca, slow-roasted fallow dear with chestnut purée and gingerbread dumplings, and cheesecake with strawberry ice cream.
In addition to Prague, all the major cities are taking part, including Brno, Karlovy Vary, Ostrava, Olomouc and Plzeň, as well as some villages boasting one Grand Restaurant, such as Malé Číčovice just north of Prague (with the V Polích restaurant) and Tisá up in the national park of Czech Switzerland, with its Nautilus Hotel. More than 40 restaurants from Prague are participating, including such notables as Aureole, Chagall's, Francouzská restaurace Art Nouveau, Hergetova Cihelna, La Truffe, La Veranda, Midtown Grill, Mlýnec, Mozaika, SaSaZu and Zdenek's Oyster Bar, among others. Details on menus are available at Grandrestaurantfestival.cz, as are direct reservations. There are also other offers such as food-and-lodging packages for select spa destinations, and what would translate as the "Yum Train," which takes visitors on a two-day excursion by train from Prague to Olomouc, complete with a chef's tutorial (and tasting) in the dining car and then various cultural outings. More info is available on the website.
Another gastronomical highlight of January is Prague Wine Week, which kicks off Monday, Jan. 21 and runs through the 27th. The festival starts with Prague Wine Trophy, a gala tasting event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Prague 6 where more than 450 award-winning wines from Moravia and abroad will be showcased. Tickets to the gala cost 1,000 Kč and can be purchased through Ticketpro.cz.
Prague Wine Week continues with tasting menus and wine pairings at select Prague restaurants, wine bars and wine shops, featuring some of the country's best wineries and importers. A three-course menu, for example, with three wines costs 450 Kč; a tasting of three to five wines with a series of snacks costs 250 Kč; and a tasting of three to five wines at wine bars costs 150 Kč.
Participating restaurants include Bílkova 13 in Old Town, which will feature the importer La Caoba with wines from Burgundy, Spain and Argentina. Other places taking part include Red Pif, U Webrů, Vinograf and Hotel Okoř. For more info, check out Praguewine.cz
End of an era
After years as a mainstay on the local scene, serving up burritos and burgers that have continued to satisfy homesick cravings among expats, Bandito's is closing its doors following an apparent lease dispute. The owner had closed his other restaurant, Artisan, at the end of last summer. Let's hope Aaron and his team find a new spot for the consistently good food and atmosphere both restaurants were loved for, and that the institution can continue in a new form.
Jumping onto to the gourmet fast food trend, a new burger-centric place, Peter's Burger Pub, is opening soon in Karlín. According to the pub's website, it aims to give a feel for the neighborhood's industrial and lively atmosphere from the 1920s and '30s. Using local suppliers and ingredients, the menu will include burgers (of course), chicken wings, sandwiches, salads, homemade french fries and beer specials.
Vietnamese bistros are opening up so fast and so widely that it's almost impossible to keep up with them. Two new additions include Pho Hanoi on Žitná street in Prague 1 and Thai An on Eliášova street in Dejvice. Another newcomer just a block down the same street in Prague 6 is Food Adventure Nenasyta, a Slovenian specialty shop and eatery that boasts just one large table for communal dining, daily specials like roast gamon over beans, and a deli counter of meats, cheeses and condiments.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at