Peklo's owner spruces up riverside spot in Podolí with new venture
Posted: February 20, 2013
Inviting and warm, Rest. doesn't abbreviate on quality in its eclectic but above-average offerings.
One of the joys of visiting a variety of restaurants in Prague on a weekly basis is coming across a place that's a pleasant surprise, somewhere for which expectations were neither particularly high nor particularly low. Not that I had especially low expectations for the somewhat awkwardly named Rest., in Podolí, as it's run by the same owner as the cavernous and ominously named Peklo (Hell) in Strahov. But Rest.'s location just below Vyšehrad Cathedral on the grounds of a former beer garden seemed a bit of a gamble. And so it was a welcome discovery to find in Rest. a confident kitchen and a comfortable, intimate setting that made an immediate good impression.
The oddly shaped building that Rest. occupies used to be Na Dolejší, a sprawling beer garden under a huddle of chestnut trees just off the river that had ample outdoor seating and an unromanticized socialist-style interior. But the new take on the place brings fluidity, making the most of odd-angle walls with a two-sided wood-burning stove (that elicited a wonderful smell as it crackled and popped) that separates several dining tables from a lounge area with low couches.
The walls are a warm gray with modern accents and the furnishings a light wood, with the exception of cow-print banquettes. An open kitchen has also been built into the renovated building's new entrance, meaning that oftentimes the first people to greet diners upon entering are the chefs themselves.
Despite being open for several months, the menu still feels a bit like a work in progress. My friends and I had been looking forward to trying some of Rest.'s antipasti items, which were a mix-and-match selection of Italian and Spanish cheeses and charcuterie, but were dismayed to find these were inexplicably not available. We were told the same of the grilled octopus entrée, although an octopus salad was still possible.
Podolské nábř. 6, Prague 4-Podolí.
Tel. 273 130 230. Open Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m. -11 p.m., Fri. -Sat. 11 a.m. -midnight. Nonsmoking
Grilled lamb sausage with white beans and spicy tomato sauce 120 Kč
Ciabatta with slow-cooked lamb 150 Kč
Spinach and feta puff pastry 90 Kč
Octopus salad 235 Kč
Grilled goat cheese 130 Kč
Duck pâté 155 Kč
Baked filet of cod 285 Kč
Beef bourguignon 295 Kč
Tarte Tatin 85 Kč
0.75 L Moravian Pinot Noir 540 K
But any quibbles with the food end with what we weren't able to sample and not with what we actually tried. The concise menu is priced reasonably enough to feel justifiable without a special occasion and yet well-executed enough to provide a laid-back fine-dining experience. Some items were stellar standouts, such as the goat-cheese starter and the beef bourguignon.
When it arrived, the goat-cheese starter looked like a take on an English trifle: layered with pale yellow-green apple, milky white cheese and swirls of redcurrants. Baked to a perfect soft sweetness, the layers of apple cut through the pungency of the goat cheese, and drizzles of honey and the sweet berries looked like they would overwhelm but were a good match. It also had considerable heft and is ideal for sharing.
The menu also includes an "Anytime" section, which features light bites, some of which can double up as appetizers. A ciabatta sandwich with cold slow-baked lamb would be welcome in summer, with its cooling mayo dressing and a pile of rucola, onion and tomato, and went nicely with a glass of chilled white wine. Another lamb offering, sausages with white beans, suffered from the beans' mealiness, which dominated the dish, despite the cubed sausages being tastily spiced and snappy.
Puff pastry with spinach and feta came in a set of five, piping-hot little triangles coated with a hardened brushing of honey and rock salt. The pastry was satisfyingly flakey without losing its integrity, although the filling was a tad too salty and took a few moments to cool after halving before being able to eat.
The octopus salad proved as meaty an option as an entrée, with a generous amount of grilled, meaty pieces, carrying a lightly smoky flavor, tossed in a zesty lemon and garlic olive oil dressing with chunks of potato, bell peppers and rucola. It was interesting enough and filling enough to stand its own as an entrée - which is not something that's so easy to find in a salad elsewhere.
Baked cod was also a pleasant surprise, arriving in a twisted package of baking paper that opened with a steam of aroma. A side was not necessary with this dish, as it included a layer of potatoes underneath the fish, and the cod flaked off into quality pieces full of the white fish's subtle flavor enhanced by a touch of garlic and chives. A single cherry tomato, halved, added a sweet bite but was not enough to warrant its mention on the menu (especially as the potatoes were not mentioned).
Perhaps the best dish though was the beef bourguignon, which just seemed right at home next to the cracking fireplace on a cold winter evening. A portion of roast potatoes that was included in the price was hard to not keep picking at, crispy nuggets with their fluffy center. The beef was excellent, braised and soft to the touch, falling apart into a red-wine-rich broth of soft swede, carrots and mushrooms.
The tarte Tatin was a large slice, ample for splitting, and was light and fluffy with sugar baked apples and a soft crust.
Despite having an awkward name and an off-the-beaten-track location, Rest. makes better use of the space than its previous occupant and knows its way around a dish or two. And, come summer, there should still be room for a few tables out underneath the chestnut trees.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at