kocoura

A couple of disconnected thoughts

in Food & Drink by

I was going to write about something else today, something you would have surely loved, but you’ll have to wait, as what I saw and experienced during a short pub crawl the other day got me thinking about a couple of things.

It all started at Valašská Pivnice, a relatively new place in Hradčany. I had seen good comments about it, and I was also curious about the beers they have: BON, a brewery that for some reason I thought had disappeared. The place is quite nice, indeed, and located in a vaulted cellar. It’s nicely decorated (I loved the furniture) and very welcoming. I found a free table and waited to be waited upon, and waited, and waited. The waitress went past me several times, and just when I was getting a bit irritated and about to piss off, she saw me and came over, full of apologies. When she brought my beer, she was still apologizing. I accepted all of those apologies with a smile — after all, she was quite busy running back and forth trying to keep the Russian tourists happy. From then on, she was great, friendly and very attentive.

This made me think about service at pubs and how often it gets blasted. Though I have come across my fair share of twats, I have to say that I am by-and-large satisfied with the service I get at most pubs in this city, and in the rest of the country. Granted, I’m not very demanding; I don’t expect waiters to smile at me, to pretend friendliness or to ask me how much I’ve enjoyed my meal when they actually couldn’t care less. I will always prefer genuine surliness over a fake smile (though a genuine one will always be welcome). Basically, what I want is to be treated with a modicum of respect, to have reasonable questions answered and to get my beers and any other thing I might order as quickly as possible, and that is what I get at most pubs (needless to say, it helps a lot when you don’t treat servers as servants).

But anyway, back to the beers. The pale Starovalašský Kvasničák was served awfully cold, and it had a bit of an acetic touch that didn’t quite fit it well. As it warmed, the bready malts, together with some very mild fruit and flowery notes, got things under control and, though not memorable, it turned out to be a very fine beer after all. The dark Rubín 14º was even better (and at the right temperature). There was that sourness again but this time already wrapped in a layer of dark fruit. It would have been rather boring if it wasn’t for the sweet coffee that came running right at the end. I prefer dark beers with more roast, but this one was very nice — so nice that I had two pints.

Overall, I liked Valašská Pivnice. Prices are more than reasonable for the area (36-38CZK/0.5l of beer), and it seems to attract a crowd of not only tourists. It’s a good option if you are around.

After I left, promising the waitress that “Yes, I will come again,” I went down Úvoz toward Nerudová and U Kocoura. Almost at the end of the street, I notice a Žatec sign outside a tiny bar (it was too small to be called a pub), a cute place. I perched on a stool at the bar and ordered a beer. It wasn’t good; it was filtered and pasteurized (Žatec 11º has never been a great beer, and this one wasn’t very well tapped). I asked the barman, who turned out to be the owner, how people liked it. This prompted a rather long conversation about beer and pubs that lasted a while. It is an example of what I was saying, that more and more people are preferring regional brands, or at least are accepting of them. And this is helping owners as well. This bloke told me that when he took over the shop, he didn’t want to keep Pilsner Urquell because everyone else around him had it. The beer wasn’t too good, but the chat was, and I ended up enjoying the beer because of that.

I finished the afternoon at U Kocoura, drinking wonderfully tapped unfiltered Bernard brought to me by a surly yet very efficient geezer at a pub that is what pubs should be like while thinking about all of the above and wondering why the fuck Galerie Montanelli closed the passage to Baráčnická Rychta from Nerudova.

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