It’s always a cause for celebration when a new microbrewery opens in Prague, especially one right in the heart of Old Town that also happens to serve surprisingly good food alongside its interesting beers. What is perhaps the most surprising part about Pivovar U Tří růží is that food is also priced well below the average for its cobblestoned address. Eating (and drinking) there feels a bit like reclaiming at least a tiny corner of the tourist zone for residents, while for any visitor to the city, it’s a good example of both Prague’s rich brewing tradition and beer-friendly cuisine.
For this review, I teamed up with The Prague Post’s beer blogger, Max Bahnson, aka Pivní Filosof, to look at the food and the beers on offer at U Tří růží. You can read his account of the brews on tap on this week’s blog, Praguepost.com/blogs/beer.
Everything about U Tří růží is a classic, from the functioning copper beer tanks by the window to the dark wood tables and arched ceilings, as well as the service’s approach. Professional and friendly, waiters were there when needed and polite in responses, and were quick to offer information about the brewery’s beers, which have their separate menu card on each table.
The space is pretty small, making for an intimate feel, and a comical, colorful mural depicting the joys of beer takes up the back wall. Windows look out onto the bustling streets, and the place was surprisingly cool on a recent sweltering weekend visit, and just walking in provided relief from the heat that was only surpassed by a sip of ležák.
U Tří Růží’s menu is concise and thoughtful, with twists on classic Czech dishes that include some variation of beer, be it in a sauce or batter or another way. The food is quite humble and unpretentious, and the list of starters, which also serve as light beer snacks, also proved very good and would suffice to fulfill light appetite.
First off, the goulash soup was one of the best in memory, tasting of individual ingredients without a whiff of a packet mix of “goulash” spices. Chunks of beef were tender and soft and without gristle, and the dark broth bobbed with fresh herbs and a beery, strong flavor. It was a filling and warming starter, and a great example of how nice the humble soup can be. A basket of bread was served alongside the starters, containing sliced white rolls and a brown variety crusted with rock salt.
Another of the starters, the duck rillettes, also shone. A paste reduced from fat-heavy, salted meat, it was flecked through with spring onions and pepper and spread easily onto the sliced bread. A little bowl of tart and sour pickles provided a good alternate crunch, as well.
Likewise, the homemade grilled sausages were rich and snappy and came in two varieties. Three of the small links were a white sausage shot through with herbs, which proved the better of the two types. The second was a dark red, crispier blood sausage, which, while tasty, didn’t go as well with the wholegrain mustard or freshly grated horseradish on the plate.
The starter of beetroot and goat cheese was a pleasant surprise, as it was a proper small salad that would suffice for a light meal or paired with soup or another starter. There was ample shredded lettuce, three wedges of brown baguette and three rounds of aromatic goat cheese, as well as generous shavings of marinated beetroot. A light, mustardy dressing drizzled over the top was a nice touch that brought the parts together.
As for mains, the most disappointing was the burger, which had some things going for it, namely quality beef, but was so unevenly cooked – with most of the patty verging toward rare and one section appearing almost raw – that it quickly became unappealing. The bun had been nicely toasted, which helped keep the massive thing together, but had been slightly burned in the process, adding an unwelcome charred taste. Caramelized onions, too, added a hint of sweetness, but were long and stringy and made for some awkward bites.
Entrees of the Czech variety fared much better, with a venison ragout being a particular standout. A thick, meaty stew served in a ceramic lidded pot; this had ample chunks of venison, as well as soft carrots and a dose of rosehip that added a delicious sweetness to the gamey meat. The homemade gnocchi was served separately in long tubes, a nice touch for adding as much as wanted.
Likewise, the roast duck was quite good, with a dense meatiness that paired so confidently with sweet red cabbage. The menu had described the dish as involving “hop cones,” which only made an appearance in flavor toward the end of the dish, hidden among the dregs of the cabbage. It did, however, add a nice mustiness to the dish, if only at the end. Dumplings were thick and soft, almost like giant gnocchi, and sponged up the sauce well.
A vegetarian option, risotto with mushrooms, was inventively made from barley instead of Arborio rice. The grains went well with the earthy porcini mushrooms and tart, creamy Parmesan.
Apparently, the building that houses U Tří růží was home to a pub as far back as the 16th century. Building on that tradition and confident knowledge of both beer and Czech staples, it’s bound to make a lasting impression.
Pivovar U Tří růží
Husova 10, Prague 1-Old Town
Tel. 225 226 650
Open daily 10 a.m.-1 a.m.
From the menu
Grilled homemade sausages 95 Kč
Sliced beetroot with goat cheese 145 Kč
Goulash soup 65 Kč
Duck rillettes 85 Kč
Beef burger with farmers' fries 210 Kč
Baked duck with cabbage and dumplings 195 Kč
Barley risotto with mushrooms 120 Kč
Venison ragout with potato gnocchi 230 Kč
0.4 L light lager 39 Kč