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Kumbal

The homemade cakes are this Holešovice café/milk bar's saving grace

Kumbal
Photos: Miss Knedlíkova
By Miss Knedlíkova
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After I wrote about the atmospheric but culinary inferior Holešovice café-bar Ouky Douky a couple of weeks back, I heard recommendations from several people for the Kavárna a mléčný bar Kumbal just round the corner at Heřmanova 12.

Kumbal, Prague

And so it was that the following weekend I dragged an obliging Mr. K along there for brunch. (After six months with a food blogging fiancée, he's now used to serving as my culinary guinea pig and comic foil.)

Looking at the Kumbal website beforehand, it seemed to be quite a promising little place, but on first acquaintance impressions weren't exactly positive -- the signage outside needed a good clean for one thing, while the inside also struck us both as a bit scruffy and naff.

That said, Slovnik.cz reliably informs me that "kumbal" means "closet" or "cupboard" in Czech, and with the shelves of old books and magazines, montage of postage cards, and tatty carpet rolled up in the corner, I can only think that they are deliberately going for the "shabby chic" look here. Mr. K, however, took a downright dislike to the place, declaring it -- with some justification, with all the toys and high chairs scattered about and brightly colored paintings on the walls -- as looking more like a crèche than a café.

Kumbal, Prague

Kumbal, Prague

The menu at Kumbal mainly consists of simple dishes of sandwiches, salads, soups and a variety of milkshakes (as you'd expect from a milk bar, I suppose). They also have a small counter of freshly baked cakes, croissants and quiches.

Kumbal, Prague

Kumbal, Prague

On this occasion, Mr. K ordered the stuffed ciabatta and me the soup of the day -- neither of which they had in. Instead, Mr. K went for a cheese and vegetable panini (39 CZK) and myself a slice of cheese and tomato (25 CZK) quiche.

Kumbal, Prague

Kumbal, Prague

Certainly can't argue with those prices, though, as with most things in life, we did end up getting what we'd paid for. The quiche itself was definitely homemade and pretty tasty at that, though presentation did leave something to be desired here -- a nice salad garnish wouldn't have gone amiss either. Mr. K's panini, on the other hand, was pretty bog-standard -- the bread was quite dry and chewy, with very little cheese and, rather incongruously, crunchy raw pepper in the middle. For me, not a sandwich combination that particularly worked -- either the pepper has to be roasted or just normal salad ingredients like lettuce and tomato used instead.

To drink Mr. K had a latte (38 CZK) and me a banana milkshake (33 CZK), the former deemed just OK, and the latter very creamy and refreshing.

Kumbal, Prague

Service here was also less than impressive, as -- despite being the only two people in the place -- the waitress behind the counter took great pains to avoid catching our eye for seemingly as long as humanly possible.

Mr. K was less than impressed after this initial visit, but for the sake of review reluctantly agreed to accompany me back the next day -- he's good like that.

In some ways our second visit was a repeat of the first -- service was almost deliberately slow, and they again had no ciabattas or soup in, so Mr. K went for a piccolo coffee (25 CZK) and two-cheese toastie (22 CZK), while this time round I went for a mango milkshake (44 CZK).

Kumbal, Prague

Kumbal, Prague

Once again, the sandwich was decidedly no-frills -- not much better than the manky one Prague Ginge had over the road at Ouky Douky. The filling had over-heated and turned to gloop, which burnt poor long-suffering Mr. K's tongue on first bite. On the upside, the mango milkshake was at least pretty nice.

After two unsuccessful visits, Mr. K was adamant that he would not be persuaded to cross Kumbal's threshold ever again, but -- knowing his weakness for all things sweet (myself included) -- I successfully lured him back for a third and final time on the promise of cake.

After some deliberation, we in the end chose the carrot cake and lemon slice from the selection of cakes on offer, and shared the two between us (with Mr. K, as predicted, putting away the lion's share).

I have to say, be their sandwiches sloppy and service slack, Kumbal really redeems itself on the cake front.

Kumbal, Prague

Kumbal, Prague

Even a disgruntled Mr. K in this case had to begrudgingly acknowledge the strong gingery flavor of the perfectly moist carrot cake, not to mention the lovely crumbly topping and dense tvaroh filling of the delicious lemon slice. Credit where credit's due -- these definitely rank among some of the best homemade cakes we've had yet in Prague, and at 20-30 CZK a pop, also some of the most reasonably priced as well.

So, after three enforced visits in quick succession, cake aside, I think it's fair to say that an unconvinced Mr. K and I won't be making any more joint trips to Kumbal in future. That said, I would still bear it in mind for a coffee and a cake with the girls, who would likely be more in tune with the laidback, studenty vibe, or maybe the odd milkshake here and there.

Beyond that that, though, culinary speaking at least, stuck in the closet is clearly not where Mr. K and I belong...

Kavárna Kumbal
Heřmanova 12
Prague 7
Phone: (+420) 724 611 337

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• Miss Knedlíkova is a long-standing Prague resident with a passion for eating out and drinking nice wine. She shares irreverent looks at favorites old and new on the Dobrou Chut' weblog (formerly Knedliky Etc)

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