The Holešovice bookshop/café is a better place for a leisurely afternoon than for a meal
Until recently, mine and Mr. K's gastronomic weekend routine has been pretty much set in stone over the last two years -- a decadent croissant brunch at Bakeshop Praha on Saturday, a visit to our beloved Robert's for pre-dinner drinkies followed by a meal out somewhere nice in the evening, a light breakfast bite at Zanzibar on the Sunday, rounding off by relaxing on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a takeaway before the working week starts all over again the next day.
But such established patterns of culinary behaviour just won't do when you have a food-and-drink blog to keep up every week. And it was for this reason that -- much to Mr. K's initial chagrin -- I insisted on swapping Zanzibar for Holešoviče-based bookshop-café Ouky Douky for brunch/lunch on our last two weekends together.
Despite the fact that -- coincidentally enough -- Mr. K used to live just round the corner from here and me just a couple of tram stops away, for no particular reason neither of us had ever yet been in before.
First impressions were good, however -- Ouky Douky has a pleasant, unhurried café vibe, with tables and chairs sprawling from the food section through into the eclectic second-hand bookshop to the side. I was pleased to note that there was quite a good selection of cheap German books here, a language which I purportedly speak and do occasionally try to make the effort to keep up. They also have a small internet section here, with the rest of the café hooked up to free wifi.
For this reason, Ouky Douky is pretty packed with internet users hunched over their laptops, nursing their one espresso for several hours, without seemingly any pressure to pay up and move from the staff.
The menu itself is pretty basic, being mainly made up of sandwiches, baguettes, various omelettes and the odd cake or two. Their website has photos up for most of its dishes, though admittedly they don't always look at their most appealing there...
On this occasion, Mr. K went for a Mexican omelette and me for the daily soup, which on this occasion was broccoli. Unfortunately I didn't note exact prices, but they were pretty reasonable -- something in the range of 40-50 CZK for the soup and 130-odd CZK for the omelette.
In accordance with Ouky Douky's unhurried atmosphere, these did take quite a while to come out from the kitchen, but eventually both arrived served with a basket of Czech bread.
Mr. K was very happy with his omelette, which in this case was rendered "Mexican" by the addition of red and green peppers plus jalapeno/chilli powder toppings. I also had a bite and found it perfectly nice, as omelettes go.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for my soup, which I found really unpleasantly salty and with a strange stringy texture, the origin of which I could not quite discern. On the other hand, there was plenty of it -- the bowl was deceptively large, and in the end I had to pass it over to foodbag Mr. K to polish off on my behalf.
On our second brunch visit a weekend or two later, Mr. K went for a coffee and croissant, while -- not feeling particularly hungry on this occasion -- I went for a small banana milkshake.
The croissant itself was nothing special (and certainly not a patch on our traditional croissant place of choice, Bakeshop Praha), but I really enjoyed my milkshake, which was very creamy, frothy and refreshing. Next time I'll definitely order it in large version.
Mr. K was still hungry at this point, so ordered a couple of rounds of toast with jam.
These came barely toasted and with no butter. Not much more to say on the subject than that really.
Equally as uninspiring, toast-wise, was Prague Ginge's cheese-and-ham melt on another occasion. Note dreaded cabbage leaf (as opposed to lettuce) in the middle...
Having now made a couple of pleasant, if -- from a culinary perspective -- not particularly inspiring afternoon visits here, I decided to make a later solo trip one weekday evening to check out the vibe later in the day.
I'd naively thought that by the time I swung by at 9pm, the place would be more or less empty, but in fact quite the opposite was the case -- Ouky Douky is clearly the place to be in Holesoviče on a Tuesday night, and all the tables were well and truly taken. In my dire post-work state of hunger and thirst, the resident laptop-using table-hoggers suddenly seemed a lot more irritating, and in the event it was only after a period of targeted hovering in the bookshop section that I finally managed to bag myself a place. Over the course of the evening, I saw several people stick their heads round the door in search of a table, but having to leave again in search of Holešovice drinking/eating holes elsewhere.
Having finally secured myself a seat, I now only needed a little service and all would be well with the world.
I mentioned earlier that Ouky Douky adopts something of an unrushed approach to service, which in the right context is not necessarily a negative, but in this case definitely crossed the line from leisurely to downright lax. I'd not have minded so much had the two wait staff on duty been clearly overloaded, but in this case they seemed to spend more time talking between themselves than serving their actual customers, which was probably fine for the entrenched wifi refugees, but not for an increasingly hunger-irritable me (and as Mr. K will attest, I am really not at my best when blood sugar is low). In the end I had to stride up to the counter to put in my food-and-drink order -- my usual glass of white wine and a chicken burrito, again somewhere around the 30 and 150 CZK price marks respectively.
Here's the wine, pictured with crockery from the table's last two occupants still placed on the chair in the background. No one bothered to remove it over the course of my evening there, and for all I know it is still sitting there now...
Once ordered, the burrito came out of the kitchen pretty quickly -- almost within minutes -- and on receipt it was pretty self-evident why.
Being in a laidback bookshop-café and not an actual Mexican restaurant, I of course hadn't been expecting anything particularly authentic here, but, I have to say, by any standards this was just dire. Lukewarm at best, stuffed with such incongruous burrito ingredients as diced carrots, potatoes and peas (but, notably, very little actual chicken), and clearly seasoned with supermarket mixed spice, this was really not impressive -- in fact I could easily have rustled up better with a bit of meat and a packet of Old El Paso myself at home... In its favor, however, I will say that the burrito was at least filling.
Admittedly on this fourth and final visit, I did leave slightly miffed at the poor food and even poorer service I'd experienced on this occasion.
However, to be fair, outstanding food and uber-efficient service are really not the point of a place like Ouky Douky. Rather, Ouky Douky is best judged for what it is, namely as a welcome Holešovice oasis in which to browse old books, surf the internet at your leisure, enjoy a light bite by day or drink by evening with friends, all without the feeling of having to vacate the table immediately after you've finished your meal.
For Mr K and I, Ouky Douky hasn't quite replaced traditional the aforementioned weekend favorites of Bakeshop Praha and Zanzibar, but I'd definitely recommend it as a relaxed daytime/evening spot if you happen to be in the area -- just be prepared to fight for a table (and possibly your order as well) first!
Phone: (+420) 266 711 531
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