The Brewery Bar at The Augustine
Miss K samples the "beer tapas" in this five-star Malá Strana hotel's atmospheric cellars
My fiancé Mr. K generally likes to think of himself as a man of refined tastes, and -- despite the fact that our budget rarely allows for such culinary extravagance -- still harbors a long-standing ambition to work his way around all Prague's major upmarket restaurants in the course of his frequent visits to the Czech Republic.
Still, I try to humor my aspirational other half where I can, and so when I saw a Lime&Tonic discount deal for one of the venues at the top of Mr. K's gastronomic "to do" list, the five-star Augustine at Malá Strana, I decided to bag a bargain and -- like the wonderful fiancée I occasionally am -- surprise him with a dinner out there on his next visit over. (I only know of his wish to dine at the Augustine because he never fails to mention it each and every single time we pass by on the 12 or 22.)
According to our L&T deal, we would be enjoying a set Beer Tasting and Tapas menu in the Augustine's atmospheric Brewery Bar, situated underground in the stalagmite- and stalactite-lined cellar of the former St. Thomas's monastery.
On this occasion, we had the rather disconcerting privilege of being the only couple actually in the place all evening. Well, to be fair, November is hardly peak season for tourists, while -- apart from ourselves, obviously -- the fact that most of Prague's inhabitants were probably far too sensible to venture out on such a perishing winter's night can't really have helped matters custom-wise either.
Still, having the place entirely to ourselves did ensure personal service at the very least -- probably somewhat too personal for the poor, long-suffering waiter on duty that night, who bore Mr. K's sudden onset of verbal diarrhea with admirable courtesy and fortitude. (Unfortunately, actually thinking something without then going on to verbalize it for anyone who'll listen is not one of my gregarious Mr. K's strong points.)
Anyway, back to the food and drink at hand here. Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a vino rather than a pivo girl, so am not really best placed to comment on the quality of the various beers on offer here. All commentary on this subject is therefore courtesy of the infinitely more beer-acquainted Mr. K, who cheerfully supped both my three allotted 0.2-liter portions and his own over the course of the evening. Needless to say, I went for my customary glass of wine instead -- surprisingly nice for a Moravian red, but painfully pricy, though, at an eye-watering 180 CZK per glass.
As for the first beer on offer, rather disappointingly this turned out to be just your standard Pilsner Urquell, though we were duly informed at the time that more quality brews were yet to come.
For the first course, we were served a generous variety of tasty cold cuts and beer cheese (i.e. Czech "tapas"), which incorporated some very tasty sýr-and-salami-style staples. A basket of fresh cumin bread and traditional pork fat were also duly brought to the table at the same time.
Definitely very nice but, as a whole, very filling, and I was glad the next two dishes were by contrast comparatively light.
Next course up was a main of grilled Prague ham served with mashed potatoes, bacon and leek.
For my taste, I found the ham rather bland, though it did come served with some thick, tasty gravy on the side to liven it up a little. Mash and veg were perfectly fine here, however.
Oh, and not forgetting beers number two and three in the meantime -- one a sample of the vaunted St. Thomas dark beer 14˚, the original Augustinian-brewed beverage now served uniquely at this hotel, and the other a seasonally served wheat beer also produced at the Matuška microbrewery just outside of Prague (or so I'm told at least).
Mr K claimed to very much like both. As for me, needless to say, I just had another glass of wine... :-)
And finally on to dessert, which in this case was a quite passable apple-and-cinnamon crumble.
Mr. K claimed it to be the best he's ever had in his life, but then he is admittedly rather prone to hyperbole -- bless him. My more moderate point of view here was that the crumble was not quite as good as mother used to make, but still a nice enough bite to round off our evening here.
Having also had a look at the Brewery Bar's regular menu while we were there, it seems that we pretty much ran the gauntlet in terms of the food they have on offer just on this one visit, with only chicken wings, potato pancakes, calamari and a couple of salad options filling out the rest of the jídelní lístek here.
However, as the name implies, the point of the Brewery Bar is not so much what you eat, really, but which of the various beers from the Matuška, Svijany, Lobkowicz, Rychtář and Primátor breweries on offer here that you sample.
Of course, the Czech Republic is awash with countless breweries of varying price/prowess/popularity, all offering their "liquid bread" of choice to merry beer-drinkers from home and abroad, and as a confirmed oenophile I'm certainly in no position to recommend any one over the other here. (Fellow blogger Pivní Filosof is your man for all matters pivo-related.)
What I can say here is that if -- like ourselves on this particular occasion -- you're up for a bit of an upmarket take on the traditional Czech theme of copious pivo and pub grub in most atmospheric surroundings, then the Augustine is definitely a reasonable bet -- particularly so if you're a) visiting Prague or indeed b) have (preferably paying!) visitors over yourself...
And at the very least in our case, Mr. K got to finally tick a place off his ever-expanding list!
The Brewery Bar at The Augustine
Phone: (+420) 266 112 233
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