Can this Malá Strana restaurant's food match the opulent interiors? Miss K finds out
A kind reader of this blog recently passed a huge book of two-for-one restaurant vouchers on to me, so therefore a much appreciative Mr. K and I have been eating out on the cheap of late at some much pricier places than we would normally visit wholly on our own dime.
One such recent voucher-assisted sojourn has been to the Alchymist Club at Malá Strana, an upmarket restaurant long at the top of Mr. K's (financially utterly unrealistic) list of pricy Prague restaurants to visit in the course of his monthly trips to the Czech Republic.
I have to say, on walking through the door, I was pretty blown away by the lavish interiors here -- aesthetically speaking, Alchymist truly has to be one of the more opulent and ornate restaurants I have ever had the luxury of dining in, and (it being just a day or two after Christmas when we went) one which we virtually had all to ourselves the whole evening on top of it all.
Mr. K, being generally more interested in where he eats than what, was, needless to say, absolutely in his element here. As for me, any doubts on my own somewhat cynical part about the Alchymist potentially having more style than substance were somewhat allayed by the waitress's mention of the chef here possessing a Michelin star -- a Frenchman by the name of Georges apparently. (Which, come to think of it, might have explained the Edith Piaf CD playing on a loop all evening… pa-dam, pa-dam, pa-dam!)
As for us, we kicked off with one of Mr. K's favorite wines, the Soave Classico Superiore (590 CZK), which was very nice, though could have done with being a bit more chilled when initially brought out to the table. Fortunately, the ice bucket had quickly done its job by glass number two, however.
A varied bread basket and a dish of salted butter were also brought to our table together with the wine. Mr. K and I both really loved the strips of garlic and rosemary focaccia bread here -- definitely a cut above your normal dough-based offerings elsewhere.
As for starters, both of us went for the seafood options here, with me going for the tuna tartar with rocket salad (270 CZK), and Mr. K plumping for the St. Jacques scallops served with fava beans, cherry tomatoes and lemon butter (320 CZK).
Both of these were really excellent, but I have to say that Mr. K definitely made the better choice here -- the large scallops were absolutely perfectly done and complimented perfectly by the lemon butter sauce. Luckily for me, Mr. K let me steal one in return for a bite of my fresh and flavorsome tuna tartar, which, I was pleased to find, didn't stint on the black pepper or (so I detected) the lime.
As it turned out, lucky Mr. K also picked best with the mains as well, opting for the dish I'd nearly gone for myself in the Duck with carrot and apricot purée and light Madiran juice (490 CZK).
This was deliciously sweet, with the tender duck slices really melting in your mouth here. I really wished I followed my initial instinct on this one and staked my claim to it first.
Perhaps somewhat unfairly, I have to say that I found my own main of skin-seared salmon with seaweed mashed potatoes and pan-fried leek (390 CZK) pretty standard by comparison.
Both the salmon and the potatoes were perfectly fine here, but as a whole I didn't think it was a dish that particularly inspired. Also, the seaweed strips on top of the potato were really bitty and got stuck in your teeth -- or at least they did mine.
Only when dessert rolled round did I finally manage to trump Mr. K simply by going for my default chocolate choice, the hot chocolate moelleux with vanilla sauce.
This came as a lovely, squishy fondant-type dessert in a creamy vanilla sauce (200 CZK) -- duly delicious, of course, but let down by being served ever-so-slightly on the cool side.
Mr. K, on the other hand, made a rather unorthodox choice in the "pain perdu" -- a sweet French toast-type dish served with caramel sauce and ice cream (190 CZK).
I had a bite and wasn't all that keen -- the bread was surprisingly chewy, with the copious amounts of caramelized sauce making for a somewhat excessively sweet dish overall. Mr. K shared the same opinion, but still tucked away the whole lot -- dessert is dessert, after all... :-)
At the end of the evening our bill came served in a pretty lacquered box, the total for the evening coming to a grand 2,450 CZK -- lucky for us we had our vouchers on hand to knock a hefty chunk off the price here!
So did the Alchymist on this occasion succeed in turning base ingredients into culinary gold? Not quite in every case, perhaps, but overall we'd both enjoyed an excellent meal together here and were glad we'd given the place a try. We may not have found the traditionally sought-after "elixir of life" or "philosopher's stone" at the Alchymist, but Mr. K and I were successfully transmuted over the course of the evening into two very happy diners here!
Alchymist Club Restaurant
Phone: (+420) 257 312 518
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