Breakfast Lobby

Two hotels serving up the day’s most important meal.

The Intercontinental

Náměstí Curieov''ch 43/5 in P1

Tel: 224 881 111

The Renaissance

V Celnici 7 in P1

Tel: 221 822 100

Although Amnesty International is unlikely to pick up on my case, there is
definitely a quiet conspiracy of hate in the minds of those who scorn us. It’s
unfair, for we are a harmless lot. I am a morning person, and breakfast is my
favorite meal of the day. Breakfast is more than just eggs, however. It’s a
difficult issue with some, and sometimes even more difficult to enjoy in Prague.

Most of the area hotels offer breakfast buffets, and you needn’t be a guest
in order to join in on the fun. Because the crowd is generally transient, you
can be refreshingly anonymous as you dine while enjoying your newspaper. Let’s
visit two standouts that each offer a rich spread, The Intercontinental and
The Renaissance. Caveats: At both, you will feel pressure to leave by 10:30
a.m. as they prepare for the lunch crowd, and both are prohibitively expensive
at 600 Kč and 495 Kč, respectively. You can, however, get your money’s worth
if you follow at least a few of the instructions below.

First, liquids are the most important start of the morning, especially if you
practice the “last out, first in” method of breakfasting. That is, you are the
last one out of the bar at night and the first one in for breakfast. The Intercontinental
is the only one offering fresh-squeezed juices – orange or grapefruit. There
are other juices on hand, of course, and any serves to complement the wide variety
of sliced and peeled fruits. Perfect for that initial vitamin shock necessary
to prepare your body to be stuffed. Coffee hostesses are always on the run,
so it’s your responsibility to keep your cup topped off as you shuffle about
the fanfare.

Breads and rolls are abundant, but neither buffet offers anything worth writing
home about. The bakery industry in the Czech Republic still operates on the
“2 Kč” mentality: No one will spend more than 2 Kč on a staple food. (Communist
propaganda still extant in the consumer mindset? Perhaps.) Also to blame are
the weak flour and baking soda, both of which are of lower quality than in neighboring
Germany or far-away America. Ever tried to make pancakes from scratch around
here? Now you know why they didn’t come out right. Still, the breads offered
at these hotels are superior, so grab a few of whatever you normally don’t get
at your local potraviny and have a taste.

Toppings for your bread are numerous, and Intercontinental takes the cake in
this department. In addition to jams and butter, they offer a tremendous smoked
salmon and excellent curds. Never had curds before? Try them. If you don’t like
them, spit them out and get a new plate. That’s why the buffet is a good thing:
It’s so, uh, bohemian. The cheeses are also high-quality, and both locations
take care to keep these and other cold cuts coming fresh from the kitchen at
regular intervals.

Depending on the severity of your hangover, you may want to skip the sweets
and go directly to the grease. Sadly, neither Intercontinental nor Renaissance
get the hot breakfast thing entirely right. Bacon cannot be baked in a convection
oven, else it turns into shoe leather. Both places need a new supplier for cooked
meats. Scrambled eggs are best at the Intercontinental, while the hash browns
at both get low marks.

Don’t let the soggy potatoes put you off. There are diamonds to be found amidst
the breakfast rubble. At both buffets, you will find a lonely-looking guy sporting
a chef’s hat with a spatula in his hand. In theory, he’s there to prepare an
omelet according to your specifications. He cannot be trusted.

When I went, I told my egg-beater to wait a moment while I went a’gathering.
From the various tables I secured slices of Danish hard cheese, chunks of tomatoes,
a bit of that overly salty bacon, a mushroom and some ricotta cheese. I showed
him the proper way to prepare an omelet: no milk in the eggs! This was, truly,
one of the best omelets ever, and all the ingredients were under my nose – but
not his. Don’t be intimidated by this guy in the white hat, just keep him on
a short leash.

Don’t forget to take a break between courses. No one is waiting for your table,
and no waitress will bother you with a check. Have a bit of salad. Or maybe
some yogurt, available at both buffets. Mix some of that high-quality jam into
some of the plain stuff, swish it around. Maybe grab a mini-box of frosted flakes.
At the Intercontinental, brave the Japanese table over in that lonely corner.
Yes, Japanese breakfast – sans sushi – offering two kinds of soup, rice and
a host of other fancies that you might associate with later in the day. Once
you’ve gorged on pancakes and maple syrup, a bit of Japanese tempura will prove
your meddle to the hardliners looking on.

Or, of course, you can just sip on the coffee and ogle your fellow diners. All-day
grazing is healthy and fun, and when you reach what you think is the end of
the meal, start again at the beginning. The only thing missing is the ominous
Roman feather to relieve oneself of this digestive burden. Since none are provided,
you may have to make do with a chopstick instead.

Tracy Dove is the owner of Bohemia Bagel

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