Etnosvět: A multifarious experience
Upmarket vegetarian dining with a world-cuisine approach
Although Etnosvět is a vegetarian restaurant, the restaurant owner and its head chef both come from meat-eating backgrounds. Owner Andrej Zaitsev actually became a vegetarian when he began to lead the Etnosvět project in 2011. After keeping a strict vegan diet during Lent that year just to see what would happen, Andrej realized that while eating vegan, he felt better physically, had more energy to play football and many of his health problems disappeared. With the success of his experiment, Andrej decided to stay a vegetarian, although he added milk products back into his diet.
Now, Andrej had a new challenge – where could he buy vegetarian food while eating out in Prague to keep himself feeling good? At the time, Prague had many bistros, cantinas and quick eateries where you could grab a self-service, non-meat meal. However, the city lacked a higher-end vegetarian restaurant where customers could come to enjoy a leisurely evening meal à la carte or an upscale buffet with full table service.
Building his business plan on the model of the successful Ambiente group in Prague, Andrej aimed to create a full service, classy restaurant that would satisfy the gap in Prague’s vegetarian offerings. Taking inspiration from the famous Zurich restaurant Hiltl, which bears the honor of being the first vegetarian restaurant in the world, Andrej designed the Etnosvět project to include not only a large restaurant but also a vegan bistro (serving soups, sandwiches and vegan pizza) and shop as well as a multicultural space for workshops, hands on cooking for children and other cultural events.
Andrej hired as head chef, Clayton Powell, a British chef with twenty years of experience working in Europe’s main cities, including working as sous chef in Prague’s Hilton. While Clayton isn’t a vegetarian himself, he did work as head chef at a vegetarian restaurant in London, and his perspective keeps Etnosvět’s menu attractive to non-vegetarians who’d simply like try something new. Sous chef, Anthony Kulehsa from France prepares authentic dishes that are influenced by his travels around the world. A third Czech chef, Lucie Krejčová, helps keep everything balanced.
In the eight months since the restaurant first opened, Etnosvět has become a hit with locals and Prague’s tourist population. Due to the restaurant’s central location (a block from I.P. Pavlova on Legerova Street) and its spacious interior, it is an attractive place to stop for a hearty lunch buffet or to enjoy drinks and dinner from the menu. The restaurant even has a club atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights with a DJ playing music, ranging from 70-90s classic rock to jazz, soul and R&B with an ethno influence.
Andrej says, “I’m pleasantly surprised by how quickly we have become popular. People are starting to know us. I was warned by experts in the industry that it could take much longer than a year.”
In addition to the Etnosvět restaurant, the project operates Ethnomir which is an evolving space that houses cultural exhibitions as well as workshops focused on world music, dance and craft-making. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, afternoon workshops are offered for children and the center extends an ongoing offer to local schools and preschools to visit the space.
For Andrej, the success of Etnosvět depends not only on the quality of the food, service and overall dining experience, but also on the harmony between knowing what you are eating and where your food originated. To him, Etnosvět is best described as a multifarious experience. To represent their philosophy, Etnosvět’s logo is a tree whose limbs and branches connect all the world’s continents together.
At a team meeting after excavating part of the downstairs dining area, they even found a way to integrate the design of the building into their multi-world concept. Using the six arches that buttressed the building, they ornamented each arch with its own symbolic etching to reflect the heritage of a particular continent. The space is further decorated with seasonal greenery, including branches, flowers and a green wall made from plants and herbs. Upstairs, each table depicts a different continent with a map and a representative signature.
During the week, the restaurant is open from 11:30 - 16:00 daily (buffet) with dinner from 17:00 (à la carte) and a burger bar (coming soon). On the weekends, Etnosvět runs Tutti a Tavola family brunches where families can choose from 7 mains and 7 appetizers to share together. There are also preparing an interactive cultural program to entertain children while their parents relax. Recent special events at the restaurant have included a wine tasting with wines from Bacchus paired with French specialties from the Gascony region as well as a North African night with traditional African food and culture. During the upcoming months, Etnosvět will also participate in various local food festivals, including Veggie Náplavka, Prague Food Festival and Foodparade.
Etnosvět serves a variety of international wines, including Italian, French, African and Australian. To appeal to beer connoisseurs, they offer traditional Pilsner, Kozel and an ever-changing selection from the Matuška Brewery, which is a family-run microbrewery near Prague.
From the beginning, Andrej has been hands-on in all aspects of Etnosvět’s development. Now that he has built a team that can work without him, he’s learning to step back and watch as his creative vision takes shape. “I am someone who needs to feel the final product, to see, hold and taste what I have created,” he says.
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