A trip to Prague Castle doesn't have to mean a meal at a Hradčany tourist trap
"Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."You've survived a forced march over uneven, cobblestone roads. You've stormed the castle and viewed Prague from its ramparts.
Then, after a long day on thin rations, there's an attack.
You've heard the warnings from traveling troubadours: Danger lurks outside the historic walls of Hradčany.
Legions of rogue restaurants lie in wait. You face the very real possibility they will treat you like a serf, serve up glorified gruel, and levy charges for each crust of bread you eat. Or didn't eat.
Short of self-defenestration, how can you avoid this terrible fate?
It is a prime tourist zone I rarely visit myself, so even I struggle to answer this question.
But I recently visited a restaurant that had good food, a good atmosphere, a little bit of history, and very little highway robbery.
Best of all, it is within the walls of Prague Castle.
I'm talking about Restaurant Vikárka (The Vicarage).
The buildings on this spot had many uses over the centuries, including as alchemist workshops and as stables.
But in recent decades, it's been a restaurant. It underwent a renovation in 2005.
The entrance is right next to St. Vitus's Cathedral and there is a lovely view from there.
Inside the restaurant, there are a number of bigger and smaller dining areas. It was pretty busy.
We were happy to walk in and find a table.
I ordered the hovězí svíčková (195 CZK), which is one of my favorite traditional Czech meals. It is roast beef (often overcooked) in a cream sauce with bread dumplings and some cranberry sauce.
I really love the cream sauce, and this was a very good version. It is made with pureed root vegetables, beef stock, bacon, and cream (or sour cream).
There's more to it if you want to see a full recipe.
This version was a sweet, creamy, tangy and I couldn't get enough of it. I soaked up every last bit with my dumplings.
For some perspective, hovězí svíčková costs 169 CZK at the great Pilsner pub, U Pinkasů, near Wenceslas Square.
V had potato gnocchi in a mushroom cream sauce (180 CZK). The gnocchi themselves were nothing to write home about. The lighter, fluffier gnocchi at Kogo are certainly superior (and more expensive).
But again, the sauce was great. The flavor of the mushrooms was strong and earthy. Overall, it was heavy, thick, satisfying comfort food that warmed me up nicely on a cold day.
I had a 0.4-liter glass of Krušovice dark beer (60 CZK). That's very steep. Krušovice is OK, but not a great beer. The price elsewhere is less than half what Vikárka charges.
They did have Pilsner Urquell, but it was 80 CZK for a 0.33-liter serving. Crazy. At U Vejvodů in the center of Prague, a half-liter of Pilsner draft is only 30 CZK.
When I mentioned "highway robbery" earlier, the beer was what I was talking about.
As for the rest of the menu, soups were 50-60 CZK, and starters and salads were 85-180 CZK.
If you want to loosen the purse strings on the main courses, there was a steak for 425 CZK, lamb cutlets with marjoram sauce for 450 CZK, and grilled salmon for 320 CZK. I'd never eaten here before, so I can't vouch for the quality of the other offerings.
They had a small children's menu with a fried chicken cutlet, fish fingers, or spaghetti. We had no problem with the service.
One of the benefits of the location: There are very nice views of the castle walls from some windows. Cannons once stood in the same location a few hundred years ago.
The threat of Swedish invasion is long gone, but the international tourist invasion remains. As we sipped our drinks, we observed that they made up the majority of the diners.
V had a glass of red wine for 75 CZK, a 0.25-liter bottle of water for 35 CZK, and an espresso for 60 CZK.
The final bill was 605 CZK.
Yes, you could spend a lot here. But you could also get away with a pretty reasonable bill if you order selectively.
And believe me, you could do a lot worse.
More than a few restaurants around the castle would perfectly respect your hard-earned money.
Tel.: (+420) 233 311 962
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