The Ambiente group's Malá Strana outpost serves an excellent breakfast
"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast."
That'd be me. A morning person.
V is not a morning person. She thinks Oscar Wilde was brilliant.
OK, maybe I'm dull, but I'm smart enough to know that if I want to eat breakfast with this woman, it's going to be a late one. Like 1:15pm.
Such are the compromises of life.
I called ahead and booked a table at Café Savoy in Malá Strana. This is my favorite café for breakfast in a city not known for its breakfasts. I reserved because the restaurant has gotten very popular, especially on weekends. The last time we turned up unannounced, we were turned away.
This is a fine-looking space, with wine bottles lining the walls in squares of blond wood. They understand good lighting.
A photo of these bottles featured prominently in a recent New York Times travel article about Prague.
The restaurant has a beautifully restored and brightly painted ceiling framing some unique chandeliers with egg-shaped bulbs. Tall windows let in a lot of light. I'd like to know more about the history of the building.
There are some good breakfasts on the menu at Café Savoy. I used to go for the ham and cheese omelet (129 CZK). It's made with Emmental cheese, but what makes it great is the ham -- big chunks of real, quality, smoky Prague ham.
These days, I get the American Breakfast (233 CZK). It's not cheap, but this a serious amount of food. The waiter brought it out in two rounds.
The first round consisted of fresh-squeezed orange juice, hot chocolate (or coffee or tea), and a bread basket. There was butter, along with homemade jams, and homemade peanut butter. These were all really good. There was also what they call a "praline," a good quality chocolate treat.
The breakfast also comes with seeded red and green seedless grapes, but for some reason, I didn't fit them into the picture.
The hot chocolate is brought in its own little pitcher. A couple of servings fit into the small cup. It is made with real milk and good quality cocoa. If you buy it separately, the Chocolate Savoy is 55 CZK for a single serving, or 75 CZK for a double.
Later, the waiter came with the sandwich when it was ready. It is hand-sliced white toast, with runny fried eggs, a fresh-cooked chicken breast, salty soft bacon, and fries on the side.
The bread was breaking up a bit before I even picked it up. It is a messy thing to eat, but even so, it was a great sandwich. Love it. I like putting a little ketchup on the side for the fries, and dabbing the sandwich in it as well. The fries were OK, but not great -- they could be crunchier. They did help clean up some of the leftover egg yolk at the end.
Speaking of egg yolks, we had Mom with us, and she ordered the Continental Breakfast. It comes with toast, cheese, egg, home made bread, butter, homemade jam, and tea (or coffee or hot chocolate).
I heard her say "over easy," but it in the swirl of ordering, it didn't catch in my mind as something the waiter would not understand. So, she got an egg sunny side up. Mom also said it was not hot. She wasn't happy, but decided to eat it anyway instead of sending it back.
For big eaters, they also offer what they call the French Breakfast. It consists of a French baguette, French toast with maple syrup, grilled marguezi (sausage) with French fries, Prague ham, a boiled egg, French blue cheese, butter, homemade jam, a croissant, grapes, fresh orange juice, and café au lait. It is a ton of food. I used to get it before I switched to the American Breakfast.
The English Breakfast is, according to the menu, toast, a fried egg, roasted bacon, a frankfurter and tomatoes, beans, homemade bread, butter, homemade jam, fresh orange juice, and tea with milk.
There are other smaller breakfasts -- the Healthy and the Savoy.
V is not the biggest breakfast person, especially in the afternoon. She started with one of her regular favorites, the escargots (185 CZK). This dish is on a separate "gourmet menu."
She said she liked it "very, very much." She said the snails were perfect, with generous amounts of butter and garlic. For the toast, the waiter took a few more slices off the loaf. They wear special white gloves when they slice. V dipped a piece in the garlic butter for me. She called the toast "silly," but I liked it.
I just don't think she took all the gloves and slicing into consideration.
V followed the snails with the marinated salmon salad (178 CZK). At most restaurants in Prague, they'd peel the salmon out of its plastic package and slap it on top of the salad.
Not Café Savoy. This is real marinated fish. It was very fresh, with a buttery texture, and only the smallest hint of salt. Underneath was frisée, various other greens, cucumbers, red pepper, radishes, tomatoes, and a little balsamic vinegar.
She also had a good café au lait (65 CZK). And I forgot to mention, she also had a Mimosa (129 CZK). Mattoni sparkling mineral water was 39 CZK.
I wish I had room for dessert. On the special menu is what they call Valrhona Manjari fondue. Valrhona Manjari is extra special, extra bitter dark chocolate. In the past, I've also had a chocolate fondant, one of those warm, fresh-baked cakes with the melting center.
Café Savoy is very busy, but it is well run and the cooking is very good. You can watch some of it being done through a window to kitchen on one side of the restaurant. I love watching kitchens at work.
There is a glass case full of desserts to look at. It is also fun to sit in the upstairs loft section and people-watch, far from the madding crowd. Sometimes, sitting in the middle of the regular dining room is not the most fun on a busy day.
The popularity of this café is not a big surprise. The super-successful and expanding Ambiente Restaurant Group owns it. They have a number of other interesting restaurants around the city, like Ambiente on Mánesova, Risorante Pasta Fresca, Pizza Nuova, and Ristorante Brasiliero.
I just noticed their website says they've opened a small new place, called Café Pavilon, at Vinohradská 50, inside Vinohradský Pavilon. It seems to have only a limited breakfast menu and a few other light meals. I'm a bit disappointed to see they have the French Breakfast, but not the American.
But I don't just go for their breakfasts. I've enjoyed the beef tartare -- French or Savoy style, roasted Prague ham, goat cheese salad, and fried veal schnitzel with a sweetbread and cranberries.
Those meals have not usually been dull, and that helps me feel better about myself.
Because the Café Savoy people are also brilliant at breakfast.
Tel.: (+420) 257 311 562
Hours: Mon-Fri. 8:00 - 22:30, Sat-Sun 9:00 - 22:30
Prague Directory Listing
This article was written in April 2007.
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