Hergetova Cihelna Burger

As part of his ongoing quest to find the city's best beef patty, Brewsta takes lunch down by the riverside

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai qui tu es."

("Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you what you are.")

--Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Non, monsieur. I am not fat cow. Despite a recent burger binge.

My friend Grant, of Grant's Bike Blog fame, did a guest post a few months back on the hamburger at Hergetova Cihelna (Herget's Brickworks). It fit in well with my haphazard survey of Prague's high-end burger offerings.

Grant's positive post on the Cihelna burger intrigued me. I had to try it for myself and formulate my own report.

I certainly am not the first to write about hamburgers in the Czech Republic. The Prague Post's Dave Faries wrote A quick guide to Prague's very best burger joints, in an October 2006 article.

I headed over to Hergetova Cihelna for a late solo lunch on a Saturday afternoon. As you walk across the Charles Bridge, you can see the Cihelna compound and its terrace, with its great location right on the Vltava river.

The terrace itself is quite large and it does get quite full. I think I was lucky to walk in and find a table because, first, it was almost 3pm, and second, it was a cloudy, rain-threatened day.

The restaurant really does have one of the best views in Prague. Diners get the full measure and beauty of the Charles Bridge from every outside table. Boats glide by ferrying tourists up and down the river. It is a very nice place to sit.

I ordered the Cihelna burger and a Coke. I waited, the waitress brought bread resting in a bowl of olive oil. The bread was nice, dense and chewy. However, the olive oil was weak and almost flavorless.

The burger arrived surrounded by condiments and toppings: sliced sweet pickle, red onion, coleslaw, shredded lettuce, chunks of tomato, mayonnaise, and ketchup.

Let's talk about these side items first. The pickles and onions were good. The lettuce had a few small brown spots on the edges. I didn't understand the point of cutting the tomatoes into chunks. They'd really get in the way of proper bun-top placement. I left them off. The slaw was too salty for my taste and swimming in mayo.

It is interesting to note what was not there: Cheese. I didn't miss it. Others may differ.

Let's move on to the meat itself. First off, I will say that it tasted good. It had a good smoky, grilled flavor. The bacon on top was more of a softer English style than a crispy American style, but very tasty. There was a good quality, well-toasted sesame bun than held together well.

However, all the news is not good. This was a very greasy, juicy burger. This is a double-edged sword. Fat generally doesn't bother me and it does add to the flavor, but this was a bit over the line. It was dripping a fair bit. I have a pretty tough stomach, but I hadn't eaten all day and I have to admit I felt a little woozy after eating this burger.

The meat was very finely chopped. It had a slightly rubbery texture, as if it were mixed with something else. It didn't have the usual, somewhat crumbly texture of regular ground beef.

I can only venture guesses regarding its composition, based on previous burger experience -- perhaps some egg and breadcrumbs or maybe a little pork in the mix. Or it was too finely chopped.

These are the things the texture, flavor, and fat content made me think, but I could be totally wrong. I wasn't in the mood to interrogate the waitress.

All that said, I'd say I liked it. Was it worth the money? I'll get to that shortly.

In comparison, the Potrefená husa burger used very high quality, lean beef that tastes great but is always on the dry side. That is both its strength and weakness.

The Cihelna fries were excellent, among the best I've had in Prague. They were large, almost square cut, crispy on the outside, with fluffy and delicious insides. There was a little too much large-grain salt on top, but not a big issue.

I hadn't been to Hergetova Cihelna in a long time. I will admit, the heights to which the prices had climbed caught me a little off guard. They always had some expensive plates there, but there was a wider selection of lower-priced offerings.

The Cihelna burger's price is, forgive me, a whopper at 395 CZK. This is one of the mid-priced items on the menu. The coke was 45 CZK for a small 0.2-liter bottle. You are certainly paying a super-premium for the view.

Grant reported back in April that the Cihelna burger was 295 CZK. He's away on vacation so I can't ask if he is really sure what the price was back then. It's hard to believe the price would jump by 100 CZK. We were saying back then that the Potrefená husa burger was seriously expensive at 297 CZK.

So, 395 CZK is off the charts. I'll try anything once, but it's just too rich for my blood, on too many levels. If I happen to go back again, it will likely be with a visitor I'm showing around the city who will really get a kick out of the view. I'll order something else to eat.

The starters range in price from 295 CZK for the salmon gravlax to 465 CZK for the grilled tiger prawns. There is a porcini mushroom pizza for 245 CZK, a sashimi pizza with raw tuna for 365 CZK, and a foie gras pizza for 495 CZK. There are no other pizzas offered.

There are pastas that start at 295 CZK, three Czech cuisine dishes for 395 CZK, as well as fish, steak, and chicken. The most expensive item on the menu is a rack of lamb for 695 CZK.

A half-liter of Pilsner Urquell on draft is 65 CZK. They also have bottled beer like Corona, Heineken, Beck's, and Guinness stout. All desserts are 245 CZK.

The whole menu is available online for your perusal.

The service was a bit brusque and perfunctory. I was not treated badly, but I was not well looked after either. My little Coke in a big glass went unrefilled after it was finished. I could have used more ketchup, but didn't feel like trying to flag someone down.

There is also ample seating inside the restaurant, but visitors should be aware. It was empty on a warm Saturday afternoon. Very few offer much of a view.

Also, the tables are quite close together, and it can get quite noisy when it gets full.

Hergetova Cihelna is not the easiest to find. It helps to look at a map. From the Charles Bridge, you navigate some winding Malá Strana streets until you get to the gates of the complex. There is a big courtyard that has a Franz Kafka museum, a cafe and lounge, along with the restaurant itself.

There is a rather interesting sculpture fountain in the middle of the courtyard. There are two stylized human figures facing each other. They have pelvises that slowly swivel. They also have, ahem, "spouts" that move up and down, sending water into a pool at their feet.

You go down some stairs to get to the main restaurant. There is a small reception desk where you wait to be seated.

On the whole, Hergetova Cihelna could be a good place for visitors who want to take in the beauty of Prague and don't mind spending a bit. I have heard a few positive comments from tourists about the place and the food. I can't say much more myself because I haven't sampled the rest of the menu in a long time.

It is not cheap, but it is still a fair bit less than neighboring Kampa Park, which has a similar view, and is under the same ownership. Kampa Park is one of the most expensive restaurants in the city.

I think that is enough about hamburgers for a while. For my next trick, I will attempt to turn myself into pig.

Hergetova Cihelna

Cihelná 2b

Prague 1-Malá Strana

Tel. (+420) 296 826 103

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