13 Jun 2008

Something is changing

I really like cafés, but the old fashioned ones. I don't like at all those with plastic or metal furniture, LCD screens on the walls that only play MTV, and with a decoration that seems to have been designed by a robot. Fortunately, in Prague, there are still several, and very good, ones from the others.
Dobrá Trafika is one of them. It has two branches, one in Malá Strana and the other one in Vinohrady. Both are well known, but I'm sure there are many who have walked by the door without taking a second look at them. That's because in the front there is a "trafika", basically a news agent, where you can also buy tobacco, alcohol, etc. However, both have a room in the back, and there is were the café works.

Dobrá Trafika has been one of my favourite cafés for some time already. It has many things that make it ideal to sit down in the afternoon to relax a little while reading a good book. The decoration is of the kind I like the most at a café. Old and worn out mismatching furniture, improvised looking accessories and pictures that looked like something out of an old man's attic, and blues or jazz in a moderate volume as soundtrack. It's one of those places where you can loose track of time, the somewhat slow and informal service helps in this. And for coffee lovers, it is also a pretty interesting place to visit, they offer coffees from around the world at nice prices (33Kc for a cup of Ethiopian coffee). They also have a wide variety of teas, some snacks and sweets, wine and, of course, beer.


And it's beer what I wanted to talk about (surprise!). They always had Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell in bottles. Obviously it wasn't the beer what kept me going there, but there were a few times when if I'd had something more decent to choose from, I would have stayed a bit longer after finishing my cup of New Guinea coffee, or maybe to wash down the nakladaný hermelín that I sometimes fancied, and that I invariably ended up eating somewhere else.

Things changes a few months ago. Tired of the increasing mediocrity of Gambáč (believe me, they aren't alone), the owners decided to change the brand. In an act of wisdom, instead of stocking any other of the big brands or, worse still, and imported eurolager, they decided for the beers from Primátor. The whole line can be bought bottled, and in the Malá Strana branch, you have a choice of three on tap, Světlý Ležák 12°, the brilliant Polotmavé 13° (this must be the only place tapping it in Prague) and the increasingly popular Weizen.

And so it was that the other day, during a break in the afternoon, I decided to stop by the Malá Strana branch. It was rather warm and very sticky. From the entrance to the café I spotted an empty table in one corner of the patio, and there I went. I ordered a Poltomavé 13°. It felt so good on a day like that. Primátor beers bottled can be very good, but some of them get even better when on tap, perhaps because they aren't pasteurised. That amber lager is one of them. It's got a fuller body and a more citrusy finish, delicious for a summer afternoon.

It was followed by Weizen, which has slowly become one of my favourite beers. It's sweeter than the German wheat beers, and that makes it very good for those who want to start exploring these family. I drank it with a nakladaný hermelín. Having lived already six years in Prague, during which I must have eaten hundreds of these marinated cheeses all over town, I fancy myself as a connoisseur. I liked that, when I first ordered, the waitress didn't want to sell it because, as she said, they had just put it to marinade. However, she came back shortly after to tell me that they had another jar, and if I still wanted it, I could have one. The hermoš had a very nice presentation and a lot of oregano. It wasn't bad, but a couple more days in the jar woudln't have hurt. Anyway, it went really well with my Weizen.

Really, being able to sit metres from the rat race of the centre, in such a quiet place, ejoying such good beers at a good price (31KC/0.5l) it simply great.

But Dobrá Trafika is not the only case in Prague. Logos from small breweries are being seen more and more often, more pubs and restaurants are starting to stock lesser known beers. Brands that before were only known by a minority are starting to show up in supermarket chains. Are we in the first moments of a slow revolution? Is this the hour when the owners of restaurants, cafés and pubs start to realise that they don't have to stock rubbish such as Stella Artois in order to be modern and different? Let´s hope so, and let´s also hope that the Czech consumer finally opens their eyes and sees what they were missing, and what they will miss if they don't start supporting the smaller breweries a bit more. The same goes for foreign residents and visitors.

Dobrá trafika v KORUNNÍ
Korunní 42
Prague 2


Dobrá trafika na ÚJEZDĚ
Újezd 37
Prague 1

5 comments:

  1. Dear Filosof :) I have a tip for you - accidently I was recently at U Krokodyla pub (www.ukrokodyla.cz), had a good Pilsner with a friends and noticed, that they had some other beer at their menu - its name is Bon. I decided to try it and was pleasently surprised, for a 22,- Kc for a 12° unpasterized lezak, it's a very good beer. I searched their website pivobon.cz and found out that I have been very lucky, because U Krokodyla is the only place in Prague to have it. So try it and review it if you want :)

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  2. Marek,

    Thank you so very much!!! I heard about this pub about a year ago, but until now, I wasn't able to find it. I even wrote an email to the brewery, which they didn't answer.
    Of course I will check it out, Bon makes some pretty fine beers.
    Thanks a lot!

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  3. Oh, that's a good place, Max — I met Tomáš M. and Karel from SPP there one night last fall.

    Bon certainly makes some great beers, though I think the Krokodýl only serves the světlá dvanáctka. Have they dumped the Gambrinus and Pilsner Urquell yet?

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  4. If their webpage is anything to go by, then I don't think they've dumped gambáč. And I don't think they ever will, its a football place and gambáč is a football beer.
    Still, I will check it out, soon

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  5. Damn, I didn't even know that they had Hermoš there. I just went for the tea and the atmosphere. My wife knew about them from when she lived in Prague and I have to agree with her that they're pretty damned cool and relaxing spots, devoid of touristic waves.

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