4 Oct 2013

The tale of the dodgy pint and the hidden gem


Going to new places, I love that. I love the excitement of walking through a door for the first time, always hoping to find the next great pub or café; or at least getting to know someone with an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, I don't have as much disposable time or income as I used to, and whatever I have I prefer to spend on the comfort of certainty rather than the adventure of the unknown. Work, however, sometimes takes me to uncharted territories, or rather, territories that haven't been charted for a long time, an opportunity I always embrace.

Last Wednesday I finished with a class near the park Klamovka, in Prague 5, and had more than 1 hour to kill before I had to go see a new client in Petřiny, great excuse to pay a visit to Zahradní Restaurace Klamovka.

It was one of those gorgeously sunny, early autumn days, but it was a bit too chilly to sit outside in the shade; a pity, as Klamovka has one of the nicest beer gardens in town. I would have to drink inside.

Whenever I go to a new place, I prefer to sit at the bar, or at least somewhere where I will have a good view of it, so I can see what the tapster does with the beers. It wasn't possible here, though. The taproom is tiny and right next to the kitchen. I didn't want to end up smelling like an old Chicken McNugget that's been through a traumatic experience. I went to the main room. It was large, spacious, kind of nondescript, but comfortable (and empty). The only company was the TV's set on a music channel (fortunately, not MTV).

The waitress came as soon as my ass had settled. I ordered a Pilsner Urquell, which was brought very quickly, and it turned out to be one of the most awful pints of Gambrinus I had in a long time. Perhaps I should've complained, but I couldn't be arsed. I soldiered on the beer with stoicism, paid and left.

It was frustrating. It could have been nice to sit there for a couple of lazy pints while I read my book (Ah! Slowly sipping a beer while reading a good book in a quiet pub, one of life's greatest little pleasures), but that abomination in a glass would not allow it. Now I still had plenty of time to kill and nowhere to kill it, and I didn't expect Petřiny to offer any worthwhile place. I used to have a client there, and I remembered that the options were pretty dire, a couple of pizzerias and an uninviting, smoky Gambrinus dive. I considered finding a sunny spot to sit and read in the park, but decided to take the 191 instead, perhaps I could do some little walking about in that neighbourhood.

Of course, this is not where the story ends.

In my years as a wandering pisshead I must have developed a special instinct. You know, the one that, when about to cross a street, makes me look around for something other than approaching cars; the one that sometimes makes turn round a corner when I could keep on walking straight on; the one that the other day made me get off the bus two stops earlier at Koleje Větrník.

The Czech word “Kolej” has several meanings, one of them is “students dorm”, and student dorms often come equipped with watering holes, this one was among those. I crossed the car park, turned right on Na Větrníku and saw a sign directing me to Kavárna do Větru.

I can't say it was love at first sight. The café is located in one of those buildings in the drab, depressing architectural style the Communists so favoured, with ugly bars on the windows. A sign of Únětické Pivo below one of those windows was enough to make me want to see what was inside, though, it always is. An unassumingly cute girl with a friendly smile greeted me at the door and encouraged me to go in. Not that I needed much encouragement.

Inside, do Větru turned out to be very nice. It's one of those cafés of the new breed I mentioned the other day. It's non-smoking and divided basically into two rooms (with a third one on the works) and has a little garden in the back. It's very nicely furnished, with a human touch and not a marketing committee's. Very welcoming, the sort of place where you can catch your breath from the daily rat race.

I followed this girl, sat at the bar and I was soon chatting with her. She told me the place had opened almost a year ago. The beer was OK. I had desítka, filtered, it tasted fresh and was reasonably well done (just one thing, though, valid for everyone who taps beer, rinse the glasses in cold water, it does make a difference). I stayed for two pints, would have loved to stay for more, but duty called. No worries, I'll be going back, that's for sure.

It's funny how things turn out sometimes. Without that dodgy pint in Klamovka, I would have happily stayed in that average pub, the sort of which are a dime a dozen. Without that dodgy pint, I wouldn't have found that hidden gem. I guess I should be grateful for it.

Na Zdraví!

Zahradní Restaurace Klamovka
50°4'17.342"N, 14°22'39.447"E
Klamovka 2051 – Prague 5
provozni@zahradnirestaurace.cz - +420 602 141 014
Mon-Sun: 11-24

Kavárna do Větru
50°5'16.994"N, 14°21'9.787"E
Za Zahradou 5 – Prague 6
+420 777 965 972
Mon-Sat: 15-01, Sun: 15-24

2 comments:

  1. "Ah! Slowly sipping a beer while reading a good book in a quiet pub, one of life's greatest little pleasures." Bless you! I have taken so much crap for reading in bars in America. I hope that folks in Europe are more enlightened.

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  2. +1 for your account of Klamovka. I was there in the summer and neither the food nor the beer impressed me much.

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