19 Feb 2016

The Tram Beer Challenge (4): Strossmayerovo nám - Lipánska - Nákladové nádraží Žižkov

When I left U Divadla I was hoping fate will put me on the 17 to Trója, a part of town I've never explored, but I'm on the 26 instead, on my way to Lipánska. At least I know where I'll have my next beer: Lavička.

Though I've always liked the looks of this place from the outside, I've never walked in. Didn't even consider it for the 2nd Edition of the Pisshead's Pub Guide. Can't tell you why.

Inside looks pretty much like I was expecting it to look. It's a restaurant through-and-through, not a pub. It's clear by the decoration, and because the bar is almost hidden behind a fireplace; it's got nowhere to sit and the counter is quite cluttered, and if they didn't expect (or want?) people to perch there. In short words, a fine place to bring your spouse or long term partner, but not so much for a few beers with your mates.

Some of the lunch-time crowd are still in, and everyone is very lethargic, with the exception of the two mamínky and their offspring—very well behaved all four of them—and a bloke furiously tapping what seems to be a novella on his phone, while his meal gets cold under his nose. (at the risk of looking like a sad snob, this is clear proof of how little many people care about their food. I can't believe that people give a text message, or even a phone call, more importance than the food they've ordered and will pay for, but I guess different people have different priorities.)

The beer, Bernard Nefiltrovaná 12°, is in really good shape (better than I expected in fact, given that hardly anyone around me is drinking beer), I only wish they had served it in a chilled, wet glass as it's proper.

Lavička isn't quite my kind of establishment, but I reckon the missus could like it. I must keep it in mind, especially in summer, they seem to have a nice patio.

A drizzle is falling. The kind that is very pleasant to walk under, especially if you're in a city. But I can't indulge, I'm a man on a mission... Where have I heard that before? Never mind, I have a tram to catch. The 9 this time, to Nákladové nádraží Žižkov.

Well, I'm not precisely spoilt for choice here. A dodgy looking Staropramen bar, next to a Činské Bistro with Samson are by the stop. I guess I will have to go to U Kozla, in Basilejské nám.

No! Not yet. I'll go deeper into the side streets and see if I get lucky. If I don't, at least I will have had that walk in the rain I so much craved.

There were no pubs to be found (I'd like to have a word with whomever said Žižkov has the highest concentration of pubs in the... somewhere). But I don't mind, the walk was quite nice, and I'm in the right mood for a beer.

Now, this is a proper Czech hospoda. Taproom in the front—with a štamgast table—and dining room, subdivided, in the back. Everything is reassuringly old-fashioned. With the exception of some of the bottles displayed along the wood panelled walls (there's one of a buckwheat beer from Slovenia, never heard of that), I doubt the decoration has changed much in the last quarter century—that includes the ugly tablecloths and the mullet of the waiter that only takes food orders (there's another one for drinks). I only wish the windows weren't frosted, the weather is perfect to watch the world pass by while sipping a pint.

The clientèle is a pretty diverse bunch: men and women of different ages and walks of life; and, as far as I can see, nobody has their face glued to a screen, as if the pub's atmosphere has made them forget about the electronic masters they carry in pockets and purses. The waiter patiently reciting by heart the day's menu to a blind man adds to that neighbourly vibe that is making me feel so comfortable.

It's shame I can't praise the beer.

I don't realise there's something wrong with it until I've ordered the second pint, when I burped. Burps are an unappreciated tool to evaluate what I call the post-aftertaste of a beer. For instance, I love the burps of a clean aromatic IPA. In this case, though, the post-aftertaste evokes opening the door and walking into a deep, poorly ventilated cellar in an old building. Once I notice it, it becomes the olfactory incarnation of a distant, unidentified buzzing sound; it's impossible to ignore. I don't remember when was the last time I drank Kozel Světlý, but I doubt is the beer; something wrong with the dispensing lines is, I believe, the most likely cause, in which case getting a pint of any of the other beers on tap won't be wise. It's a pity, I was enjoying this place.

Time to go, I guess.

Na Zdraví!

Restaurace Lavička
50°5'3.961"N, 14°27'5.107"E
Seifertova 77 – Praha-Žižkov
+420 222 221 350 - zahradni@restaurace-lavicka.cz
Mon-Sun: 11-23

U Kozla
50°5'14.561"N, 14°28'10.942"E
Jana Želivského 4 – Praha-Žižkov
+420 222 580 405
Mon-Sun: 11-23

1 Feb 2016

The Tram Beer Challenge (3): Chotkový Sady - Hlavní Nádraží - Strossmayerovo nám.

I don't know why I bothered putting my jacket on, I must take it off before I get to the Chotkový sady tram stop; it's amazing how much the weather has changed!

A tram has just arrived at the stop. I could catch it. I start walking a bit faster, I even stretch my arm hoping the driver will see me and wait a little longer. He doesn't. The doors close almost in my face and the tram leaves. I'll have to wait for another one. Oh! Look. Here it is, even before I finish writing this sentence.

It's the 5 and my next destination is Hlavní Nádraží. The station is, of course, where I will have my next pint.

I walk past Potrefená Husa without even slowing my pace. For a—brief—moment I think of going upstairs, to Fantová Kávarna, which reopened last summer after several years and extensive renovations. Instead, I walk all the way to the far end of the hall, to Krušovická Šalanda.

Inside it's very chain-pubbish; unsurprisingly. But it somehow works in the environment of a train station, where patrons are transient by the most part. There is, however, a bit of an atmosphere, thanks in great part to the group of metalheads that have taken over smoking fish-tank. Most of them are drinking beer, but at a leisurely pace; unlike what the stereotype would have you expect.

We beery types often say that beer brings people together, and yet I doubt many in that group give more shits about what they are drinking than about the chairs they're sitting on. Is music that has brought them together. Music brings people together? Films? Food? German tranny porn? No, it's people that bring people together. We tend to gravitate towards people with similar interests because we know we'll have something safe and easy, and more interesting than the weather, to talk about. I believe most people feel uncomfortable if they don't have anything to say when they're in company, as if they were afraid of their own silence, or of being asked the question “are you OK?”. That is why, perhaps, you usually see groups of people walking into a pub, café or restaurant together, only to bury their faces in their phones as soon as their asses are on the chair.

Service is quick and friendly. The beer, on the other hand, is served too cold; suspiciously cold, though nothing seems to be wrong with it after it has caught some temperature by the end, and I get a second one just to make sure.

I'm kind of liking it here. There is a healthy buzz, besides the metalheads, and even the music, your typical pop-radio playlist comprised mostly of one-hit wonders from a couple of decades ago, doesn't bother me. Prices are also surprisingly within the reasonable. It's not the sort of place I would purposely come to, but it's good enough to be at the station a pint earlier next time I have to catch a train.

One thing I notice when I pay by card, and not for the first time: the waitress very quickly skips the screen prompting a tip before she shows me the terminal to put my card on, and leaves with a smile as soon as the transaction is authorised; and I don't think she was expecting me to leave money on the table, I spoke Czech to her all along. I wonder what those who got outraged with a comment I made about tips some years ago have to say about this.

There's 50% chance that I will end up at a stop with literally no pubs around, or at least none that are nearer another stop. That's not good, it's something I didn't take into account when I started this game and I wonder how many stops like that are there. But I'm lucky, I won't have to deal with that today: the 26 direction that will take me to Strossmayerovo nám. is arriving.

The trip is short, but with some on-board entertainment. The woman sitting in front of me is sharing with someone on the phone (and everyone else, apparently) the vicissitudes of a one-night stand, but after the fun bits were over and her squeeze fell asleep, taking most of the bed. I'm tempted to make a comment, but before I can ponder on the wisdom of it, I have to get off.

I scouted this area intensely when researching for the Pisshead's Pub Guide, which has left me with scant choice, if I'm to follow to the letter the self-imposed rules for this game. I stand for a bit and recall that pub around the corner. I guess that's where the next pint is waiting for me.

Oh! Not around this corner, it's around the other one, on Fárskeho; a small glitch in my mental GPS. And there it is, U Divadla.

It is a corner-pubbish as the previous was chain-pubbish. Very little thought was put on the decoration, or rather, nobody got paid a lot of money to convince a bunch of suits that this is the right shade of beige for the tables.

The last of the lunch crowd are cleaning their plates and emptying their glasses, but a part of the pub remains non-smoking. That's where I take a sit, at a spot with a good look to the bar.

I get Gambáč and the waiter/tapster doesn't seem to care that I'm not eating. The beer comes quickly and tastes fresh and very well tapped. That's all the attention I need to pay to it. Ah! The beauty of drinking a beer you know well, once it's been established that it's in good condition, you can devote yourself to something more stimulating like the company, in my case, Galilee. I'm reading the last pages and it quite improved once the story would focus more on the Barbarrosas and less on the Gearys. I had forgotten almost everything about the finish, which is open-ended (I remember Clive Barker talking about a second part in an interview, but I've never heard of it since), and I like it more because of that. Sometimes, it feels nice to have a few questions unanswered.

The waiter/tapster looks at me from the bar just when I put the empty mug on the table. He gives me a thumbs up and I nod. The non-verbal exchange results, of course, in a second mug being brought to replace the empty one, which will be followed by a third a while later. I decided I want to finish the book, and I also like it here. This is a good hospoda (as hospody with a štamgast table tend to be), one where I feel comfortable and that even in the early afternoon has a neighbourly atmosphere going. I must come back someday.

But the last page has been read, and the last pint has been emptied. It's time to go and see where DPP will take me now.

Na Zdraví!

Krušovická Šalanda
50°5'0.799"N, 14°26'3.023"E
Hlavní nádraží – Praha-Vinohrady
+420 774 439 430 – 157.salanda@autogrill.net
Mon-Sun from 7

U Divadla
50°5'58.975"N, 14°26'7.813"E
Pplk. Sochora 9 – Praha-Holešovice
+420 774 713 141 – udivadla@gmail.com
Mon-Fri: 10-23, Sat-Sun: 11-23