Four days in Prague

Prague: a city known for its architecture, history, gastronomy and magnetism for British stag dos. The latter being, oddly, the reason I came to this city second time round (the first I was interrailing aged 20 with my best friend – enough said.)

No, I wasn’t on a stag do, the boy was – and since flights were insanely cheap he suggested I join him after the lads had returned (and his broken body remained in a state of beer-induced disrepair.)

So, in negligence of the fact we’re meant to be saving, my inner travelista remains a force to be reckoned with. And off to Praha I flew last Sunday.

I’m not so much of a rigid plan-maker when I go to new cities, I prefer to mostly just wander and see what I can find, though there were some particular sights and activities we were recommended. So I give you a list of highlights from 4 days in the Czech capital…

Charles Bridge

Yes it’s an obvious one, but missing this out on a trip to Prague would be pretty sacrilegious. The bridge itself provides a glimpse into medieval Prague (pre-cartoonists and postcard vendors, obv) and there’s nothing like a bit of history on your holidays to make you feel cultured.

It connects Prague’s old and new towns and is just a lovely space to wander around. Leading onto the Old Town’s gorgeous old cobbled  streets, which are lined with old beer houses, squares and medieval buildings, the piece de resistance is the multitude of bakeries selling Trdelniks – or ‘Chimney Cakes’.

Oh god the Chimney cakes.

Round pastries coated in butter, rolled with cinnamon sugar and almond and filled with nutella, jam, ice cream or fruit, trdelniks are everywhere in Prague and were the sweet lining to my hol.

 

Hemingway Bar

If you want to feel like Daisy Buchanan for the night, this is ya place. I’m a total sucker for anything novelty/vintage/retro – anything that reflects a different time period, basically.

So when I heard about this little speakeasy tucked among the cobbled streets of the Old Town near the river Vltava, I took little persuading to go in and sample a cocktail or two.

Entering through a thick, velvet curtain, you’re led into a small, candlelit bar. There’s classical music playing and the waiters wear bow ties. The cocktail list is immense, and the drinks are served in a variety of oddball container. I had the “Magic Moment” cocktail of Beefeater gin, mallow and nettle cordial.

“Part of the magic is made by you” the bartender told me (flirt), before presenting me with an odd looking little potion bottle with 2 different openings. You mix the gin and then the cordial and the drink changes colour, which provides a lot of excitement for a simple gal like me – especially after a couple of wines already. It also tasted pretty dang delicious. I could’ve inhaled any of the cocktails on their list – peruse it for yourself here.

Oh and just in case you require any further persuasion, Hemingway Bar has been listed as one of the top 50 best bars in the world. In short, you gots to go.

 

Cafe Imperial

We heard about this art deco place through my dear old dad as a jazzy little spot for lunch or dinner so we thought we’d check it out. With over a century’s history behind it as one of Prague’s best-loved restaurants, I knew we’d be in for a bit of a treat.

I didn’t get any photos of the inside (one food pic on my phone was already pushing the bf’s limits), but the ornate ceiling, golden intricacies of detail and bow-tied waiters (do I have an underlying fetish for this?) made for a very luxurious restaurant experience.

I had a “US Hanger” steak – nope, not entirely sure what it is either, but I can tell you it was unbelievable! Good house red wine too.

 

Lennon wall

Who knew the Czechs held such an affinity with the Beatles’ bespectacled lead singer?  On the other side of the Charles bridge, into the Old Town, there’s a whole graffitied wall which serves both as a shrine to JL and a canvas for the city’s enthusiastic spray-painters.

Random to us, yes, but apparently after his death, the music icon became a pacifist hero for oppressed young Czechs living under communist rule.

It’s a mish-mash of JL imagery and the words he stood for – peace, love… also now ‘beer’, which you can see emblazoned on his forehead – but the common theme that belies it all is one of inspiration and political freedom. It’s a pretty cool place to visit.

It’s also really close to the Trdelnik street I mentioned earlier.

Just saying.

Lokál Dlouhááá

Want to be where the [Czech] people are? Then this is ya boy.

A friend of ours who lived in Prague for 6 months told us about this place and it was just as she described – lively, full of young locals and with a gigantic list of different craft and local beers and wines, I felt like this one one of our more ‘authentic’ Prague experiences.

We got probably the most lethal “Grog” I’d ever tasted – as in, probably could’ve got drunk from the fumes alone – and a pint of raspberry beer which was (dangerously) tasty. There’s an array of local food as well, i.e., potato dumplings and sausages, but we were content with our novelty bevvies.

Great little spot for day or night drinking (I don’t discriminate), and probably your best bet to sample some of what the Prague locals eat and drink.

Beer spa

So it seems the Czechs love beer so much they bathe in it. After a heavy night but with a determined “when in…” attitude, we marched to the nearest available spa. Mainly for the lols, if I’m honest.

And lols it did bring.

We were led into our own private spa room with two deep, wooden baths at one end. These were filled with hot water and a mixture of malt and hops. In the corner there was a little fire and a “traditional hay bed” (no we didn’t really know what that was about either).

When our host eventually left and we had recovered from our laughing fits, climbing into a bubbly bath of beer with access to an unlimited beer tap next to you proved to be one hell of a way to spend an afternoon.

And yes we eyed each other cynically when the host started talking about the benefits of malt and hops on your skin, but I gotta say we were softer than a couple of peachy baby bums after that sesh. With the added benefit of finely sculpted abs from laughing for an hour straight….

 

It’s a city I’ve now experienced in both summer and winter and both times it’s been equally as beautiful – and very good fun. If you visit, there’s no other way for me than an air bnb – we got this beauty for £23 a night. Praha, I’ll be back again some day.

 

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Have you tried? Hemma’s new menu

Back in August, myself and fellow blogging comrade KK (whose photos I have appropriated for this blog post, FYI) were invited to try Hemma’s brunch menu for the first time. I’m sure you all remember me waxing lyrical about the unforgettable Eggs Brando, and if you don’t, here’s a reminder – IT IS EXCELLENT (no I won’t make that tired old pun. So don’t tempt me. Ok fine. IT WAS EGGCELLENT) and you must try it.

So when we were invited back to sample the restaurant’s new additions to the menu, we quite literally ran into the place. Joining fellow bloggers Leanne, i.e., L’appetite foodie and the girls from Edinburgh Food Club, we sat down to an array of foodstuffs I can only describe as positively saliva-inducing.

First off, we had a couple of sharing plates. The first was a simple but tasty mini bread tower with mixed olives, red pepper pate and pea and avocado smash.

The other sharing plate had fishcakes, mushrooms on toast and terrine (which I didn’t try as I have an inexplicable mental block about it and can’t eat it, but it seemed to be pretty popular!). Lastly there were molten wedges of deep-fried brie, served with cranberry sauce.

Yes, it was as good as it sounds. I have in fact been returning to that brie in my dreams for many nights since. Joking, joking. Okay maybe like once or twice.

So although Hemma does a great range of healthy foods, including salads and vegan/gluten-free dishes, I of course chose a less healthy but more glorious Croque Madame. I am obsessed with these things. Especially when they’re done well – and I’m pleased to report back that Hemma has indeed ticked that box.

In case you’ve been living under a rock until now, a Croque Madame is the piece de resistance (imo) of traditional French bar cuisine, and is basically a ham and cheese sandwich covered in bechamel sauce and crowned with a fried egg. It can also be referred to as the Meal of Hungover Dreams.

I mean just look at it.

KK went for the avocado, pea and mint smash on brown bread with crumbled feta on top. It may be more photogenic than mine but I think the two performed pretty equally in terms of taste and textures. (Getting a bit giddy poring over these photos again…)

I imagine at this point in the post you’re starting to worry we won’t have room for dessert. Well let me allay those fears, dear reader.

Champs that we are, we fitted in an array of delicious sweet treats, including vegan chocolate brownie (yum), carrot cake (yummier) baked vanilla cheesecake (ooooft, so good) and a new one for me – “Kladdkaka”, a Swedish cake whose name translates to English as “sticky cake”. It’s made with chocolate and served with caramel sauce. So of course it got a 10/10 from me.

Finally, we were treated to one of Hemma’s new range of winter cocktails. I can’t remember the name of ours, but basically it was (heroically) modelled on the taste of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. We expected it to be really rich and creamy but when it arrived it was transparent and tasted absolutely gorgeous. The fact it wasn’t really heavy was potentially dangerous, as I could’ve quite happily sunk half a dozen of those bad boys.

Thanks, Hemma, for another beautiful meal, and the welcome opportunity to escape a few hours of the day in your cosy, homey, delicious surroundings.

If you haven’t checked them out yet you are, quite frankly, mad.

We will be back v.soon….

Skål!

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Just the tonic: Lunch with Leith Gin

Edinburgh’s rich history of distillation, trade, and pursuit of good times has for centuries provided fertile ground for spirit manufacturers and consumers. Leith’s edgy vibe is an increasing magnetism for modern entrepreneurs, and the area’s food and drink industry is continuing to thrive.

Taking into account my fondness for gin-drinking, good times, and of course Leith, I jumped at a recent invitation to the launch of Gleann Mór Spirits’ Leith Gin at Malmaison. The spirit (both inside my glass and outside of it) did not disappoint – and I decided to meet up with co-founder Karin Mair to find out more about the whats, hows and whys behind her new venture. View Post

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Feastin’ in Leith

Until relatively recently, Leith remained captive in its own reputational shackles. Considered locally as the “dock” area of Edinburgh, home to vagabonds and society’s other undesirables, the success of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting globally epitomised the area as an axis of poverty, substance abuse, crime and neglect.

It certainly wasn’t somewhere the genteel residents of wider Edinburgh would have considered for date night.

And yet.

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Review: The Salvation of Leith

With a prime spot on the shore, a (potentially) sun-drenched beer terrace and highly Instagrammable outdoor seating, The Salvation certainly has an aesthetic that commands attention. I’m invited along for a spot of feeding and watering to see if its dishes match up to its design. View Post

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