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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

La Crêperie

Following on from our recent visit to newly opened French restaurant La Gare, the next morning Mr K and I decided to go for brunch at La Crêperie, a French-run café in Holešovice with a focus on savoury galettes and sweet crêpes. I used to come here quite often when I first moved to the neighbourhood, but somewhere along the line eventually got pancaked out, and gradually my visits tailed off altogether over a year ago.

The place had changed a lot since my last visit, with my personal favourite corner now being converted into a kiddies play area, and the old bar giving way to a new deli counter with a series of tasty looking olives, sausages, quiches, tarts and cakes all on display. I couldn’t swear to it, but I think they’d also given the place a paint job to lighten the place up (being a basement restaurant, it doesn’t get a lot of natural light). I personally liked the old dark and moody, child-unfriendly vibe better.

Mr K went for a ham, cheese and mushroom galette at 100kč.

Note no mushroom.

Being personally rather fooded out after visits to the Prague Food Festival and La Gare on two consecutive days, I plumped for a green salad with egg (99kč).

Note lack of egg.

The missing ingredients were rushed out a few minutes later on a separate plate.

An obvious 0/10 for presentation here.

Both of us were really disappointed with our food. To be fair on the galette, Mr K had been expecting a lighter, more crêpe-like dish rather than the dense buckwheat base he was presented with. My fault for not informing him earlier that this was how savoury galettes (as opposed to the sweet crêpes) here were supposed to be served. I had a bite and found it nice enough, though it needed more salt and pepper. That said, I was sorry to see they’d filled the customary mini-crêpe basket on the corner with cooked buckwheat rather than the piquant red cabbage (or was it beetroot? – either way, it was more aesthetically pleasing) I remembered.

My salad, however, was just all all wrong. In fact the photo makes it actually look better and brighter than it actually was, consisting as it did of just plain iceberg lettuce, under-ripe tomatoes, tired cucumber slices, and – most weirdly of all – slices of raw leek. I’d overlooked this particular ingredient on the menu when ordering, but even had I taken note, would have assumed the leek would be sautéed or something. As it was, I just put these chewy aberrations to the side. The stale brown packet bread on the side was likewise distinctly less than I would have expected for a place that prizes itself on its freshly baked cakes and quiches – a few slices of nice fresh French baguette would have been so much more appropriate here. In short, an absolute flop of a dish, with the one saving grace that they at least brought out balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side. Good job I hadn’t really been all that hungry then, I suppose.

And then there was the service. La Crêperie clearly seeks to emulate all things French, up to and including the surliness of your stereotypical Parisian waiter. The po-faced waitress on duty took ages to bring the menus and take our orders, only then to disappear completely when it was time to pay the bill, which on top of the poor food really served to sour our opinion of La Crêperie as a whole.

Ah well, at least the coffee was good.

Still, I don’t like to base a bad review on an isolated visit (especially when I remember it as better in the past), so in the week I headed back in the evening for a solo follow-up.

I was really glad I’d given the place a second chance. This time round service was incomparably more friendly, personal and attentive, while with the lights dimmed, the place really seemed to recapture some of the cosy ambience of old. It being dinner rather than brunch time on this occasion, I opted for the baked galette with spinach puree topped with béchamel sauce and two kinds of cheese (110kč) with an additional filling of smoked ham (25kč). And it being after 6 o’ clock (the customary cut-off drinking time in the Knedliky household), a glass of wine was, needless to say, also in order – in this case a most passable vin de pays de Vaucluse at 42kč per 0,2l glass.

I really liked my baked galette, which I can only describe as a kind of pancake lasagna. Generously proportioned, amply filled and genuinely tasty (especially with the added smoky flavor of the ham), this was a million miles away from the paltry excuse for a salad they’d served up a couple of days before, and admittedly did go a long way towards redeeming La Crêperie in my (previously rather unforgiving) eyes. If I had to make one criticism, it would just be that the dish could perhaps have done with a more ample salad garnish than just a couple of slices of cucumber, but that is just my personal observation.

And as an aside, it wasn’t after all La Crêperie’s fault that the rather raucous family I had the misfortune to be seated next to inexplicably chose the new kiddy corner (rather than the perfectly good bathroom just a matter of meters away) to carry out a public nappy change on their accompanying spawn just inches from where other people (specifically, me) were eating. My friend and fellow blogger Prague Ginge ponders the differing concepts of boundaries between British and Czech cultures in more detail on her site, but surely I'm not so very unreasonable in assuming it should be a fairly universal concept to maintain a (preferably odour-resistant) partition between dinner and diapers – particularly in public dining establishments???? La Crêperie, please put up a sign or something…

Anyway, I digress. In summary, judging by other online reviews and the consistently high numbers of bums on seats at La Crêperie, I am evidently out-of-synch with Prague popular opinion in giving the place a distinctly less-than-glowing review. Perhaps I simply picked an off day or a non-representative dish on our initial visit, and admittedly the classic galettes (and judging by other people’s dessert plates, also the crêpes) are just as spot-on as ever. Stick to what they’re good at, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a tasty and inexpensive dish in laidback, atmospheric environs - just avoid the salad at any rate, and whatever you do, don’t sit next to kiddy’s corner…


  1. Oh my! Public nappy change goes far and beyond what I would have been able to tolerate whilst eating. Your stomach should be congratulated for holding on to (the rather yummy-looking) food. Bravo Knedlikova's stomach. Dogs in restaurant eating spacs are bad enough for me, let alone PlayDoh Factory babies.

  2. Maybe we need a separate post on kiddy corners. I sympathize with parents with small children who have not yet totally given up on eating out (and who really need child-friendly restaurants), but isn't there also counter obligation to keep the kids more or less in line. I used to really enjoy a meal at Rugantino, but now I just can't take the kids romping around, screaming, etc ... Maybe I'm turning into Scrooge ...

  3. The baby was relatively well behaved actually - it was the behavior of the parents I objected to in this case... ;-))