"Knedliky Etc" has recently relauched as "Dobrou Chut'!"

You should be automatically redirected in a second or two. If not, please go to
and update your bookmarks.

Hopefully see you there!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gallery Hunger

Yesterday I was invited to a Bacalhau al Forno (Portuguese Cod Fish) evening held at Gallery Hunger, organized in collaboration with my Porto friend and fellow foodie Mr Meatballs, and let me start off this entry by saying that I really did have a damn good time there.

But it definitely didn’t start out that way.

Not having ever been or even actually heard of Gallery Hunger before, I duly noted the street name (but – more fool me – not the house number) and set forth in search of the place – only to end up walking up and down an annoying hilly U Rajské zahrady about half a dozen times in increasing frustration at the apparent absence of any establishment of this name on the whole bloody street.

Fast-forward twenty minutes and I was on the verge of giving up and going home, but fortunately at that moment I bumped into friend and colleague Mr Smooth, a Portuguese fellow attendee, who pointed out a doorbell marked “Hunger” on a decidedly residential building that I’d passed by unawares what felt at least one hundred times already by this point. I was skeptical, but Mr Smooth persuaded me to brave the four flights of stairs to finally, at long last find this hitherto frustratingly elusive place.

Had I kept up with the Prague Post, I would have known that Gallery Hunger is supposedly a forerunner of a burgeoning “underground” dining movement (which to me makes it sound like some kind a culinary terrorist cell), a “conceptual space” used for various art exhibitions, themed cookery nights, and as of next week apparently also dance classes as well.

The blurb on the website reads:

The decision to name the space Gallery Hunger, was born out of the original conceptual model of a hunger to create, a hunger to redefine, and a hunger for meaning. Hunger has been and will continue to be a driving force in each and every one of our lives. It has fuelled revolutions, achievements, atrocities, and the best and worst in us all. We all know it, we are all subservient to it. We can never overcome it; only hope to temporarily pacify it.

But just how Camus triumphed the hopeless Sisyphus walking heroically down towards his stone, Gallery Hunger pushes on towards its own. Posing as both, gallery of art and private dining experience, the space, or the concept, could be considered itself moribund. And that truly is the crux of this endeavor.

We are a gallery, we are a home, we are a dining experience, we are a space. Over the course of the gallery’s existence we seek to manipulate that space as a means to our own search for meaning.”

In Knedlikova plain-speak, this basically means that Gallery Hunger is basically a flat (albeit a lovingly renovated one with a truly enviable view) where owner / visionary / chef Michael Corkery hosts cooking nights and occasionally puts pictures up on the walls.

Which I do not mean as a criticism, by the way. Essentially Michael has basically managed to build up a growing community of fellow foodies / art lovers (the Gallery Facebook page is attracting quite a following) based on the simple concept that sharing good food and company need not be expensive or limited to traditional established eateries. The vibe there is basically one of informal dinner party made up of friends and random friends of friends, and I genuinely ended up having a blast once I'd gotten over my initial strop and downed my first glass of duly delicious Portuguese white wine.

I’d literally not eaten all day, so it was with a sense of silent despair that I found the friendly and apparently self-taught chef Michael was still in the potato peeling stage of the cooking when I arrived (quite late on I thought), and so an equally as famished Girl in Czechland and I sensibly hit the nibbles on the table to stop the wine going straight to our heads in the meantime and making drunken fools of us both before the evening had barely begun.

These consisted of a tray of Portuguese ham and melon and another of strong cheese (I forgot to ask the name - sorry). Hunger being the best of cooks, we both found these very tasty, though the big chunks of almost gammon-like ham definitely required some serious mastication to get through. Either way, with about twenty odd people in attendance, the appetizers definitely didn’t go very far or last very long – Girl in Czechland pondered if this was perhaps the real reason that the place was called Gallery "Hunger"… To be fair, I think rather more people had turned up on the night than originally anticipated.

As for the main course, this was of course to be Bacalhau al Forno, a traditional Portuguese dish (also popular at Christmas, apparently), made up of layers dried and salted codfish, onions and potatoes and topped with garlic (in this case pre-roasted), parsley and copious amounts of olive oil.

This is it in its various stages of production:

And here the finished article:

It looks a small portion, but in another ten minutes or so another two dishes came out of the kitchen, so we could all help ourselves to seconds (though I have to say, I suspect both Michael and Mr Meatballs valiantly went short on the food front for the sake of filling up their hungry guests).

I’d not ever had bacalhau before, so obviously can’t really compare, but as a whole I found the meal very tasty – the oil used was also locally sourced from Portugal, which was just as well given it is apparently supposed to be a dish heavily dependent on quality olive oil. On the other hand, it was also very salty – a fellow Portuguese diner commented that the cod should have had another 24 hours to soak beforehand on top of the day it had already had. And a second minor niggle – Michael was all out of black pepper, which I thought would have topped off this meal perfectly.

But in all honesty, the evening wasn’t so much about the food as it was the experience – trying something different, getting to know new people over a bottle of wine and a nice meal, sitting round the table together and just having a genuinely nice time with open, interesting people from all around the world.

Was it worth the 199kč I paid for the evening? (This included all food and two glasses of Portuguese red, white or rosé – after that subsequent bottles could be purchased for around 150kč each). I am going to go with a qualified yes here, based on the fact that (though I spent quite a lot of the evening seriously hungry) I did end up having a truly brilliant night.

Would I go back again, now that I finally know where it actually is? Putting aside all conceptual blarb on the site, I do genuinely think Michael is really onto something here – I like his idea of unusual themed nights (all-you-can eat sushi and chocolate evenings counting among previously hosted events) or the free “pot luck” Tuesdays whereby everyone brings a random ingredient and a bottle of wine and just sees where the evening takes them.

That said, whether I do actually end up making a return visit or not really all depends on whether I am welcome back or not by Michael himself after this review… ;-))

1 comment:

  1. There are many recipes that used cod fish so i propose just a minor correction, the dish name is "Bacalhau assado no forno" (Oven-baked codfish), "al" is an italian word ;)

    For the ones curious to know how to cook it, a recipe can be found in the link bellow (scroll down in the website to see the recipe): http://www.malhatlantica.pt/teresadeca/ticarnival2002/cod-recipe.htm