I had heard a few little birds saying things about this place, so as a diversion to the smaller, tucked-away bars we´ve previously reviewed, we decided to go to check out this unique drinking experience in the centre of Prague. As more and more self-service ‘pubs´ sprout up in Prague, from the Beer Factory on Václavské náměstí, to the chain of pubs inventively called The Pub, where you can pour your own beer, you could be forgiven for wanting something new, a new theme bar creating a talking point to smooth over those awkward silences.
So over at Václavské náměstí, just down from Beer Factory, we find Výtopna Restaurant. Upon walking in, you are given a taste of the theme inside with a model railway at the foot of the stairs. When you arrive at the top the top of the stairs, it doesn´t take long to be caught up in the atmosphere of the place. You are welcomed as you enter by the host and immediately asked if you have a reservation; arrived at 18:30, and already it would have been hard to just turn up and sit down without one. As it happened we were a bit late, but they were helpful, and after waiting just 5 minutes we were re-seated at a 10-seat table.
Looking around the place, you can see there is no ‘average´ clientele. Kids running along the overhead gangways, tables of tourists are excitedly chatting away, and couples can be found scattered around the restaurant, although this would definitely NOT be the place to have a first date or romantic dinner.
The menu is reasonable for drinks considering the location, with 39 CZK for a large Pilsner, and the other drinks sticking to an affordable price range.
So, what makes this place so special then? Well have you ever thought to yourself that getting your beer delivered by a waiter or barman is sooo 2010? Why not have it delivered by a small train that runs along a series of tracks spanning across the whole restaurant?
It sounds crazy, but this is exactly what makes Výtopna stand out from the crowd. Miniature trains are loaded up with your drinks and Thomas the Tank Engine´s Fat Controller (actually just one of the bar staff) then sends the drinks on their merry way to the tables. PLEASE NOTE: Two things we discovered that we, as the helpful people we are, will pass on to you: 1) When waiting for your drinks, don´t touch the railway line on your table – you will receive a small shock, and the train, if just arriving at your table, will be re-routed, most probably to other thirsty patrons, and 2) When your drinks do arrive be sure to grab them quickly and then load the train up with your empties. You have a limited time and you certainly don´t want to be waving goodbye to your freshly poured beer as it disappears down the track.
So why would you go to a place like this? If you are looking to go out with a big group – possibly with people you haven´t met before, where an ice breaker would come in handy – then this place is perfect for you. It gives you something instantly to talk about and gets people interacting immediately. Also, for families, this could be a perfect stop-off point during the daytime if you´re in the middle of the city. You can enjoy some food and drink, whilst the kids (and dad, probably) gawp open mouthed at the variety of trains rolling along over the 400 meters of track.
Location: Václavské náměstí, Prague 1
Atmosphere: Overall, fun and busy, but maybe too hectic for some
The crowd: Mixed ages, some children earlier in the evening
Price of large beer: 39 CZK
Size: 300 m2 (approx.)
Restroom/bathroom: Could be greatly improved. Hand towels on the floor and an unfinished look.
Service: Professional/ accommodating
Music: Train sound effects (actually, no music, just the background noise)
Overall, we all enjoyed our visit here. We had some issues with a mix up of drinks and delays in delivery, which because of the system, results in speaking to a barman and waiting while he sends another train to your table. That did send me a bit ‘loco´ (so, so sorry for that pun). But, saying that, we all enjoyed seeing a bunch of small trains delivering us lovely beers, that cannot be disputed and I challenge anyone not to be excited when a small Thomas the Tank Engine rolls up to your table carrying four golden Pilsners. So stoke up the fire, punch your tickets, and jump aboard the beer express for a busy, bustling pub with trains delivering your drinks. Who could ask for more?
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