The arrival of sunny weather means that my perfect café must tick one crucial box: there has to be a decent outside space where I can linger and catch some rays. Last year I put together a round-up of Prague’s best summer cafes but there’s been a noteworthy new arrival since then: Café Neustadt.
It’s a blisteringly hot Tuesday afternoon in May when I decide to go to Neustadt on an Expats.cz review reconnaissance mission. Although I’ve dropped by before, it’s the first time I’ve seen the courtyard being used to full advantage. As well as the seating area right by the café’s entrance there are now also deckchairs lining the walls of the space with repurposed tree trunks as tables. Given that the place is run by Ondřej Kobza, urban activist, indie café entrepreneur, and organizer of Prague’s street piano scheme, there are plenty of hipster types. However, I also spot a pair of white-haired ladies enjoying a glass of wine in the sunshine – and on a day this gorgeous who can blame them?
The New Town Hall’s courtyard used to be lifeless. It was characteristically perceptive of Kobza to spot this missed opportunity and revitalize it: a quick scan of Neustadt’s Facebook page confirms that there are no shortage of concerts and events being organized here these days. Mamacoffee, which is just across the street, might be excellent but it can’t compete with newcomer Neustadt in the outdoor location stakes.
As the tables in the shade of the marquee have all been taken – delicate English roses tend to turn lobster-red in strong sunshine – I decide to sit inside. Unsurprisingly given the super cool target clientele, the décor is shabby chic: lots of scuffed tables, scruffy sofas, and mismatched chairs which look like they’ve been rescued from a skip. So far, so obvious. Making the building’s austere interior look cosy is a tough call and I’m not convinced that Kobza has succeeded. That said, the overall effect is not so offputting that it would stop me from coming here – and the fact that the interior is non-smoking is certainly a plus.
I order a cappuccino (47 CZK): it’s a blend called Has Been – geddit? Yep, hilarious. I also order a slice of the lemon bábovka (29 CZK). The cake comes with a fork but does not yield to it thanks to a thick crust of sugar. A friend had positively raved about the quality of the desserts here so I can’t help feeling disappointed. When I pick up the huge slice and take a bite, it’s not quite as hard and dry as I’d feared. At least its homemade and contains lots of poppy seeds: perhaps they’ll count towards my five-a-day? On the more positive side, the cappuccino seems bigger than the last time I came (although not huge) and tastes good, too.
There’s a decent selection of hot and cold beverages on offer on the blackboard menu above the counter: Club Mate (the hipster’s drink of choice), homemade lemonade, draught beer (Chotěboř), and wine. As for food, you can opt for light refreshments such as a bowl of soup, a slice of quiche or, for the vegans out there, a plate of bread and houmous. Once I’ve finished my coffee, I decide to cool down with some homemade lemonade (39 CZK). It consists of ample fresh mint, lots of ice, and fizzy water with brown sugar. There seems to be a worrying amount of said sugar at the bottom of the glass but fortunately when I take a sip through my straw it isn’t too sickly. However, despite all those mint leaves, somehow this drink lacks flavour.
I then remember that the cake my friend had raved about was the chocolate coffee brownie (45 CZK) so in the interests of research, I order a second dessert. Sadly it was also rather hard and seemed bland: I didn’t even bother to finish it.
Once I’ve finished scribbling notes in my Moleskine (it was a birthday gift so don’t judge me), it’s time to settle up. After some frantic scrabbling around in my bag, I realize that I’ve left my wallet at home. I put on my best apologetic face and approach the waiter to explain. To my surprise, he doesn’t explode with rage – or even demand that I hand over my phone or ID as collateral – when I offer to go home and return with some cash in an hour. I should also add that the service overall was friendly and prompt.
So the final verdict? Overall Café Neustadt gets a tentative thumbs up from me. Thanks to the large historic courtyard, it’s a great place to soak up some rays in summer and you won’t feel too out of place if your clothes aren’t vintage and your laptop isn’t an iBook. Despite the somewhat dodgy desserts, I’m grateful to Ondřej Kobza for giving me another decent spot to sit in the sunshine when I’m in the centre of town.
Karlovo náměstí 1/23, Prague 2
Brand of coffee: Various blends
Serves food: Yes
Open hours: Mon-Fri 8am–midnight; Sat 10am–midnight; Sun 12–midnight
What’s your favorite summer garden cafe?
View Prague Café Series in a larger map