Another upmarket café has opened its doors in Vinohrady. My initial reaction to this news is a big fat yawn. It’s not as though the area has a shortage of places to go for a caffeine fix in trendy surroundings. Does Monolok, the new kid on the coffee shop block, have anything different to offer?
Well, there are some rather strange metal sculptures on the wall which look like giant squiggles made from tin foil. “What are they doing here?” I ask the waitress. She shrugs her shoulders. “The owners are architects,” she tells me, as though that explained everything.
They aren’t what I notice when I walk through the door. Light, bright, and white are the words which come to mind. The interior manages to look modern without resembling a soulless airport lounge. Both of the rooms upstairs look inviting with their mixture of squashy sofas and wooden chairs; there’s a basement space, too, with plenty more seating. So far, so promising.
What’s really crucial to the success or failure of any kavárna though is the quality of what’s on the menu. The cappuccino I had (45 CZK), proffered on a small oval tray with an accompanying shot of sparkling water, was very good. As it was a Sunday morning I decided to treat myself to some lívance with crème fraiche and maple syrup (85 CZK). I feel it’s my duty to point out that Monolok offers healthier breakfast options but to hell with those – it’s the weekend! When the pancakes arrived, I was a little disappointed: while the nouveau cuisine presentation may have looked chic, the portion size was a bit small. At least they had been freshly prepared, as I discovered when I scalded my mouth on the first mouthful – and you couldn’t fault them tastewise, either.
Once my brunchtime treat had been polished off, I decided to test another hot beverage: the překapávaná káva (65 CZK), a drip cone coffee which comes in a little glass jug with a large expresso cup. Perhaps I’m missing the point, but it seemed a bit watery. As if he were able to read my mind, the waiter raced over with a sample of the beans from which the drink had been made: “Doubleshot” Nicaragua, apparently. He waved the open paper bag under my nose and encouraged me to inhale the aroma while enthusing about the quality of the brand. It’s possible all this attentive customer service isn’t standard, as it’s possible I blew my cover by scribbling frantically in my notebook throughout my visit. However, the staff did seem generally friendly: no-one seemed to mind, for example, when I flicked through the books which were clearly meant for decoration.
I also ordered a slice of kolibřík (55 CZK) – pineapple, coconut and banana cake – to take away. I can‘t give you my professional opinion on this dessert as my boyfriend scoffed it without offering me so much as a mouthful. He asked me to inform you all that “it tasted homemade” and that it was “creamy but not too creamy”. So now you know.
Monolok might not offer anything radically new – apart from those strange sculptures – but it does what it does well. I’ll certainly go back next time I’m in the neighbourhood – yes, that’s right, there is at least one expat left who doesn’t live in Vinohrady.
Address: Moravská 18, Praha 2 – Vinohrady
Tram stop: Jana Masaryka, Šumavská
Brand of coffee: Doubleshot
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