LAb Space is a new bar/cafe/bistro at Náplavka. Slated for opening in October 2019 but postponed until recently, LasSaboritas stopped by on May 25 to see what the buzz is about.
The stunning location
Development plans to turn this area into a lively commercial zone are reminiscent of London’s Deptford Market Yard or Berlin’s Hackescher Markt. LAb Space is one of nearly 20 dungeons on Rašínovo and Hořejší nábřeži. These arched bunkers represent a unique historical feature and fantastic commercial opportunity for the city of Prague.
The entrance to LAb Space is striking, with a giant glass portal-door opening onto impressive views of the walkway and river. There is no sign announcing LAb Space, but a small grouping of tables and chairs suggests a venue open for business.
Customers have a portrait view of the west bank of the Vltava. Swans gather and rowers skim along the waterway under an open sky. It’s an ideal location for people watching.
We arrived slightly before the 2 p.m. opening time and were asked to have a seat outside “in the garden”. There was no paper menu offered, so we ordered a V60 filtered coffee and an iced coffee with milk and sugar.
The zero-waste concept
On social media, LAb states in Czech, “We cooperate with local suppliers, we use seasonal raw materials, we minimize waste, we apply the principles of circular operation, we prefer recycling and up-cycling. We are looking for the concept of sustainability in gastronomy and in everyday life. We are a platform for discussion on sustainable development across social spheres. We are not indifferent to the environment in which we live.”
The concept is clear on paper but the execution is unclear. When contacted about specific zero waste measures, we didn’t get a response. When asked in person about zero waste measures, a staffer offered that they re-use dishwater to feed plants. There were no plants. There is nothing in sight that says “zero waste” beyond the promotional copy. There are also no umbrellas, awnings, or blinds. We thought to ourselves that summertime will be hot and moved inside as it started to rain.
The ambiance of the cafe is sterile concrete minimalism. There is no art on the walls, no greenery, and nothing soft about the decor. A black bar is the focal point of the indoor space, rising to chest level with glass beer mugs stacked two-deep and a blank wall beyond. Minimal storage reveals the visual clutter of cleaning supplies and overloaded electrical outlets. We did not see a restroom on the premises.
The affordable coffee
With three out of five tables occupied, space inside is tight. The hand-written chalkboard menu sat on the floor against a wall, listing the beverage-heavy offerings: beer, coffee, mixed drinks, one chléb and one kolač.
The Candycane brand coffee was fine. The individual filter had smooth flavor and fruit/berry notes. It was slightly watery but sippable black. For 60 Kč it might be the most affordable V60 in town. The iced coffee with milk and sugar was refreshing and tasty for 65 Kč.
As we sat, the staff did light construction in the corner. As an apology, or perhaps generosity, we were given a free piece of cake to share. The top half was tasty with cream cheese frosting, nutmeg, and citrus zest. The bottom half with a dense poppy seed base which we didn’t enjoy.
On our scale of 1 – 5 chili pepper emojis, we rate LAb Space 🌶🌶.
LAb Space appeared unprepared for customers on Prague’s first full day of indoor dining post-lockdown. The staff seemed distracted, the concept is unclear, and the interior feels unfinished.
We can envision this place as a minimalist nighttime lounge, but as a cafe, it is not distinctive enough. In November of 2019 LAb shared a video on Facebook of architect-designer Petr Janda’s mock-up for a chic floating pool on Prague’s riverfront. It’s possible the ultimate vision for LAb is to be that cafe. Unfortunately, without the trendy swimming facility, it feels rather stark. There are more attractive locations to have a drink on Náplavka. Perhaps further development of the riverbank will make LAb feel like a better fit.
In the meantime, if you can forgo the finer details of hospitality while sipping a drink and enjoying an absolutely stunning Prague view, LAb might be worth a visit.
Rašínovo nábř., 128 00 Nové Město