Some evenings call for a bit of intimacy. A couple cocktails, followed by a nice dinner in a secluded spot where you aren´t likely to run into any of the gang. Zinc, Hilton Prague Old Town´s replacement bar and restaurant for Gordon Ramsey´s Maze, is just the place.
Ramsey made a hasty Prague exit early in 2009. Hilton then had to do a quick turnaround; especially since as a hotel, they needed to have a restaurant for their guests. They brought back Ari Munander (he used to be chef at the Hilton Prague´s Café Bistro, before a stint at the Mandarin Oriental) and put together a concept their website calls “modern European cuisine with Asian flavors.” I´m not a marketing person, but that´s pretty close to how I´d describe it: A European base with Asian spices. The term “fusion” has kind of fallen out of favor recently, so I won´t insult the chef by calling his cuisine fusion. Besides, it seems to me to be a much more subtle blend.
A general overview of the menu sees mains of chicken, beef, lamb, duck and a variety of fish. Basic enough to start but then Munander (who is Indonesian) and his assistant, who hails from Thailand, reach into their spicy bag of tricks and slyly surprise. The salmon is “tandori marinated” while prawns are treated to an Asian pesto. The miso glazed sea bass has apparently been one of their best sellers, and my dining companion said the Asian Grill is excellent as well. Here, you choose your meat; chicken, lamb, etc. and it´s served with your choice of a variety of sauces such as wasabi butter or coriander béarnaise.
One of the complaints I´d heard about Maze was the coldness of the space. I´d toured the hotel when it first opened (it was previously a Renaissance) and had stuck my head into, but never ate in, Maze. It was a vast room with a bunch of tables. Not a lot of ambience or privacy, I´d thought at the time. But actually sitting and having a meal there is a completely different experience. We were in the middle of a not crowded dining room (maybe if it was full it would lose some of its intimacy) and while we could hear murmured conversation around us, and sense the presence of others, it wasn´t as impersonal as I would have thought. And of course, Hilton servers are perfect; the service was flawless. Dishes timed perfectly and the staff was cordial and accommodating but never hovering.
The overall look of both the restaurant and bar is art deco. The bar area is separated from the lobby by a unique “screen” of decorative brass bars. Unassuming forest green, grey and black is the color scheme while a mix of small and large tables gives both groups and couples a wide choice of seating options. Small corner lamps add to the coziness and warmth of the space. It´s surprisingly large for a hotel bar (the website says it seats 70) but it´s also easy to slip into a corner for a quiet drink.
The bar is primarily a cocktail one; but they have a nice wine list, including sherry and port plus a selection of spirits and liqueurs. Their signature cocktail is the Zinc and I tried it based on a recommendation; although it´s not one I would normally order, being a tequila girl myself. The Zinc Drink is rum based; with peppermint, apple and ginger flavorings. It looked vaguely mojito-like; a drink I´m not a fan of. But it was cool and refreshing and had this very neat tangy kick at the end; which I suppose was the ginger.
Questioning the bartender further, it seems there´s also maple syrup in there and the finishing touch is ginger cider. An interesting combination of tastes that work surprisingly well. You can also get food in the bar; I checked the menu and saw it offers a club sandwich, a couple burgers and a Caesar salad. Snacks have the restaurant´s Asian touch: Hoisin duck spring rolls and chicken satay are two examples.
As the days start to shorten, and restaurants bring their tables in from outside; Zinc´s dimly lit and cozy spaces are perfect for an uncomplicated and tranquil evening for two. The prices are surprisingly un-hotel like; and the quality and service make everything worth it. Next time you are looking for a secret rendezvous; head to the serene sanctuary of Zinc.