Let’s be honest, Pankrác, despite being one of the city’s fastest evolving business districts, isn’t exactly brimming with great places to grab a meal. So when Pankrácký Rynek opened right next door to the Arkády Pankrác shopping center in May, this unique food market cum bistro seemed poised for instant success. Patrons can browse a small selection of boutique shops selling, among other things, fresh fish, wine, cheese, pastries, fruits and vegetables before sitting down for a bite to eat at the Perfect Bistro.
Its name may seem a little self-serving and unoriginal, but the bistro is clearly the star of the whole operation and a definite hit with the weekday lunch crowd who work in Prague’s so-called “little Manhattan.”
“Primarily, we want to focus on central European cuisine with elements inspired from other parts of Europe and the Mediterranean,” says celebrity chef Filip Sajler, who came up with the idea for Pankrácký Rynek.
The menu is indeed pretty extensive, ranging from traditional Prague ham (175 CZK) and grilled duck breast (245 CZK) to pork schnitzel with potato salad (165 CZK) and homemade spatzle with Norwegian salmon and cream (145 CZK). There’s even a Perfect Bistro burger (245 CZK).
Frankly, I was a bit surprised by the prices, which seemed more in line with what one could expect to find in the city center rather than an outer-borough venue with cafeteria-style seating in what is essentially a converted warehouse space. That said: I really liked the homemade spatzle. The schnitzel was also very good, with the chef removing all the fat before serving a generous portion – a rarity at many Prague restaurants these days.
Breakfast is also on offer between 8 am and 10:30 am, which in addition to various egg dishes, also includes a “sweet” option (sponge cake, pancakes and fruit) as well as a “fit and healthy” option (muesli, fruit, white farmer’s yogurt and apple juice). Both come with coffee, hot chocolate or tea and cost 145 CZK. The special “bistro breakfast” includes an omelette, bread and homemade jam for 175 CZK. That, too, also comes with apple juice, coffee, hot chocolate or tea.
While I am willing to forgive the pricey lunch and supper menus, breakfast at the Perfect Bistro seems shockingly steep for what basically boils down to some combination of bread, pancakes, fruit and an egg omelette.
The motto here is honest food – “all good things under one roof” – and the kitchen pulls a lot of its ingredients from the grocers surrounding the simple industrial chic dining area.
“We drew inspiration from the atmosphere of old French markets. In the venue, you can find a lot of small shops offering groceries straight from producers, lined up in one row just like shops in a typical Czech town square,” Sajler explains.
Sajler, a member of the Czech National Culinary Team and star of Czech TV’s “Kluci v akci” (“Guys in Action”), seems to be onto something here. His concept is undoubtedly interesting if not fully fleshed out. The potential is there. What’s missing, at least during the majority of my visits, is the infectious hustle-and-bustle of a well-loved neighborhood market space.
“Our target group are people who work in the nearby business centers,” says Sajler. “Pankrác is an ideal place with a long tradition of outdoor markets and sale of groceries. We had been looking for such a location for long, and we believe in its potential, because the access is just great. And the place itself has a history. It used to be an exclusive shop, the remnants of the Communist past.”
Despite its allure, Sajler may need to start marketing Pankrácký Rynek to a wider audience, as most customers seem to make a beeline for the bistro counter and largely ignore the market’s other enticing attractions, like the fresh swordfish, salmon, scallops and mussels at Blue Fjord.
The shelves at Chez Adele, meanwhile, are stocked with wines from small vineyards across Europe, which can be paired with a Dutch, French or Italian cheese, or perhaps even some Russian caviar, from Boutique Gurmán.
Fruits and veggies are available at Naše zahrádka (“Our Garden”), while Všehochutě carries spices, farm dairy products and other imported food goods. A butcher shop is undergoing a remodel and fresh flowers can be picked out at Belles Fleurs. The newly opened Moje Kredenc (“My Cupboard”) has a tantalizing spread of Czech, Italian and French pastries, breads, croissant and quiches. Also, there is a lovely tasting tray.
Sajler says the neighborhood has really embraced Pankrácký Rynek, “and people keep coming back, which is the best reaction one can get.”
So then, is he scouting out other market hall locations? Nothing is in the works, Sajler tells me, “but if the concept proves its qualities, we will surely not fight any plans for expansion.” In the meantime, patrons will be able to enjoy special “Gourmet Evenings”, and starting in January the venue will host cooking lessons.
Photos by Michael Heitmann
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