Written by Joanna Davila
On the ground floor of the Palladium and in front of the Palac Knihy bookstore, Neo Café is a sprawling playground for both parents and kids that serves excellent food and drink. The café setup leaves patrons exposed, with no formal enclosed dining area; the background noise of music and mall chatter can be a bit distracting, but leaves plenty for diners to look at while eating. Not that there isn´t enough already.
The décor for Neo Café is by far the most design-conscious seen so far. Two practically life-size horse lamps adorn the entrance, each table contains its own mix of chair styles in various colors, and the bar is separated from the main dining area by a wall of stacked books. For those with children in tow, Neo even provides a literal playground for kiddies, an ice house complete with intimidatingly large animatronic penguins that flap their arms and open and close their beaks.
Thankfully though, Neo Café is not just another flash in the pan with a good decorator. The small menu caters to breakfast and lunch but offers enough dishes for a variety of meal options, from a heavy breakfast to a light lunch or coffee and dessert for an afternoon meeting.
My friend and I visited for lunch and tried a variety of items that are enjoyed to the last forkful. For drinks, the tea offered is the brand Harney and Sons. Though slightly more expensive than common Lipton at 54 CZK, the silk sachet and sweet mixture of herbs is a delight, even served on a silver platter with a lemon slice. Beyond tea, the prepared drinks are just as good, if not better. The hot chocolate comes served with real whipped cream and the cappuccino comes piping hot with a wealth of smooth foam.
Though the visit was a bit too early for a cocktail or a beer, Neo has an extensive drink menu that features standard Czech beer and wine, various liquors and some house cocktails.
The food offerings are modern and seem to err on the healthy side with offerings of vegetarian omelets, scrambled eggs, salads, small plates, and paninis. Breakfast is also served all day and there is a daily specials menu, which on our visit featured vegetarian couscous, pancakes with cherries in marsala with cinnamon, and yogurt ice cream.
Intrigued by a listing of glass eggs, I order, mystified as to what I will be served. To my delight, three soft-boiled eggs arrive well presented in a white ceramic bowl with several slices of crunchy French bread and a few slices of a hearty nutty brown bread. The wild mushroom and shallot omelet also comes well presented, with a hearty portion of mushrooms spread throughout the fluffy whipped breakfast standard.
For a second course my friend I and challenge Neo Café´s interpretation of culinary classics, the club sandwich and the Caesar salad. The club sandwich, at three layers of tomato, English bacon, and chicken, has a clean, fresh taste. The accompanying avocado and pesto sauce add a tang that gives the sandwich just enough of a bite to make the flavor last between chewing and swallowing. The Caesar salad comes with chicken and a poached egg; both are a pleasant surprise that round the menu to a healthy portion. The dressing carries the salty taste from real anchovies, something that is hard to find, since most restaurants serve Caesar with plain cream dressing. The amount of food is well-sized for a lunch portion and there is just enough dressing, not allowing the leaves to wilt under the weight.
At just the right time, the waitress takes our plates and tempts us with dessert. A few items are listed on the menu, such as cakes and pies; however, diners must look in the display cases to get a full view of the options. Notable menu staples include tiramisu and cappuccino pannacotta but the rest of the desserts vary in size and shape and there is everything from traditional cheesecake to Czech homemade cake specialties.
The fruit tiramisu is one of the best. Smooth and creamy without being too rich the tiramisu doesn´t have traditional chocolate and sponge cake layers. Instead, it is filled with pieces of a halved peach. Unusual yet delicious; the combination of fruit and cream is refreshing and satisfying.
Neo Palladium Café is surely a bright spot among the eateries of the Palladium shopping center.
Where to Go:
Neo Palladium Café
Namesti Republicky, Palladium Shopping Center
Phone 225 771 727
Open 9 am to 10 pm
Breakfast 75 – 185 CZK
Salads 110 – 190 CZK
Small Cold Plates & Panini 115 – 195 CZK
*all Panini are 115 CZK
Desserts 19 – 140 CZK