Restaurant Review: La Crêperie

Jessica Rose finds a sweet & salty harmony at this French eatery in Holešovice

Expats.cz

Written by Expats.cz
Published on 01.10.2008 10:54 (updated on 01.10.2008)

Written by Jessica Rose
for Expats.cz

My Sunday afternoons are like crêpes, in that I can fill them with a variety of things, or with hardly anything but chocolate. And either way, they´re quite pleasant, as life seems to slow down enough to savor its simpler moments. This past Sunday afternoon was ideal: I filled it with the crêpes of La Crêperie, a charming little eatery tucked in the heart of Holešovice.

We´ve all heard it: “Isn´t there a French bakery somewhere?” “This isn´t really French.”  “This baguette is sh*t.” “This croissant is crap.” And the most common of all: “In France [or] In Paris…”

Is it only the French who complain about the quality of food elsewhere, and is it justifiable? The answers: No, and yes. My Parisien friend was right: dining in France would change me for good. It did, and I can never change back. It turned me into one of those annoying people (note: annoying from a non-French person, and smug from a French person) who grumbles over the quality of baguettes and pastries, and begins food-related sentences with things like “Well in Paris…”

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From our plate
50 CZK Spinach & Cheese Quiche
35 CZK Chausson Aux Pommes
90 CZK Olives, onions, cheese appetizer
120 CZK Galette complete with onion puree
75 CZK Galette with mushrooms a la crčme
70 CZK Galette with egg & ham
110 CZK Galette with spinach puree baked in oven with béchamel & 2 kinds of cheese
125 CZK  Galette Campagnarde (smoked ham, cheese, egg, potatoes w/garlic butter)
35 CZK Crêpe with butter & sugar
45 CZK Crêpe with orange cream
60 CZK Crêpe with chocolate cream and walnuts
38 CZK Crčme de Calvados 0.2 dcl
38/185CZK Cidre .2L/1L
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It can happen to anyone, I say in my defense! It has probably happened to you, you just don´t want to admit it in the presence of them.

I wanted to find something here in Prague to stuff the French-haughty mouths, even mine. I wanted comparable choices, and in my quest, there spread before me a sea of hoyty-toyty dining options. But I sought something more basic, more accessible, with no reservations required, nothing related to species that crawl out after the rain, nor any wine-expert companions to make me uncomfortable with my pronunciation. Enjoyable, quality fare does not have to break the bank or be accompanied by Chanel. In fact, in Paris—OK, OK, I´ll stop.

Obviously, I avoided Pařížská. And I laugh at Café Louvre, which is about as French as a French fry. And as for Café Savoy, I´m over it, as decent bread is hardly worth the overall arrogance of the place. 

There is a safe, relaxing shore along white linen seas of prickly epicures of French cuisine, even here in Prague. Of course it´s the crêperie harbor! A good crêpe or two is pleasing and inexpensive. And it´s French… that is, if it is French.

La Crêperie has been owned and closely managed by French native, Guillaume (yes, he only goes by his first name and no surname, Madonna-style), and his Czech wife, for ten years.  It deserves recognition as a fantastic go-to for a daytime indulgence in the salty-then-sweet tradtion, or light evening fare to couple with cider or calvados, the regional distilled brandy from the French region Normandy.

My companion and I conducted the experience according to Breton tradition: we started by sampling from the “salty” list first. Galettes, the “mother crêpe” originating from Brittany, are the savory crêpes made with buckwheat flour and water, with a darker batter and grainier texture than its sweet counterpart. Although the galette list looks overwhelming at La Crêperie, I can summarize it like this: mushrooms, ham, eggs, onions, tomatoes, and a variety of cheese choices, including French bleu, Balkan, and mozzarella, are the basic ingredients to mix and match.

The heavier choices include béchamel sauce, a classic white sauce made of butter, flour, and milk or cream. To focus on the béchamel flavor, I ordered a simple mushroom a la crčme galette, which is much more filling than the portion lets on. The “complete” galette, which includes the egg, ham, and cheese, plus an additional ingredient of choice, with the onion puree was as delicious, but with more flavor variety. The amount of cheese and ham is just right. The cheese stretches from fork to plate just enough to corroborate its freshness and quality (and, needless to say, our server confirmed that the La Crêperie kitchen is very particular about cheese selection).

I heard the cardiganed man at a nearby table bonjour-and-merci into his mobile. His open laptop and the dog at his feet implied he was a returning customer. I don´t usually interrupt fellow diners, but I made a French call. The way he had to show me his suggestion—his “usual”—on the menu confirmed that he was indeed a loyal patron. I appreciated his recommendation of the “Compagnarde,” a galette with smoked ham and cheese, egg, and potatoes with garlic butter.

“Less is more” is a rule that works most of the time, but in the case of my bleu cheese and walnut galette, I could have used much more bleu cheese. Walnut has a rich flavor, but one that doesn´t shine as a solo act, and I actually ordered it more for the bleu cheese.

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The wait between orders was a bit long, and the service scattered and unattentive, but in this way the Czechs and French have something common. We are definitely familiar here in Prague with one of our party´s orders arriving a few minutes before the other. It makes for some awkward waiting time for those of us who will watch steam dissipate from our lonely plate for the sake of being polite; but in the case of crêpes, don´t wait, as they´re best fresh off the iron.

The cider pleasantly filled the plate-less gaps. It is a tradition of Brittany, and common throughout France, to eat your crêpes with apple cider, served in earthenware, as it is in La Crêperie. The modest interior of the den also lent us a tiny bit of visual stimulation, with illustrations from the famous “Le Petit Prince” scattered about the walls of the back room, and old black and white photographs of Paris streets, a fairly cheesy yet somehow pleasing touch, like the French neo-classic jazz blend (a genre I just invented).

We weren´t sure how many more crêpes we could take on, but I got a second wind as I browsed the list of sweet options. I also happily realized that we were less than a mere few hundred in the hole—the prices of the galettes run from only 40CZK to 145CZK.  There is also a special daily menu that offers a galette-crêpe combination for only 98CZK.

My orange cream and chocolate sweet crêpes were so yummy that I tried to convince myself I wasn´t really full so I could eat more. This crêpe batter is different in that it mixes milk and white flour, creating a slightly different taste and texture than the galette, though with the same thickness. I´ll admit I have a major sweet tooth, and my eyes wandered excitedly around ingredients like homemade caramel, lemon cream, apple puree, honey, coconut, and, most of all, sugar, like I was reliving my first moments in FAO Schwartz.

La Crêperie´s quiches are made in-house, and their fresh pastries are acquired daily from a French bakery just blocks away. That´s right, a French bakery—two great finds in one day. Voila. 

Could La Crêperie´s kitchen treats cease the haughty “In Paris…” remarks? Get real—the comparative dining reference will be around for as long as the Eiffel Tower. However, I can safely say that these crêpes can stop the craving.

La Crêperie
Janovskeho 4, Prague 7
+420 220 878 040