It´s unlikely to get a table at Potrefená Husa on Dlážděná, on the corner of Hybernská near Masarykovo Nádraží in Prague 1, without reservations on Friday or Saturday evenings, and lunch hour—despite a seating space fit for 200—might be a short wait. It was jam-packed for a weekday afternoon, and I was almost certain that from start to finish (due to the overall, ahem, we-take-our-sweet-time average standard of service here) the experience would encompass a series of long gaps just begging to be filled with gossip and gruesome details about the singles´ jungle. But whoa. Talk about raising the bar.
Service is unequivocally a priority in staff training at this restaurant, one of over 20 Pivovary Staropramen branded pubs in the Czech Republic—a successful franchise that has grown faster than Brangelina´s family. We were barely in the door when we were approached, told to wait just a moment for a table to be cleared, and directed upstairs, where we were still situating our coats and bags as one of the two servers who took care of us delivered menus and asked if we knew what we wanted to drink. Hello.
The lunch crowd didn´t threaten the speed or efficiency at all, and what could have been operational chaos seemed smooth and calm, as did the friendly staff´s demeanors. It was a gratifying, orchestrated clamor versus a nervous one. My companion and I were highly impressed.
Even in those places I´ve praised for good service, a server on this side of the Atlantic asking if I want a refill before my glass is empty is as rare as a witty Republican on the other side.
Behind closed doors, the kitchen was obviously another example of the well-oiled machine, simply accelerating in response to the crowd. Deliveries were perfectly timed and seamless.
As for the deliverables, Potrefená Husa prides itself as being a modern beer bar, offering a variety of draft and bottled beers—even the ever-so-popular non-alcoholic options -with the food as more of a strong accompaniment, like a guitarist to a great singer. But the gastronomical quality coming from the kitchen could entertain on its own.
According to the Company´s website, the strategy is “for improving the culture of beer drinking in the Czech Republic,” (which is obviously necessary, as the beer-drinking here is just lacking). Although I´ve taken advantage of the three-for-one Staropramen special at the Dejvická location, I enjoyed my lunch at Dlážděná beer-free. They have Pepsi.
The menu is ultra beefy; vegetarians, beware. It´s full of traditional Czech cuisine and bar food lifted upscale, and thick with beef and poultry-based dishes with minimal sides and dressings, so as to allow the quality of the meat to fulfill on its own. Czechs know meat, that´s for sure.
The beef and poultry, aggregately, is high quality, and the bread comes fresh from the oven. Each ingredient is well thought out and purposeful, so thrown-on sides and toppers, just for the sake of “more,” are rare, which I appreciate. On the visual front, it´s all quite pretty: perfectly proportioned and tastefully dressed, unpretentious yet graceful on square white plates. Indeed, the price is in accordance.
For starters, my companion and I relished in the steak tartare, bull sirloin served with the usual mix and fried bread. It was the most impressive of the first round of fare, as well as the most expensive at 269CZK, but I couldn´t resist; for value, tartare is a flashing neon sign. It compensated for my Czech companion´s distaste for the duck cracklings—goose lard with liver—which she said she expected to be more like a pâté, and instead was “mostly just fat.” But it didn´t stop her from enjoying the fresh bread by itself.
The marinated brie had the perfect volume of flavor, humming with a light oil and quiet spices. Anomalous to other dishes, it´s dramatically toppled with large slices of onions that seem to be disconnected and without a point, but underneath lays a caliber of cheese that whispers an invitation to the complete assorted platter.
Overall, the main courses were satisfying, pretty much reconciled with the prices (stretch the word “pretty”), and kept my grumbling to a minimum. The composition of the Uruguayan rib eye dish was smart and charming, and the strength of the demi-glace sauce and fried onions would be just right if the piece weren´t slightly overdone. The golden Potrefená duck is one heavy portion, roasted in lager and packing enough moisture to be gently torn from the bone with the tug of the fork. It tastes as good as it looks; however, its sauce-less side of dumplings is a flavor desert, and the side of cabbage is hardly an oasis.
Svíčková, a traditional Czech dish comprised of a roast sirloin thickened with vegetables in a creamy sauce, and sided with dumplings and wild cranberries, passed my companion´s taste test with flying colors. Think of a primped version of the usual.
The baked goat cheese salad was a hit. It´s small, but flavorfully has a big impact. Slices of baguette piled with goat cheese—a creamy gusto under an oven-coppered layer—and a modest yet all-present trace of honey, are scattered atop fresh lettuce and cherry tomatoes with just the right amount of balsamic vinaigrette.
Physically, Potrefená Husa has a contemporary(-ish), uncomplicated design, with strong, thick shapes and a lot of space. The tables, too, are spacious, which we were grateful for, seeing as how the average two-top can become a cluttered mess that forces tactical arm-use, and forbids Italian-style gesturing. Not only were all the plates and table items comfortable enough to not create a puzzle when my companion and I swapped samples, but the tables themselves are spaced far enough from each other that one party and its conversation isn´t spilling over into someone else´s.
Here´s another amusing menu offer, though I´m glad it wasn´t popular during my lunch: cigars. Guests can couple a Cohiba Robustos or Mostencristo Edmundo with a refreshing cocktail. A certain elected official with the initials B.O. justifies a celebratory puff, but as for me, well, thanks to Potrefená Husa, I now have a date. With a treadmill.
Dlážděná 1003, Prague 1
+420 224 243 631
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Disclaimer: All stars are relative to an establishment´s context.
Jessica Rose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org