There are times when being a café critic is hard work (cue violins). It’s not all coffee and cake you know. Whilst there are clear perks (discovering the best tables in secret cafes, tantalizing your taste buds, and over-indulging in the name of work), there is a darker side: eating food you don’t fancy and combating an expanding waistline is no piece of cake. There are also times when your content editor will send you somewhere really dreadful, and whilst it’s unpleasant to bash restaurants, it’s also unpleasant to visit restaurants or cafes that merit bashing.
Like last weekend. It was the blazing hot weekend in late April. You know the one I mean. The whole of Prague was frolicking in the sun. I had left my čajovny review rather late and was down to the wire. So rather than laze around Riegrovy Sady, or sit out on deck at Marina Grosseto, I visited Maghnia Village Oriental Tea Lounge & Shisha Bar – a.k.a., the darkest teahouse in all Prague.
When I walked inside, I thought I had left my sunglasses on – Maghnia Village is as dark as night. Whilst this may seem exotic in the evening, on a summer’s afternoon it’s gloomy and depressing. The tea house is split into a series of small areas – little nooks and crannies perfect for groups of friends. The walls are painted purple and red and Arabian lanterns give (a little) light. ‘Silk’ floor cushions and coverings should provide a luxurious feeling, but rough finishings detract from this: poorly fashioned tables with exposed MDF board edges, tea-lights left in their IKEA foil wrapping, cheap faux-silk furnishings and dusty seats were all disappointing. Like a bad one-night stand (so I’ve heard), what might look attractive in the dark appeared shabby in the cold light of day.
This is a north African-style teahouse rather than Asian (Maghnia is a town in northwestern Algeria, close to the Moroccan border), and I arrived hoping for fresh mint tea, baklava by the hundreds, and maybe some fresh, sweet, dates.
A rather surprising range of tea was offered, from traditional mint to, peculiarly, strawberry and chocolate (85 CZK). The fresh mint tea was served in a traditional silver and tasted perfect. Our waiter did not serve the tea himself, however, which is a shame as the North African tea ritual, which involves pouring the tea from a very great height, is part of the experience.
My Jasmin tea (out of place on a North African menu) tasted fine, but was also served in an Algerian style teapot, rather than an east Asian one, which is rather unusual and demonstrated poor attention to detail. The drinks menu also offered coffee, fruit juices and cocktails. The Oriental Mojito (a virgin mojito) was pleasant and refreshing, and hubby raved about his Maghnia Village melon drink.
We ordered a plate of ‘Algerian sweets’, the only food on the menu. Unfortunately, these were ‘off’ and we were offered crisps (chips, if you are American) instead. We ordered some and were duly presented with a family pack of Lays crisps. To say I was disappointed is something of an understatement. It’s a long way to fall from dreams of fresh dates and bowls of pistachios, to a packet of crisps.
To try to distract from the rumbling hunger in our stomachs we ordered a shisha pipe (or hookah) with apple tobacco. This was traditional style, with glass bowl and decorative hose. Additional charcoal was provided free of charge, which is not always the case in Prague, but this did little to quash my disappointment at the rest of the experience.
If you are really desperate for mint tea or a late-night cocktail and shisha, then this is the place to come. But don’t arrive hungry and try not to look too closely at the décor.
Maghnia Village Oriental Tea Lounge & Shisha
Janáčkovo nábřeží 5, 150 00 Prague
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