Čajovna U Zeleného čaje
Ah, it is that time of year in Prague – the beginning of the tourist season. The winter may be bitter but at least we (locals and expats) have the city to ourselves. My first visit to the čajovna for this review was in mid-March. The sun was shining and bulbs were pushing through on Petřín Hill. This can only mean one thing: hoards of invading tourists. 40-strong groups of Italians in DayGlo t-shirts; hundreds of school children all wearing the same hat; overweight idiots on Segways too lazy to traverse one of the smallest capital cities in Europe on their own two feet.
It was fitting then, that I visited U Zeleného čaje in Malá Strana. Situated on Nerudova, which leads uphill from Malostranské náměstí, it’s located in central touristville and I was curious to see how it fared. Would it be all plastic menus, overpriced beer, with space to park a fleet of Segways outside? Or would I find one of those places I hope to discover when I am a travelling myself – a refuge from tourist-mayhem, the cafe away from the main drag where all the locals go, a taste of ‘real’ Prague and somewhere I will reminisce about: “do you remember that lovely place in…”?
What I found was somewhere in between. The décor is lovely, if a little mismatched. From the outside it looks quite oriental – black wooden shutters with red and white signage and oriental script. Inside is more rustic – stripped wooden floors, pale arched stone walls and light green woodwork. Tibetan artwork and other paintings adorn the walls. It’s bright, clean and, this early in the tourist season, quite peaceful.
For a čajovna, I thought the tea menu was incredibly limited – three green teas, one oolong, one Pu-erh, typical Twinning’s offerings (all 70 to 95 CZK per pot), as well as some fruit teas (from 45 CZK), but nothing mind-blowing. The menu is also unhelpful in terms of descriptions – there isn’t any.
Other drinks available include a good range of ‘winter warmers’, including hot apple and cinnamon, hot chocolate and ginger tea. The presence of beer (35 CZK) on the menu is a surprise – few serious čajovny serve alcohol.
My Chinese Lung Ching (85 CZK) was served in a large ceramic teapot, whose lid was decorated with a Christmas-scene complete with snow-covered Christmas tree. Odd? Yes, I thought so, especially when teamed with a very traditional blue and white Chinese bowl tea-cup. There is no accounting for taste.
The food menu is adequate but boring – filled bagels (65 CZK) and daily soups (39 CZK) were advertised on a blackboard and a small range of homemade cakes is offered. I had a cheese and ham toasty (69 CZK) for a light snack. It was slightly too greasy and an extra napkin wouldn’t have hurt. Served on a bright yellow plate, I realised that nothing in U Zeleného čaje matches – the combination of novelty teapot, traditional tea cup and yellow plate is just a bit careless.
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with U Zeleného čaje, and compared to some restaurants in tourist centres across the world, it does very well in terms of ambience and service. The location is great: tourists will visit when they are tired of walking, and they’ll have a nice time. I would take friends there if I was caught out weather-wise; it’s certainly preferable to the medieval theme offerings elsewhere in the Little Quarter. But for a čajovna, it is just not quite there.
U Zeleného čaje
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