Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
Here’s something I didn’t know before this trip – Prague boasts three Michelin-star restaurants. I always thought of it as a somewhat run-down former Soviet-bloc country that was still finding its feet, proud of its hearty beer-swilling and roast pork food culture. Who would have thought that the burgeoning fine dining scene is one to watch as well?
Once I started looking into the different options though, there was one that stood out as the ideal place for us to celebrate K’s 31st birthday – Alcron Restaurant. They had fabulous reviews of course, but the intimacy and decor of the restaurant was what appealed. Seating only 24 guests, the small Alcron Restaurant in the Radisson Blu hotel in Prague is decorated with a large mural in an Art Deco style, evoking memories of the glamourous 1920s and 1930s.
I made a lunch reservation for the two of us on his birthday, and kept the destination a secret from K. “It’s a nice restaurant!” was the only hint he received from me. Luckily it proved to be a happy surprise!
Greeted warmly by the waiter and shown to our cosy corner table, the excellent service continued throughout the meal. Served alternately by the head waiter/sommelier and a blonde waitress, we enjoyed conscientious but not overwhelming service with a smile. Recommendations on both food and drink options by both staff were right on point, and they were both well-versed on introducing and explaining the different menu items when they brought the dishes to the table. It was the type of exemplary service that really sets a high-end restaurant apart from others.
This expertise was demonstrated with their drink recommendations. I asked the sommelier about non-alcoholic cocktails and he offered the option to have one mixed specifically to my tastes. With the request of something a bit fruity and a bit refreshing, he came back with a wonderful mocktail made up of a sweet cherry base with a spritz of citrus to freshen it up, with the tasting notes exactly as requested. The chardonnay he recommended to K (2014 vintage from the Piemonte region in Italy) was similarly excellent.
So what did we eat?
We started with bread and butter – but this wasn’t a simple choice! We had the option of choosing from a selection of breads including spinach, onion, pumpkin seed, tomato and olive amongst others. These were served with a selection of chilli butter, seaweed butter, lemon butter and normal butter – my pick was the salty umami seaweed butter which went a treat with the sweeter onion bread.
We also had a complimentary amuse-bouche of Celery Multi-Ways courtesy of the kitchen. In this little dish, the celery was baked with honey, creamed with vanilla and turned into crisps as well – the different methods turning a boring vegetable into something quite extraordinary.
Now here’s the extraordinary thing about Alcron Restaurant that sets it apart from other starred restaurants – you can order as you go. They encourage you to only order one or two courses at a time, so that you can structure your meal as you listen to what your stomach’s telling you. Had a cold seafood starter and now want a hot meat-based main? They can organise that. Want to finish off with a light vegetable dish, rather than dessert? You can do that too – just order each course as you go, and listen to what your body wants.
So for our first dishes, I ordered the Tuna Sashimi with Tapioca, Daikon and Parsley Mayonnaise and K ordered the Quail Breast and Rillettes with Truffle and Rosehip. The tuna tartare with a dab of the wasabi mousse was a real highlight of my dish, and I always enjoy lotus root chips as well. K’s quail breast was remarkably tender and juicy, and he went quite wild over the rich liver pate base of the dish.
We went on to have a seafood main dish each – Seared Sea Scallops with Cauliflower Puree, Roasted King Oyster Mushrooms and Lardo Si Colonata for me, and the Catch of the Day with Yellow Pea Puree, Scallop, Roast Potatoes, Mushrooms and Chicken Jus for K. The scallops were remarkably fat, plump and juicy, aided I’m sure by the melting fat of the lardo that was blow-torched over the scallops at the table! K’s fish had a wonderfully crispy grilled skin, but the real highlight were the crispy crunchy potatoes on the side. On the whole however, I found his dish a little too salty – too much chicken jus perhaps.
After our first two courses, we were both feeling quite full – K more so than me as his catch of the day was quite large. I decided to go on to order one more small savoury dish (the waiter was able to guide me to a smaller-sized offering) for myself – the Organic Goat’s Cheese with Baked Leeks and Beets. I loved the firm globes of goat’s cheese ice-cream with thin slices of radish and sweet baked leeks and beets, beautifully presented in a spring-like wreath.
We finished our meal (or so we thought!) with the Cold and Hot Textures of Valrhona Chocolate and the Marinated Pear with Malt and Nougat for dessert. I loved the different textures of my dessert, with fudge, mousse, caramel crisps, ice-cream and crumble all making an appearance. The real highlight was the salted caramel ice-cream though – I’m a salted caramel fiend! K enjoyed the malt elements of his dessert, with the crisps in particular reminding him of childhood days drinking Horlicks.
Now we thought that was the end of our meal, but as we sat at our table happily sipping our tea (fresh mint for me, Earl Grey for K), the waiters came out with a surprise birthday cake for K! I had forgotten that I’d mentioned a birthday celebration when I made the reservation, but the restaurant hadn’t and had prepared accordingly with not only the cake, but a gift of a bottle of their Alcron house wine for us to take home to enjoy as well. Now that’s superb service – thank you Alcron Restaurant!
Alcron Restaurant proved to be a superb choice for K’s birthday celebrations. Not only do they offer superbly crafted modern European cuisine, they do so with a customer-focus, allowing the customer to really craft their meal according to however they’re feeling. It was a wonderful experience, and one I would recommend to anyone who visits Prague!
Alcron Restaurant is located in the Radisson Blu Alcron Hotel, at 40 Stepanska in Prague, Czech Republic.