These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Capital Flavours

A Bratislava Dining Guide

By Saša Petrášová, unless otherwise noted

Archa

Where: Uršulínska 6
Tel: 02 5443-0865
Open: Mon-Fri 9:00-24:00, Sat-Sun 10:00-24:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

This café-cum-bar-cum-restaurant symbolises the new international Bratislava. The menu veers all over the world map, with an emphasis, as international restaurants tend to have these days, on Italian. It's a wonderful place to sit with a coffee and watch the world go by, and a fine place to chill over a drink at night. The restaurant is still finding its legs, but looks promising. The steak dishes are good, but make sure you specify how you want them cooked. Left to its own devices, the kitchen sends them out well-done. Order steak with french fries; they were almost good enough to make up for the overcooked slab of meat. Chicken salad makes a nice light summer meal; pastas are hit-and-miss; tiramisu is a good bet for dessert.

- Tom Philpott

Chez David

Where: Zámocká 13
Tel: 02 5441-3824
Open: Sun-Thu 11:30-22:00, Fri 11:30-15:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 8 out of 10

The chef in this kosher restaurant has a rich local tradition of Jewish cuisine to build upon, and the restaurant offers specialities like chicken soup with matzoh balls, cholent (a stew with potatoes, beans, and meat), barkhes (sweet bread), and home-made strudel with apples and poppy seeds.

The many poultry dishes on the menu are either sweet in flavour, made with apples and dates, or more spicy, with sauces that contain celery, olives, or spinach. From the vegetarian and fish parts of the menu, you could put together a fine lunch or dinner consisting of, let's say, a tomato filled with spinach and fried in olive oil as a starter, pumpkin soup, and then trout with garlic and horseradish if you are in the mood for fish. Or you could choose eggplant in pastry with basil sauce.

Located under the castle hill, close to the Holocaust memorial in the area that used to be the Jewish quarter, the restaurant's one letdown is its interior decor. There are too many different styles combined together in a single room and they do not match each other.

Corrida de Toros Restaurant

Where: Laurinská 7
Tel: 02 5443-5741 or 0903 288-818
Open: Mon-Thu and Sun 9:00-24:00,
Fri-Sat 9:00-3:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

With its large store-like front windows, its outdoor seating in the capital's pedestrian zone, and the loud music which plays at disco volume all day long, Corrida gives the impression it is one of Bratislava's "see-and-be-seen" places.

Nevertheless, the menu is pleasing, and the quality of food good. Impressive starters include gazpacho, with all the vegetables and breadcrumbs presented in small side bowls, and almond soup, which is really a cold, creamy garlic soup with almonds and grapes. There are three different paellas on offer, plus a variety of meat dishes. Andalusian ice cream makes a nice dessert, served with whipped cream and fruit. In addition, the menu offers a very satisfying range of wines and cocktails.

Domenico

Where: Námestie Ľudovíta Štúra 4
Tel: 02 5464-0167
Open: Mon-Sun 10:00-23:00
(food served until 22:00)
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Domenico was originally a café, and has recently turned into a restaurant acclaimed for the variety of the food it offers. The chef has put together an original menu with such tempting options as chicken with young carrots and Dijon mustard sauce, vegetarian risotto with nuts, creamy salmon soup, chicken with mango dip, and vegetable casserole (nákyp).

The food might surprise, however, because standards are not consistent. Some of the main course dishes are not large enough to satisfy even the smallest appetite while others are simply not cooked through. For example, the potatoes with mushrooms and cheese we sampled were not left in the oven long enough for the ingredients to soften. In addition, the chef used canned mushrooms and not fresh ones, so missing a golden opportunity to improve quality.

Nevertheless, this former café is now an inviting restaurant, with reasonable prices, friendly staff, and a menu aimed not just at those with a sweet tooth.

Festina Lente

Where: Bulharská 60
Tel: 02 4341-0905
Open: Mon-Fri 10:00-22:00,
Sat-Sun 12:00-22:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 3 out of 10

The menu at this new Bulgarian restaurant offers a few national specialties, such as stuffed paprika and cucumber soup, but the main fare is fried or grilled meat, the stuff of hundreds of Slovak restaurants. There is surprisingly little fish and other seafood, for which coastal Bulgaria is famous.

In addition, the service is very poor, with simple orders of hot food not only served slowly but also cold.

The Bulgarian specialty gýveš is a traditional mixture of potatoes, eggplant, paprika, and egg, but the version here is far too spicy, flavourless, and greasy to be a highlight in any Black Sea resort.

At best, the food is edible, but prepared without zest, speed, or talent. Festina Lente, a Latin rather than Bulgarian tag, means "make haste slowly". While the service was indeed slow, the only haste involved in a visit to this restaurant is the speed with which customers try to leave.

Gazdovský Dvor

Where: Hotel Perugia, Zelená 5
Tel: 02 5443-1818
Open: Mon-Sun 7:00-23:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

A new addition to Bratislava old town's dining scene, Gazdovský Dvor offers all the dishes one would expect in a traditional Hungarian restaurant.

Among the soups halászlé, the typical Hungarian fish soup, is a must-try. It has just the right amount of paprika and is served in a very original way; in a small pot with a candle to keep the soup warm. The garlic soup, served in a hollowed-out loaf of bread, is creamy and full of flavour. Among the satisfying array of fish and meat dishes are zander in a creamy mushroom sauce and chicken fried in almonds and steeped in a cherry sauce.

The service at Gazdovský Dvor is friendly and forward, but perhaps lacking in professionalism. For example, the waiter should not ask for the customer's credit card without first showing the customer the bill, and if a restaurant serves bread and paté before the meal and charges its customers a cover for it, the food should be left on the table for as long as the customer wants.

Koliba Expo

Where: Kamzíkov vrch
Tel: 02 5477-1764
Open: Mon-Sat 12:00-01:00, Sun 12:00-22:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

In Koliba Expo, located in the woods near Bratislava's Kamzík television tower, the staff dress in folk costumes, the walls are decorated with animal pelts and Slovak ceramics, and the menu consists of traditional and invented Slovak dishes.

On the wide-ranging menu you will find such dishes as creamy garlic soup, bryndzová polievka (sheep-cheese soup), chicken with pear brandy and fried apples, and wild boar in rosehip sauce. For dessert, the chimney sweep's balls (kominárske guľky) cake is worth trying for the name alone.

The restaurant's building was displayed at the 1967 World Expo in Montreal, which gave the place its name. When the exhibition ended, the massive wooden structure was taken apart and rebuilt in Bratislava. The tables and chairs are in complete harmony with the interior, created from huge chunks of wood.

Note: public transport does not go all the way up the hill. Since it is quite a long walk from the last stop of trolleybus #203, a car is recommended.

La Dolce Vita

Where: Panská 1
Tel: 02 5263-6777
Open: 12:00-24:00 (weekends),
18:00-24:00 (weekdays)
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 6 out of 10

This Italian warhorse is reliable but boring. Its vast patio, though crowded in the summer, always seems to have room for one more party even when other places are full to bursting. It offers most of the pasta dishes you'd expect in a touristy Italian, of slightly higher quality than the usual. The house red and white wines are drinkable and cheap. Note well: in the winter, when Dolce Vita's business drops off dramatically, it offers a much smaller menu than in summer. And the menu seems to change mysteriously. A dish available one night - a solid version of spaghetti with garlic, olive oil, and chile pepper - might simply disappear from the menu a few nights later. Dolce Vita works fine in a pinch, but don't get your hopes up too much.

- Tom Philpott

La Méditerranée "Chez Michele"

Where: Šancová 70
Tel: 02 5262-5237
Open: Mon-Sat 10:00-22:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Very unfortunately located on one of Bratislava's busiest roads, hidden among many administrative buildings, Chez Michele has a hard time catching the attention of potential customers. But when you descend the stairs to the basement restaurant, you find a quiet and simple place with friendly staff, ready to satisfy your hunger for Mediterranean specialities.

Starters include goat's cheese with avocado, tabbouleh, hummus, and other Mediterranean specialities, while the main courses include fish fillet with sesame sauce (samakah harrah), simple and balanced in taste, and the restaurant's version of the Middle Eastern staple kebab, yogurtlu, in the form of balls of minced meat and served with yoghurt sauce. Also featured are two kinds of paella, several kinds of pasta, fish and seafood dishes, and many original meat dishes.

Despite the Mediterranean food, the basement is rather chilly and the decoration does not bring back too many holiday memories. Nevertheless, the menu and friendly service are inviting enough to get customers to return and try the other dishes on offer.

Maharadža

Where: Mozartova 27
Tel: 02 6280-1272 or 0905 854-616
Open: Mon-Sun 11:00-22:00
English menu: No
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

As is traditional in Indian cuisine, the menu at Maharadža does not offer any pork or beef dishes, but this is no disappointment, even in pork-happy Slovakia. The combination of chicken, mutton, lamb, shrimp, salmon, carp, and vegetarian meals with six or seven different sauces adds up to a very satisfactory selection. Given the additional offer of soups, starters, and side dishes, you can get a very palatable four-course meal without any repetition.

The range of desserts is something of a disappointment, though, as there is no cake - just fruit and ice cream. Maharadža restaurant lies in the Červený Kríž residential area near the Slavín monument on castle hill. Located opposite the pharmacy on Bartókova ulica, it is reasonably easy to find and has parking right in front of the restaurant.

MS Danubius

Where: Fajnorovo nábrežie 2
Tel: 02 5263-6777
Open: 9:00-24:00 (summer),
10:00-22:00 (winter)
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Along the Danube between the two bridges lies an ugly concrete building called Osobný Prístav - the place where you buy tickets for boat rides to Vienna and Budapest. This appalling edifice hides a lovely little restaurant that serves up good food. Once you get past the building's exterior, the interior and the open-air terrace are a pleasant surprise. The first is very stylish, and the latter allows you to enjoy the fresh breeze coming from the river. The views from both are wonderful. For starters, try reasonably priced fish soups. The main dishes run the gamut of Slovak and international cuisine, including venison and specialities of the Danube region - many with fitting names, such as the few dishes designed for two people to share: the Blue Danubius (carp in dough made with wine, grilled zander, catfish in a spicy sauce) and the Golden Danubius (fried chicken breast with blue cheese, pork steak with mushrooms, beef in spicy sauce, and boiled vegetables). There are 14 different kinds of fish, cooked all manner of ways. Each one we tried was delicious and looked like it had been pulled straight from the Danube that morning (in a good way).

- Zuzana Habšudová

Medusa Restaurant and Bar

Where: Michalská 21
Tel: 02 5464-7344
Open: Mon-Wed, Sun 10:00-24:00,
Thu-Sat 10:00-01:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 8 out of 10

Medusa, a new addition to the Old Town next to Michael's Gate in Bratislava's Old Town, has the spare, modern décor favoured by the trendy young. The cocktail lounge has large windows overlooking the cobbled street, fashion photographs on the walls, and plastic designer chairs. The restaurant, which is discreetly placed around the corner from the bar, displays fresh flowers and fruit arranged in vases and comfy upholstered chairs. The large menu lures you away from any diet vows as it teems with such delights as asparagus with hollandaise sauce, snails, duck liver, Greek salad with goat cheese, polenta, and quail broth. The cuisine is nouvelle, all light sauces and fresh vegetables. Try the arugula salad, garnished with sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, and capers. The lamb was disappointing, but salmon fillet in a spinach "nest" hit the mark. For dessert, do not forgo the mascarpone in a crust, garnished with caramelised sugar and fresh strawberries. It was divine, particularly when consumed with one of the perfectly pulled Italian espressos.

Paparazzi

Where: Laurinská 1
Open11:00 - 01:00
Tel: 02 5464-7971
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Oh, how I wanted to love Paparazzi. Instead, I merely liked it. The bronze statue depicting a photographer hounding a celebrity isn't to everyone's taste, nor are the celebrity glamour shots that decorate the inside. But the patio sits on a prominent walkway amid the Old Town's bustle, and it's exquisite. You can't sit there on a sunny spring day and not feel like one of the pretty people as the gawking masses pass by. The restaurant uses nice raw ingredients. The opener of fresh mozzarella with roasted vegetables, for example, is as simple as it sounds, and excellent. Arugula, a revelation to find in Slovakia, comes in a lightly-dressed salad garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Marvellous. But the pastas, which should be the cornerstone of a place like this, were hit-and-miss. Fettuccini with pancetta, cream, and porcini mushrooms sounded fabulous but wasn't quite. It wasn't bad, just bland - pasta in a nondescript cream sauce, staple of touristy Italian restaurants the world over. "Green lasagne" wasn't green, but it was lasagne, and it actually tasted pretty good.

- Tom Philpott

Patio Pizza

Where: Hviezdoslavovo námestie 3
Tel: 02 5920-4061
Open: daily 11:00 - 24:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Patio Pizza doesn't have a patio; it's located in the cellar of the grand old Carlton Hotel in the Old Town. But it does serve pizza, and it's pretty good by local standards. The menu lists a dizzying array of choices, with endless combinations of ingredients. This is a case of the more the merrier. The crust, cheese, and sauce aren't interesting enough to stand up on their own, so it's best to choose a pizza that includes bacon, ham, hot peppers, sweet peppers, anchovies, and/or whatever else strikes your fancy from the many possibilities. There is also a salad bar loaded with fairly fresh vegetables - a good place to get a 'green-veggie fix' in the land of meat and potatoes. Tourists will be happy to note that the staff all speak good English. One final quality that makes this an indispensable part of the dining scene: even in high winter, when cellar spaces are the rage, there's almost always a spare table in this vast dining-room. And it's also a fine place to flee the summer heat.

- Tom Philpott

Prašná Bašta

Where: Zámočnícka 11
Tel: 02 5443-4957
Open: daily 11:00-23:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 10 out of 10

This may be the Old Town's most consistently excellent restaurant. Tucked away in a quiet nook near Michael's Gate, Prašná Bašta year after year, day after day, churns out creative twists on Central European food in remarkably charming space. In the winter, the main room has the cosy feel of a wine cellar; in summer, the place to be is outside, where a spacious patio sits, bordered by three lovely historical buildings. Nothing on the menu has ever let me down; high spots include Chicken José, a lovely combination of sautéed chicken breast, fresh cream, and hot peppers; sautéed pork served in a potato pancake and topped by sauerkraut; and Pork Dijon, which consists of pork loin in a mustard cream sauce. Beer lovers will note with pleasure that the bar offers an extra-strong version of Budvar; and dessert lovers will revel in the crepes draped in chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Call ahead for reservations; the place is always packed - not with tourists, but mainly with in-the-know locals.

- Tom Philpott

Preego

Where: Žilinská 4
Tel: 0903 246-226
Open: restaurant 11:00-22:00,
lounge 10:00-24:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 9 out of 10

Pronounced in Slovak as two words - pre ego - the name of this restaurant means "for (your) ego", which is fitting for a place that serves marvellous food that is a pleasure for both your stomach and your eyes.

And rather than Italian, as the name suggests, the selection of dishes on offer would better be described as European, mixing French and Italian cuisine and including a Greek salad, grilled oštiepok (Slovak smoked sheep-cheese), and salmon.

On the whole, the dishes are satisfying and delicious, and most are presented in a very aesthetic arrangement with lots of fresh vegetables. The tiramisu has just the right amount of liqueur and is topped with whipped cream and a strawberry. And that's not all: The food arrives quickly and the staff are professional.

An important detail about Preego is its interior design. The combination of black and white gives the dining-room a very elegant feeling, and its division into smaller units offers a sense of privacy. The arrangement of the rooms is complemented by statues and fresh flowers.

Café Propeler

Where: Rázusovo nábrežie 1
Tel: - 02 5400-1020
Open: daily 10:30 - 23:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 8 out of 10

Al fresco dining overlooking the blue (well, green), breezy Danube - it's hard to imagine anything more inviting on a warm summer night. Surprisingly, not everyone agrees. Not too many restaurants line Bratislava's waterfront, and the ones that do are rarely packed. In the case of Café Propeler, it's hard to imagine why. The food is good and inexpensive, the house wine is downright cheap and quite drinkable, and the river view is priceless. Where are the crowds? Who cares? Grilled veal steak came tender, juicy, and garnished with perfectly done french fries. The ham omelette proved an inspired choice for a light summer dinner, and the tomato soup was fresh, simple, and right on. Walk through the Old Town on a summer night and many an inferior restaurant is bursting at the seams with clientele. Diners in the know will keep walking straight to the river and grab a table at Propeler.

- Tom Philpott

Restaurant Woch

Where: Františkánske námestie 7
Tel: 02 5443-2927
Open: Mon-Sun 11:00-24:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 8 out of 10

Around the corner from the main square in Bratislava, the building that houses Woch has a 13th-century medieval basement and upper floors from the baroque era. Its interior, which has an arched ceiling, keeps up the historical spirit of the place, and the chef has made it his task to revive traditional Bratislava cuisine.

The local fare is influenced by many countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, a characteristic example being schnitzel, which in Woch is made out of chicken. Dishes like the thick meat soup with vegetables called čorba show that food can travel from as far away as Bulgaria or Yugoslavia. The wine list is equally appealing, featuring well-known wine producers and small vineyards.

In the basement there is a music club with live concerts, mainly on weekends, and the F7 theatre is also on the premises, hosting among other performers the alternative Gunagu theatre group, thus giving the customer the chance to enjoy a pleasant combination of food and culture.

TGI Friday's

Where: Hviezdoslavovo námestie 3
Tel: 02 5920-4060
Open: Mon-Sun 11:00-24:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 5 out of 10

The interior design of Bratislava's TGI Friday's is the same as every Friday's in the world, with faux Tiffany lamps and bric-a-brac on the walls. The waiters have clearly been trained to be smiley and friendly, with one overzealous waitress telling us the day we went to "enjoy this beautiful sunny day" (it had been grey and rainy since the morning).

Located in the newly renovated Hotel Carlton, the restaurant has one of the best and most spacious locations in town, which makes it possible to find a place to sit at any time of the day. The abundance of empty seats though might also have something to do with the prices, and perhaps the quality of the food.

The two simple classics we sampled - a club sandwich and a Friday's burger - fell way below expectations. The bread was stale and the burger unimpressive. Likewise, the desserts disappointed. The New York-style cheesecake was not made with cream cheese but with tvaroh (Slovak cottage cheese), and instead of using graham crackers for the crust, as specified on the menu, the chef used regular pastry.

Templars

Where: Panská 18
Tel: 0903 259-922
Open: Mon-Fri 10:00-24:00,
Sat-Sun 12:00-24:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 8 out of 10

Templars is one of the few Bratislava restaurants that, rather than specialising in a national cuisine, bases its menu and decoration on a specific theme. Located in a downtown cellar, the owners have created a medieval atmosphere reminiscent of a castle.

The menu is very simple, featuring fairly standard Slovak fare, including fried zander fish with fried potatoes, vegetable garnish, and steamed broccoli, and sautéed chicken in a chilli-tomato sauce. For dessert, try the apple strudel and hot raspberries, which both come with large portions of vanilla ice cream and cream. Templars opened in spring 2001 and is still building a regular clientele. Its friendly service, unpretentious atmosphere and tasty dishes should not disappoint.

U Mamičky

Where: Palisády 40
Tel: 02 5443-4618 or 0903 425-697
Open: Mon-Sun 11:00-23:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Tucked into a leafy, stylish neighbourhood behind the Presidential Palace, U Mamičky and its breezy, backyard-like patio provide a welcome alternative to the hubbub of the Old Town. When the soup of the day is garlic soup, order it. Creamy and mildly pungent, it keeps your spoon digging for more. The restaurant isn't a model of consistency. Grilled lamb chops, tender and infused with smoke and rosemary on one visit, were tough and flavourless on another. But the grilled food is almost always quite good. Avoid pasta. Farfalle with salmon sauce was overly sweet, and the salmon seemed tinned. Salads tend to be fresh and full of flavour, if tiny. When the weather turns unpleasant, brace yourself for the interior. It manages to be both gloomy and garish at the same time - the exact opposite of the garden's lovely atmosphere.

- Saša Petrášová and Tom Philpott

Venif

Where: Medená 16
Tel: 02 5464-7727
Open: Mon-Fri 7:00-19:00; Sat 8:00-14:00
English menu: No
Reservations: No
Rating: 8 out of 10

This tiny bakery, which opened early 2003, first draws you in with its fine display of sweet treats at the front counter. The various strudels are particularly delicious. But what earns this place a spot in the restaurant guide are the sandwiches, made with fresh ciabatta bread. Choices go from well-executed standards like ham and cheese to regional specialties like pickled herring. If you're lucky, the motherly woman who's usually behind the counter will favour your sandwich with some of her pungent garlic paste. All sandwiches come with a lovely small salad of green lettuce, carrot and cabbage. The place has just two tables, but turnover is rapid. Sandwiches cost around Sk43, not much more than the inferior baguettes sold in stands on the street. The espresso is only average on its own, but improves dramatically when taken with a strudel.

- Tom Philpott


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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