When a city trip is turning into something of a damp squib and you’ve realised you should have brought a winter coat despite its being late summer, sometimes all you need is a little luxury to make things right again. When the squares and museums are packed to the rafters with no-budge tourists and the cafes are full of larger-lout British stag parties, it’s the escape to the finer side of things that will put a smile back on your face. And so it was, when my partner and I ventured recently to Prague in the Czech Republic, that ever optimistic of having a happy holiday experience, we were able to turn round the somewhat disappointing experience of an ever so cold, damp weekend in tourist-packed Prague into two nights of luxurious hedonism, thanks to the hotel where we were staying, and some of the great restaurants we were lucky enough to find during the trip.
Our hotel of choice was the 5 star Buddha Bar hotel situated a few minutes from the centre of Prague’s Old Town. Being what it suggests on the tin – a concept hotel with a strongly oriental-influenced twist – it was an unusual choice for us. We love chic little boutique hotels, but I would usually go for something that at least resembled the local culture. But Buddha Bar are a long established brand that stands for the quintessence of cool: of dark chic surroundings, of sumptuous self-indulgent luxuries, all pulled together by the classic asian-inspired lounge-bar melodies of the famous Buddha bar soundtrack. Consequently when I discovered that there was a hotel of the brand so well situated in Prague, and probably half the price what a 5 star would cost in capital cities elsewhere, I was seduced and decided to take the plunge into the orient. And I’m so glad we did.
Our room at the Buddha Bar Hotel
In our luxuriously pampered room, every detail had been taken care of. On the wall, a Bang & Olufsen TV pumped out a selection of Buddha Bar groves through expertly mastered surround sound speakers extending to all parts of our room. In our extensive bathroom, a free standing bath benefitted from its own dedicated TV, floor to ceiling windows overlooking Prague, and remote controlled electric blinds should you prefer a little privacy from amongst your bubbles; while the his and hers sinks were accompanied by a panoply of l’Occitane branded bath products. In the bedroom, an indulgently soft bed was plied high with luxurious throws and cushions, while beside it, a seating area already came fully stocked with gifts of chocolate and a complementary cocktail each – the perfect antidote to the tourist scrum outside. Meanwhile, across the room, on the surfaces and alongside notes and information booklets, little fresh orchids had been delicately placed – the height in attention to detail, which followed through to the whole hotel experience.
For beyond our room, the hotel of course enjoyed its own Buddha Bar restaurant, a large cavernous place camped up with a huge oversized golden Buddha around which densely candlelit tables glittered in an otherwise dark and seductive atmosphere. We enjoyed an abundance of creative sushi whose innovative flavour combinations buzzed and zinged in a way that the bog standard California role could never hope to replicate. Meanwhile upstairs, a daily breakfast combining buffet treats and a choice of hot dishes always came accompanied with a glass of chilled prosecco. Now that’s my kind of breakfast.
The Buddha Bar restaurant – images courtesy of www.buddhabarhotelprague.com
But of course we had to leave the hotel sometimes, and when sightseeing got too much, we managed to find two equally exquisite restaurants in which to enjoy the classier side of life. The first, a discovery quite by accident, was Zdenek’s Oyster Bar, an exceptionally chic little place, filled with brass fittings and lamps made from champagne bottles, that more closely resembled an upmarket Parisian bistro than a traditional Czech eatery. Being as Prague is very much inland, we were at first sceptical of a seafood restaurant in the heart of the city, but our doubts were put to rest by a main of succulent grilled prawns in a creamy sweet peppery rich sauce, with buttery toasted brioche served to be dipped into the tasty liquor. Never have I lavished so enthusiastically over a dish of prawns. I was completely won over on the one dish alone, let alone the other details which made the meal so special – an oyster shell filled with creamy salted butter; delicious crisp local white wine, and steaming muscles each ripe and juicy and a joy to eat.
Zdenek’s Oyster Bar
The second of our restaurant successes was likewise a departure from the Czech theme – this time George Prime Steak, which was less traditional steak house than a high class boudoir decked out with highly polished chrome and black lacquer interiors all made to sparkle with modern chandeliers and low lighting. The only real nod to America was the extensive Californian wine list, one of which we enjoyed to the full, despite the waiters leaving the bottle on a far away table and then neglecting to refill our often empty glasses. But they can be forgiven – for the real star of the show was the steak. We opted for fillet which, they told us, was fried in temperatures so hot that it immediately caramelised the outside into a rich sweet crust – a delectable exterior encasing soft tender flesh. It was almost certainly one of the best steaks I have ever eaten.
My only drunken picture of George Prime Steak’s opulent interior…
But we were in the Czech republic after all, and my final nod of this post has to go to what must be my favourite aspect of Prague gastronomy – the multi layered Czech honey cake “Medovnik”. Without looking at a recipe, I can only guess that this cake comprised thin layers of honeyed sponge interlaid with a honey and gently spiced gingery, cinnamon cream. Oh it was truly to die for, hence why I must have eaten around 5 slices before the trip was out. Now that really was worth fighting the tourist scrum for.
…and that honey cake to die for
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