When in Prague, one may feel compelled to remain in the heart of the bustling Wenceslas Square, or traverse amongst the tourists of the Old Town Square centre, but the city’s magic extends far beyond these two well-worn spots. Across the beautiful and historic Charles Bridge, lies the other old quarter, known as Lesser Town. Both picturesque and steeped in history, it is here that the Mandarin Oriental quietly resides, occupying a central location by the banks of the glimmering river, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the mainstream tourist bubble. In the back of the hotel, one can find Spices, the hotel’s restaurant and bar which offers an unusual and inventive selection of delicious Asian dishes specially put together by Executive Chef Zdeněk Křížek’, cocktails, and wines. It is here, that on our final Saturday in Prague, somewhat fatigued from partying and in need of rejuvenation, my guest and I enjoyed a lazy three hour lunch sat outside in the peaceful courtyard.
The restaurant’s interiors are of the Renaissance style, a former monastery with a vaulted ceiling redolent of Prague’s history, brought to life by a contemporary design that ensures the restaurant is an apt place for both dinners and lunches, cocktails and coffee. Very relaxed in its calming energy and informal atmosphere, yet upmarket and sophisticated in its design, this is an area steeped with the sense of effortless luxury one finds familiar to the Mandarin Oriental, and truly feels like a place to escape and unwind.
Deciding to sit outside in the warm late July sunshine, my guest and I were greeted by our waitress for the day, the lovely Lea. She recommended starting with two cocktails, both populars with the venue, the Funky Mandarin and Tom Yum Yum. I had the Funky Mandarin which was a delicious blend of Absolut Mandarin Vodka, peach syrup, lime juice, orange juice, mint, and mandarin juice, served in a cute small jam-jar style pot. My guest had the Tom Yum Yum, a long drink of Finlandia Vodka, coconut sirup, lime juice, lychee juice, ginger, chilli, lime leaves, and lemongrass. Both were excellent retoxes.
To start, Lea recommended we try a selection of starters, which included delicious soft Thai crab cakes served with an elegant, dressed cucumber salad, and sweet mango chilli mayonnaise dip, and peking duck & foie gras spring rolls served with a refreshing green papaya salad, and plum dipping sauce. Both were light options, surprisingly so, yet satiated us more than expected from the relatively small portions that we requested.
Keen on sushi, our second starter was an immaculately presented rainbow roll of tuna, salmon and avocado, served with fresh home-made ginger and wasabi. Again, this dish was remarkably fresh and light, the rice seasoned well yet not overwhelming, and the fish palpably of an ultra-premium quality.
To drink, we were keen to try the Mandarin Oriental’s house white wine which was, interestingly (and rather excitingly, for a native Slovak like myself), from the Czech Republic. The Spices Cuvée is from Reisten, Moravia, and given its semi-dry nature, a perfect accompaniment for Asian cuisine’s spicy and sweet flavours. Despite being the house wine, and very affordable, this is a highly recommendable choice – and I say that as a self confessed wine snob.
For the mains we had duck breast in red curry, lychee salad, and thai eggplant, and the steamed sea bream with ginger soya sauce, king oyster mushrooms, spring onions and rice. To accompany these, we had a papaya salad with lychees, and the plain coconut steamed rice, and also the spring onion fried rice. Given the lightness of the steamed sea bream, we shared this first, and were delighted by its umami flavours that were, akin to the starters, remarkably filling despite their freshness. The sea bream, topped with fresh salad leaves and served in a light ginger soya broth, was quite literally of the ‘melt in your mouth’ variety, the tender chunks of meaty steamed flesh falling off the bone into the delicate soup-like ginger soya sauce. This sauce was excellent with the spring onion fried rice, and we were keen to finish the whole portion. The second main, the duck, was equally delicious, if not more so, and featured five hearty slices of duck breast in a thick, oozing red curry sauce with bouquets of fresh pak choi and beautiful tiny thai eggplants. This too, we finished heartily, despite being already very full, and were satisfied.
Lea kindly suggested a break before our dessert, yet another testament to the sense of ease and restfulness that accompanies the Mandarin Oriental, before bringing us coffees and biscuits. Despite being already very full (and it bears reminding just how light and fresh the food was!), we were eager to try her recommendation of her most favourite two desserts of Spices. The first was a stunningly presented bowl of coconut ice cream, served in a bed of tapioca pearls (think: bubble tea), fresh lychees, and tiny jug of pomegranate caramel sauce to be poured over. Wonderfully indulgent, the portion was apt to satisfy us both, and the tapioca pearls proved an unexpected success for the two of us – we enjoyed this dish thoroughly. The second was a more savoury dessert affair, called ‘Gajar Halwa’, an indian carrot pudding served with vanilla ice cream. This was more to my taste, given my penchant for savoury foods, and was a lovely carrot cake style dish with interesting spices and a nutty finish.
Upon finishing the desserts and coffees, rested and full, slightly sleepy yet excited for the evening, we left the Mandarin Oriental satisfied beyond expectations and glad to have been. This is a restaurant of the unexpected: a haven of luxury across the river from Prague’s touristic old quarter, an Asian menu of deliciousness prepared with fresh Czech ingredients, and an overwhelmingly satisfying meal of light delicacies. The perfect final meal to our trip in Prague.
Mandarin Oriental, Prague
118 00 Prague