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Review: Slovak Pub: Redefining country's 'typical' bar scene

The heavy wooden stairs from Bratislava's Obchodná ulica (Shop street) lead up to a mock chapel, appropriate for a country in which over 60% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholic. Walking through the nave and entering the pub area, visitors find walls adorned with Slovak poetry and several framed paintings of famous national heroes.
My companion and I seated ourselves near a table overlooking the street below and took our best guesses: that's the poet Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav; there's Anton Bernolák, who first attempted to codify the Slovak language in the 18th century; Ľudovíť Štúr, also pictured in the pub, was credited for successfully completing the feat soon after in the 19th century.


Steeped in history and tradition, Slovak Pub celebrates the country's heroes, even if the servers don't know all the names off hand.
photo. Ján Svrček

Slovak Pub

English menu: no
Address: Obchodná 62
Food: not yet
Rating: 8 out of 10

The heavy wooden stairs from Bratislava's Obchodná ulica (Shop street) lead up to a mock chapel, appropriate for a country in which over 60% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholic. Walking through the nave and entering the pub area, visitors find walls adorned with Slovak poetry and several framed paintings of famous national heroes.

My companion and I seated ourselves near a table overlooking the street below and took our best guesses: that's the poet Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav; there's Anton Bernolák, who first attempted to codify the Slovak language in the 18th century; Ľudovíť Štúr, also pictured in the pub, was credited for successfully completing the feat soon after in the 19th century.


This mock chapel greets visitors to Slovak Pub in Bratislava.
photo. Ján Svrček

But one painting left us at a loss. I guessed Juraj Jánošík, the Slovak bandit who roamed the hills around Orava stealing from Hungarian nobility and giving to the Slovak poor. But we weren't sure, so we asked our waitress.

"I have no idea who it is," she said with an apologetic and slightly embarrassed shrug.

Although the identity of the adventurous looking man in the painting remained a mystery, Slovak Pub had all the answers for what constitutes a fine beer-drinking establishment: attentive service, good, cold beer, a friendly atmosphere and affordable prices.

But is this really Slovak? When I first arrived in this country in 1997, I was told that Bratislava's Mamut pub, which in its heyday was the largest beer hall in central Europe, was the most "typical Slovak pub" to be found. If this is true, then the new Slovak Pub hardly lives up to its name. Unlike at Mamut, glasses here are filled with beer (that isn't even flat) all the way up to the half-litre line, the toilets flush, the bathrooms are clean and free of charge, bingo is nowhere to be found, and the entrance is not guarded by large skinheads cursing and spitting on the sidewalk.

The music was also distinctly non-Slovak, consisting of U2, Lenny Kravitz, REM and Beck (although the DJ occasionally employed the irritating practice of Slovak radio stations by cutting songs off at the midway point). The waitstaff, unlike so many in Slovakia, were friendly and prompt, and they never once shouted at their customers. Instead, they were attentive without being overbearing, casual without failing to take notice of an empty glass in need of a refill.

Slovak Pub's menu included no food as of late June - not even Slovak staples like Bryndzové halušky, cabbage soup or fried cheese - but a sign on the door promised that "Slovak specialities" would be offered in the near future. The drink menu includes two types of beers: Zlatý Bažant (23 Slovak crowns - or 46 cents - per half-litre), and Kelt (28 crowns). The standard offer of coffees (around 30 crowns), juice, tea and liquors are also to be found. Potent Slovak firewaters such as Slivovica, Borovička and Demänovka go for 35 to 40 crowns.

Continuing along the Slovak line, there is also an extensive menu of domestic wines, with selections from Pezinok, Sväty Jur, Radošiná, Topoľčianky and Veľký Krtíš ranging in price from 150 to 270 crowns per bottle. Two tokaj wines are also listed.

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