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RESTAURANT

Review: Archa Pressburg a welcome addition

Bratislava is rapidly changing, a fact made evident by the city's blossoming restaurant scene. For regular diners, this means more than just a facelift for the old town's empty lots. Slovak restaurateurs and chefs are themselves evolving, increasingly shunning the coarse atmospheres and limited menus of the country's traditional eateries in favour of brighter and healthier alternatives.
Archa Pressburg on Uršulínska 6 is the newest establishment in the capital to cater to younger, more international and more demanding restaurant-goers. Its trendy, multicoloured design and potpourri menu are not successful on all counts. Yet as a specimen in the city's culinary evolution, Archa reminded me more of the positive trends than those areas which still need improvement.

Archa Pressburg

Open: Mon-Fri, 9:00-24:00, Sat-Sun, 10:00-23:00
Address: Uršulínska 6
English menu: yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Bratislava is rapidly changing, a fact made evident by the city's blossoming restaurant scene. For regular diners, this means more than just a facelift for the old town's empty lots. Slovak restaurateurs and chefs are themselves evolving, increasingly shunning the coarse atmospheres and limited menus of the country's traditional eateries in favour of brighter and healthier alternatives.

Archa Pressburg on Uršulínska 6 is the newest establishment in the capital to cater to younger, more international and more demanding restaurant-goers. Its trendy, multicoloured design and potpourri menu are not successful on all counts. Yet as a specimen in the city's culinary evolution, Archa reminded me more of the positive trends than those areas which still need improvement.

The menu is conscious of the growing number of Slovak vegetarians without neglecting carnivores, offering broccoli and mushroom crepes, four cheese appetisers, and pastas with blue cheese and mushroom sauce. For meat-lovers, there are four chicken dishes, steak entrees, and pork dinners.

On my first trip I ordered creamy garlic soup, three-cheese crepes and a Greek salad. The soup was tasty, and had the right consistency, but the home-made croutons were slightly oily. The tomatoes and cucumbers in the salad could have been fresher, and the small, pitless green olives seemed to have come from a can. And although the first bite of the pancakes was fantastic, the salty feta soon overpowered the béchamel and Edam cheeses. I was disappointed, but had the feeling that with a few small adjustments, the meal could have been superb.

Archa is divided into three sections: a bar/atrium, and smoking and non-smoking (until 15:00) rooms to either side. Like the food, the non-smoking zone, where I sat, seemed to have been well conceived but poorly executed. I wondered at the choice of colour, a nauseating pinkish red, and the juxtaposition of tacky plastic-framed reprints of old Bratislava photos (a nod at the name Pressburg, Bratislava's former name) with chandelier and antique wooden clock. I wanted the room to be less odd, or more.

Still, service was crisp and courteous, and intriguing possibilities remained on the menu, including tiramisu and a roster of pastas. I decided to return.

For my second lunch I again ordered the soup of the day, this time a peppery egg concoction low on egg and heavy on spices. But the pasta Carbonara, spaghetti in cream sauce with mushrooms and bacon sprinkled with parmesan, was fabulous. Creamy but not too heavy, the dish was seasoned correctly this time and its pasta cooked to perfection. I also enjoyed the fruit punch cocktail, served with ice and bits of bananas, oranges and strawberries.

I had chosen the smoking room, which was more consistently and interestingly appointed. Jagged pieces of mirror were glued to the ceiling; a smoking divider in the middle of the room was a fetching mosaic of mirror fragments and tile; and two exhibits of installation art with a beach theme provided entertainment while I waited for my food.

I didn't have to wait long. Despite the lunch crunch, the dishes were brought minutes after being ordered by a waitress who had patiently explained the menu to me in Slovak. For dessert I had a triumphant tiramisu covered in rich chocolate syrup made from scratch. Prices for both lunches came to around 300 crowns, but with large portions. Archa could fill an empty stomach for much less.

Altogether it was a fine meal. Archa is a step forward for Bratislava cuisine, even if its attention to most details accentuates its lapses with others.

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