Where:Hviezdoslavovo námestie 26
Food served: 12:00 - 23:00
Rating: 9 out of 10
English menu: No
Good food sometimes crops up in the strangest places, such as a dark and dirty pub or the guy on the street selling chicken who, it turns out, actually knows how to cook. It reminds me of some otherwise dingy upstate New York watering holes, where they always seem to have the hottest, greasiest, and tastiest chicken wings around.
In the back of the tangled-metal jungle of Bratislava's Kelt pub, by night a shadowy lair of dancing yuppies, there is a kitchen churning out fantastic meals - some of them hot, some of them greasy, all of them tasty. Surprise number two are the prices, which are lower than almost anything of comparable quality in the Bratislava Old Town.
Much of Kelt's food is patterned after American cuisine. And although it doesn't always hit the target, it usually hits the spot. The sauce for the Buffalo chicken wings, for instance, neither spicy nor cayenne pepper based, is not what you'd find in Buffalo. But the chicken is crispy, the cheese is blue, and the sauce (whatever it's made from) works in its own right, especially when doused with Tabasco.
A more filling treat is the nachos, a mountain of tortilla chips covered in cheese, tomatoes and sour cream. The spinach-cheese dip is also rumoured to be superb, though it can be as hard to come by as a four-leaf clover. Three separate attempts to sample it last week by The Slovak Spectator ended in disappointment.
A striking feature of food at Kelt is the Falstaffian portions, what you would expect judging by the pub's warrior design, but what you rarely find in Bratislava. An excellent club sandwich, for example, almost too large to fit into your mouth, leaves little room for the healthy portion of fries that comes with it. All this for 120 Slovak crowns ($2.40).
Other entrees are just as challenging. The 'Rasta Pasta' (also for 120 crowns), made up of penne al dente in cream sauce with grilled-chicken, green peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, is heaped conveniently into a large bowl. It's tempting to order one of Kelt's four salads to go with it, but unnecessary. Another delicious pasta and four steaks flesh out the entree menu.
As good as the main courses are, Kelt's crowning culinary invention is its simple Tostansky syrovy chlieb (cheese bread), four pieces of thick, American-style garlic bread with cheddar cheese covering a creamy secret. The 'melt-in-your-mouth' advertising cliché finds new life here.
Open for lunch and dinner since late 1999, Kelt's reputation as a fine place to eat is not only dwarfed by its notoriety as a night club, but damaged by it as well. Two notes on this. Although there is enough smoke in the late evening at Kelt to choke Humphrey Bogart, day-time levels are reasonable. And the rude Mr. Hyde wait-staff curtly serving beers at night revert to docile and polite Dr. Jekyll's in the daylight hours.