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Review: A certain 'je ne sais quoi'

Ask any vegetarian where they can go for a good meal in Bratislava and the answers are a bit unsure. Some very good Chinese restauarnts provide fare for the less carnivorous, and the capital's numerous Italian restaurants always offer something. In fact, study any menu in the city hard enough and there's ususally something for a vegetarian to tuck into, even if it is merely the ubiquitous fried cheese. But the choice is always limited - a depressing monotony for anyone looking for a meatless culinary experience.
So, with the opening of Crepa on Michalská street, something new seemed to be on offer, After all, you could almost bet your house that a French creperie and pancakes joint would have dishes free of meat. Well, that is what one would have thought.

Crepa - Francúzke Palacinky

Where: Michalská 22
English menu: No
Open: Sun-Thu 11:00 - 23:00, Fri-Sat: 11:00 - 24:00
Rating: 8 out of 10

Ask any vegetarian where they can go for a good meal in Bratislava and the answers are a bit unsure. Some very good Chinese restauarnts provide fare for the less carnivorous, and the capital's numerous Italian restaurants always offer something. In fact, study any menu in the city hard enough and there's ususally something for a vegetarian to tuck into, even if it is merely the ubiquitous fried cheese. But the choice is always limited - a depressing monotony for anyone looking for a meatless culinary experience.

So, with the opening of Crepa on Michalská street, something new seemed to be on offer, After all, you could almost bet your house that a French creperie and pancakes joint would have dishes free of meat. Well, that is what one would have thought.

The reality is somewhat, although not distressingly, different.

A menu offering an extensive range of both sweet and savoury pancakes still falls victim to old Slovak habits. The savoury crepes are filled with some marvellous cheeses - camembert and roquefort - as well as spinach and other less common vegetables, but the country's predilection for pig and chicken is evinced in the number of dishes that contain both. There is of course a very simple solution to the problem - ask for the dish without the bits of dead animal - something the very pleasant, quick and attentive staff there will be happy to pass onto the chef. However, the preponderence of meat-filled crepes on a menu with some of the most enticing names anyone has thought of for a pancake is a reminder of central Europe's traditional dietary leanings.

Styled as a French creperie, Crepa nevertheless has far more to offer than many Slovaks may have experienced with traditional palacinky. Beyond the variety of offers (the savoury crepes were stuffed with everything from roquefort and spinach to mozzarella and tomatoes, while the sweeter panckes ranged from the 'Vanessa Paradis' of a rich hot-chocolate topping to cognac and almond-laced manna such as the Boris Vian or the Laurent Volzy) the sheer size of the crepes is eye-popping. The pans in which the crepes are cooked no doubt double as hub-caps on huge trucks flying across the continent's highways.

The decor is warmingly comfortable. Pink pastel walls lined with the works of one of the Czech Republic's most famous Parisian exiles, Alfons Mucha, and soft lighting melt together with the background jazz and latin music to create a relaxed and quiet atmosphere, lending a very Franco-European feel to Crepa. But be warned. A look at the white cloths covering the wooden chairs in an attempt at creative furniture presentation combine with very new pine tables to give the impression of sitting in IKEA - something no dining experience should be burdened with.

The taste and presentation are reminiscent of French cusine - wonderful in both cases - and it is easy to do something very un-French - stuff oneself silly by ordering more than you can handle and refusing to give up until the last delicious mouthful goes down. However, with prices way above the average for a pancake in Slovakia - from 25 crowns to 90 crowns for a sweet crepe and 60 crowns to 140 for a savoury - after a few visits your wallet may curtail the temptation to further dining extravagance.

For any faults it may have in not offering the vegetarians more, Crepa, nestled under Michalská brána and overlooking the narrow, cobblestoned Zámočnícka street, has a setting, feel and culinary quality that lends itself to an eaterie that would grace any small town in France or, for that matter, the rest of Europe.

Topic: Tourism and travel in Slovakia


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