Hradná Vináreň has an eclectic menu, including frog legs and ostrich.
photo: Matthew J. Reynolds
Open: daily, 11:00-23:00
Located: In front of the Bratislava castle on the citycentre side.
Tel: 5934 1358
English menu: Yes
Rating: 9 out of 10
First-time visitors to Hradná Vináreň restaurant in the shadows of the Bratislava castle may come armed with a few assumptions: if you're not careful, your wallet will take a substantial hit; the well-groomed waiters in tuxedos will politely and efficiently cater to your every whim; judging by the effort invested in details such as the plush blue decor and the intricate table settings, the food will be exquisite.
All of these assumptions prove true. If it's any comfort, however, one feels a great deal more at ease about one's wallet after having been treated like a king and having eaten like a lion.
To be fair, a lunch or dinner at Hradná Vináreň is pricey by Slovak standards, but not grossly expensive. The Slovak traditional staple Bryndzové Halušky, for example, is on the menu at an affordable 65 Slovak crowns ($1.50), while an excellent Balkan salad goes for just over 100 crowns, and the Caesar salad with home-made croutons, nuggets of bacon and fresh parmesan cheese checks in at 75 crowns.
But one look at the menu makes it hard to refrain from sampling something more exotic. The menu features 10 hors d'oeuvres, including baked snails (195 crowns, or about $5), shrimp cocktail with whiskey sauce and creamy crab soup. Main courses include grilled salmon (320 crowns - $7.50), frog legs, Hawaiian turkey steak and two Ostrich dishes, one of which comes in an orange sauce and is handsomely garnished with apples and kiwi.
The food is gorgeous to behold, and once you've violated the arrangements you'll find the hefty portions have been cooked and seasoned to perfection. The meat entrées have that tender melt-in-your-mouth quality, and a simple side of steamed vegetables pushes the limits of how soft and tasty broccoli and carrots can be. Try to leave room for dessert too - the fried bananas in vanilla cream sauce is heavenly.
Being a vináreň (wine cellar), Hradná expects wine to play an important role in the dining experience. The wide selection of mostly Slovak reds and whites are displayed on a table next to the wooden bar at the centre of the room; prices range from 170 to 510 crowns ($4 to $12) per bottle. Standard aperitifs, beer and champagne are also available.
Indeed, one is hard pressed to find anything to complain about after a sumptuous repast at Hradná Vináreň... let's see, the door handle of the men's bathroom was sticky the day I visited, and at one point the music included Bon Jovi. Those grave concerns apart, people after great food and service should definitely budget an afternoon for this restaurant, especially in the spring and summer when the great service and food can be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the city below.