Review: Down home food with an unusual touch

By my count, Gremium is the third Bratislava restaurant to 'go American', not including Pizza Hut. The question posed by such restaurants is not whether the food will be authentic, but whether it will be any good, whatever it is.
With Gremium the answer is a resounding yes. Its Caesar salad, the staple of the American franchise restaurant, comes soaked in a spicy mustard dressing instead of parmesan dressing. The staff at Thank God it's Friday's wouldn't recognise it, but I bet they'd enjoy it.
The 'buffalo chicken wings' are another tasty misnomer. The sauce is a mixture of sour cream and chopped pepper, instead of cayenne-pepper sauce and butter. And it's served on the side. As a native of upstate New York I object to the false label, but am happy to report the chicken was tasty and tender and the sauce good in its own zesty/creamy way.


City centre cuisine Americano style.
photo: Ján Svrček

Gremium

Address: Gorkého 11
Open: 11:00-24:00 (last orders taken at 22:00)
English menu: sort of
Rating: 8 out of 10

By my count, Gremium is the third Bratislava restaurant to 'go American', not including Pizza Hut. The question posed by such restaurants is not whether the food will be authentic, but whether it will be any good, whatever it is.

With Gremium the answer is a resounding yes. Its Caesar salad, the staple of the American franchise restaurant, comes soaked in a spicy mustard dressing instead of parmesan dressing. The staff at Thank God it's Friday's wouldn't recognise it, but I bet they'd enjoy it.

The 'buffalo chicken wings' are another tasty misnomer. The sauce is a mixture of sour cream and chopped pepper, instead of cayenne-pepper sauce and butter. And it's served on the side. As a native of upstate New York I object to the false label, but am happy to report the chicken was tasty and tender and the sauce good in its own zesty/creamy way.

These dishes appear on a Gremium menu written like a turn-of-the-century American newspaper. Thick black fonts. Wanted dead or alive banners. Hazy photographs of antique silverware. The text is a hodgepodge of English titles and Slovak explanations. This will irritate those who are not fluent in both languages, but you have to admire the solid colloquial English: deserts listed as 'sweet finale' appetisers as 'starters'. The claim '100% Fresh' is dead-on, folksy American salesmanship.

The menu is one of many changes following a summer overhaul at Gremium, open since 1991. The artsy colour scheme has been toned down to a creamy yellow with maroon trim, and large banners celebrating football, baseball and basketball now hang from the walls, which is not nearly as tacky as it sounds.

The spacious table arrangement affords lots of elbow room, and the open ceiling in the restaurant's back creates a liberating sense of space. Sitting in the mezzanine above the main floor is excellent for people watching.

My favourite changes Gremium has made include the rack of paper towels brought with food, and the bowl of lemon water brought with orders of ribs or wings. The wings come in four varieties: Barbecue, Buffalo, Carolina Honey and Spicy Virginia.

My favourite dish at Gremium is the Chicken Cajun Salad, also drenched in spicy mustard dressing. Coming with two garlic rolls, it's a meal in itself. The Cajun pasta with peppers is a close second, although sometimes the pasta is overcooked.


The makeover extends to the food as well.
photo: Ján Svrček

I should also mention the Gremium soup, an exquisite cream of potato with black mushrooms and kidney beans served in a bread bowl, and the juicy and tender Papa Joe's Ribs, served with sour cream.

Gremium's 12-page menu includes six starters, among them escargots and tiger prawns, a children's section with hamburgers and chicken fingers, three salmon dishes (salmon filled with camembert cheese leads off), and a light menu with a broccoli and cheese baked potato.

My single complaint is with the stiff prices. Gremium's laid back atmosphere suggests down-home deals. Then the bill comes and you realise you've paid about $7 for barbecue ribs, just about a day's average wage in these parts.

But them's the breaks. Nobody said America came cheap, even when it comes to imitations.

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