Piper's Scottish Pub
Where: Au Park
Tel: 02 6345 4178
Open: Sun-Thur 11:00-24:00, Fri-Sat 11:00-02:00
English Menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes, can do parties of 25-30
Rating: 6 out of 10
THE CANADIAN comedy show Second City used to have a skit in which actors Dave Thomas and Martin Short would go around the country skewering consumer culture. Short would pick something out in a shop, and Thomas, wearing a kilt and a sneer, would pronounce the immortal words: "Well, if it's no' Scottish, it's CRAP!"
It was in the same spirit that I decided to review the Piper's Scottish Pub in Bratislava's new shopping mall, Au Park. I confess I was expecting to find little that deserved the superlative "Scottish", and enough crap to keep Second City in jokes for a year.
That's why I was delighted to see, on entering, the wine shelves behind the wooden bar advertising "VINES". I smothered a snigger as I opened the menu to find "FAMOUSE GROUSE" whisky listed as the daily "AKCIA! AKCIA!"
Nor was there anything Scottish at all about the Scottish pub, apart from the tartan table cloths and the bagpipe backgrounds to the menus. The beer was Slovak, Czech and Irish (Guinness and Kilkenny for Sk85 a pint). The food was aggressively Slovak (fatty and fatter). On hearing that I had Scottish roots the waiter asked me if I knew any Scottish recipes (in fairness, he recognised me as a former regular at another pub; I don't believe he would normally canvass his customers for haggis instructions).
But nor was Piper's perceptibly crappy. The wee sleekit' waiters were no tim'rous cow'rin beasties, but went about their work smoothly and politely. When I ordered a steak I was asked how I wanted it cooked, and the instructions were apparently followed by the kitchen. I was given a steak knife along with the regular utensils. I was asked if I wanted another beer before I'd finished the first. They even shooed a drunk away from my table who was trying to pry from me the mystery of my abominable Slovak.
The food was well-prepared and frankly delicious, even though I tried to order the most ominous sounding dishes on the menu. I started with "toasts roasted on pork grease with garlic and English bacon" and was served a crisp piece of fried toast with decently cooked meat, cloves on the side. I regretted not having room for the "Brewers goulash with bean and weenie", but went instead with the "sausage drowned in vinegar", which turned out to be utopenec.
The pepper steak, which came on a piece of crispy bread in a cream-based sauce, cut sharply through the garlic fumes from my appetiser. My only complaint was that the menu claimed it was served with "wealthy garnish", but I didn't find anything high-tone about red and white cabbage. Still, it was all meat and no fat, it was done a perfect medium with a tinge of pink, and the roast potatoes were robust and hot.
The portions were large enough that I had no room for the "canape with salty eye" which had drawn my curiosity, and as the drunk patron was beckoning and winking at me from the bar I decided to get the bill.
Pipers has a lot going for it, I decided as I reentered the decidedly crappy mall atmosphere, but location isn't one of its draws. The pub is on the first floor of the massive Au Park, next to several banks of gleaming, gliding glass elevators. It's a big step up from the Wine World and Budvar Bar joints that peddle booze in the mezzanine, but you're never entirely unaware you're sitting in a shopping centre. Even the scrofulous little dog curled under a fellow diner's chair seemed to feel out of place without a few low beams and a hissing peat fire.
But the waiters try hard, the food is good, the beer is cold and the smoke busters are probably the most efficient in the country. Perhaps if those of us with Scottish forebears were to take them a few recipes, and a native English speaker was to have a word about the menu translations, this place could be more than a place to escape the thrills of shopping. I'll be going back, if only to find out about the bean, the weenie and the salty eye.
11. Mar 2002 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson