Arched brick ceilings, dim lighting, perhaps a live trio of musicians, and of course a fine selection of mouth-watering wines from the region. These are the ingredients that make up that ever-scarcer brand of Bratislava evening retreat: the classic Slovak wine cellar.
In ranking wine cellars in the Slovak capital, we took various factors into consideration, including service, location, prices, and quality of the wine and food. But the primary criterion for our evaluation was atmosphere.
We do not promise lightning-quick service or multi-lingual menus, but we expect that these establishments will give you a sense of Slovak heritage.
1. Veľkí Františkáni - The most traditional of Bratislava's cellars, located right in the Old Town. Live Gypsy music, a good selection of wines, and tasty food combine to make this a great spot to spend either a romantic or raucous evening. $$. CC: no. Eng. menu: on request. Res: no. Františkánské nám. 10. % 33-073. < 10:00-20:30.
2. Kláštorná - A relic of bygone days, the tasty meals, sheltered tables, and decent folk music make for a cozy atmosphere. Find it by walking around the old Gothic chapel of the nearby Franciscan Church. $$$. CC: no. Eng. menu: yes. Res: yes. Františkánska 1. % 330-430. < 10:00-23:00.
3. Karpatia - About 20 minutes from downtown by car, between Devínska Nová Ves and Záhorská Bystrica, Karpatia is a great way to either get out of the city or top off a day roaming the Carpathians. The cozy, romantic atmosphere gives the restaurant the feel of a country inn. $. CC: no. Eng. menu: no (German). Poľný Mlyn 1, % 775-269, 776-029.
4. Bakchus - Brick-laid vináreň featuring roomy tables and extensive, Slovak-oriented menu. Finding a table at peak hours requires patience. On a cold or rainy day, their hot spiced wine will warm you up. Service though can be painfully slow. Sample dishes: Turkey Cordon Bleu, fried cheese, bryndzové halušky. $$. CC: no. Eng. menu: yes. Res: yes. Hlboká cesta 5. % 494-178. < 10:00-20:00 M-Su.
5. Modrá Hviezda - A delightful haven just below the castle for creatively cooked Slovak cuisine, served up in hearty portions. Try "Mummie's Specialty" of beef with cream and cranberry sauce and potato croquettes, the sauerkraut goulash, or the veal in plum sauce. Head for the brick-walled wine cellar with heavy wooden tables; the other room, while attractive enough, lacks the cellar's character. The small sunken room on the way in is available for large parties. $$. CC: no. Eng. menu: yes. Res: yes. Beblavého 14. % 332-747 < 11:00-23:00 M-Sa.
6. U Liszta - Duck off of Michalská ulica through the passage at the University Library and walk in the direction of the castle. At the next corner, on the right is U Liszta. In warm weather, the back garden opens up and patrons can wander to the pavillion at the rear. This is where, in 1820, nine-year-old Franz Liszt debuted at the palace of Leopold de Pauli. Talk about historic ambiance! $$. CC: no. Eng. menu: no. Res: no. Klariská 1. % 334-343. < 10:00-23:00.
Key: $=inexpensive $$=moderately priced $$$=expensive. CC = credit cards accepted? Eng. menu = English menu? Res = reservations recommended? % = telephone number. <= hours open.