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RESTAURANT

Review: Where you're better off being a non-smoker

U FILIPA is a rarity among Slovak restaurants - a place where smokers get the rough end of the pineapple in both seating arrangements and atmosphere.
The pineapple metaphor, which comes from Australia, suits U filipa restaurant's exotic menu. 'Chef's specials' include kangaroo (klokan), ostrich (pštros) and fried prawns, while the menu proper features frogs' legs appetisers, wild boar with whortleberry sauce and 'the best of flesh for two persons'.

U filipa restaurant

Where: Biela 6
Open: Daily 11:00 to 24:00
Tel: 02 5443-1311
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 8 out of 10

U FILIPA is a rarity among Slovak restaurants - a place where smokers get the rough end of the pineapple in both seating arrangements and atmosphere.

The pineapple metaphor, which comes from Australia, suits U filipa restaurant's exotic menu. 'Chef's specials' include kangaroo (klokan), ostrich (pštros) and fried prawns, while the menu proper features frogs' legs appetisers, wild boar with whortleberry sauce and 'the best of flesh for two persons'.

But the expression also captures the gulf between the two dining worlds that U filipa offers. The non-smoking section, a separate 30-seat room at the back of the restaurant, has an unhurried, elegant atmosphere. On the other hand the smoking section, a sort of ante-room between the bar and the restaurant proper, seems to have been an afterthought. On the evening we were there, my partner and I (both smokers) dined beside a dozen university-aged beer drinkers who were cursing so loudly I would have asked them to shut up, if memories of my own school days hadn't made me feel like a hypocrite.

Bar the student merriment U filipa would have been a very pleasant evening. The peach paint and the open stone hearth, the candles, the background music and pictures of dead musician Jaro Filip (a smoker's smoker, a hero of tobacco) on the walls lend a relaxed, artsy tone which goes well with the moderately-priced menu (the wine list offers several excellent Slovak cabernets at around Sk700, or $15, while the top entrees run around Sk400).

Incidentally, the restaurant owners meant to name their joint after singer Filip, but when he died last year (from smoking) they changed the name to 'U filipa', (lower case), which is a play on the Slovak saying mám filipa, meaning 'I'm clever'. Still, Filip remains on the walls and on the CD player.

Fortified with several glasses of wine I ordered the kangaroo, but couldn't convince my partner to brave the ostrich. U filipa's fare is rich without seeming grossly unhealthy, and the klokan tasted much like a rather tangy beef steak. The chicken soté with crab my partner got was dressed in an achingly sweet cream sauce, which was good enough to make me regret my decision to try the marsupial.

But throughout the meal, which continued with mashed chestnuts in whipped cream and chocolate-dipped fruit, I found myself looking wistfully through the archway into the non-smoking section, an oasis of calm. I also found myself wishing the restaurant would at least double its draft beer prices to discourage the brutish student revelry that we were regaled with.

But life's like that, full of people who can't distinguish between a dining room and a keg party. U filipa could perhaps do more to help its smoking section guests tell the difference, such as buying comfortable dining chairs and getting rid of the bench seating (a magnet for students).

In the meantime, restaurant-goers in search of a fun evening and a creative menu should ask for U filipa's non-smoking section.

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