Review: The curious tale of the Golden Hind

THE GOLDEN Hind (Zlatá Laň) restaurant on Laurinská Street in Bratislava's Old Town is yet another in a flotilla of theme restaurants that have recently opened in the capital. Unlike the more successful Three Musketeers restaurant or El Diablo pub, however, this one looks like it's going to have an uphill battle to be more than cute.
To understand why the Zlatá Laň is littered with nautical knicknacks, including treasure chests and a Captain Hook statue, you have to know that 'hind' in the restaurant's name is not used in the adjective sense, as the rear part of something, but as the noun synonym for deer. Golden Hind, as a proper name, was given by English captain Sir Francis Drake to the ship in which he circumnavigated the world from 1577 to 1580.

Zlatá Laň

Where: Laurinská 18
Tel: 0904 893 133
Open: Daily 10:00 to 01:00, kitchen open until 11:00
English Menu: No
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 6 out of 10

THE GOLDEN Hind (Zlatá Laň) restaurant on Laurinská Street in Bratislava's Old Town is yet another in a flotilla of theme restaurants that have recently opened in the capital. Unlike the more successful Three Musketeers restaurant or El Diablo pub, however, this one looks like it's going to have an uphill battle to be more than cute.

To understand why the Zlatá Laň is littered with nautical knicknacks, including treasure chests and a Captain Hook statue, you have to know that 'hind' in the restaurant's name is not used in the adjective sense, as the rear part of something, but as the noun synonym for deer. Golden Hind, as a proper name, was given by English captain Sir Francis Drake to the ship in which he circumnavigated the world from 1577 to 1580.

The Golden Hind (restaurant) strives mightily to serve food reminiscent of what Drake's crew might have eaten. A camembert appetiser I ordered turned out to be just that - a cake of camembert (Slovak-style, known as plesnivec) soaked in oil. A čiernohorský rezeň (battered deep-fried turkey breast) was served so greasy that my dinner companions were temporarily blinded by the sheen. Vegetables or greenery consisted of a lone leaf of lettuce buried beneath a mound of fried spuds, a reminder that doctors in Drake's day were only beginning to apprehend the cause of "the scurvy called in Latine Scorbutum" (physician John Woodall in 1617 published a tract claiming that "the Lemmons, Limes, Tamarinds, Oranges, and other choice of good helps in the Indies... do farre exceed any that can be carried tither from England").

Service was prompt and attentive, if seeming to conceal a hint of resentment. But again, this may have simply been in the name of remaining true to the restaurant's theme - Drake's crew was surly and gloomy all the way across the Atlantic until the gallant captain found that the source was seaman Thomas Doughty, a born agitator. Doughty was tried by jury, convicted of mutiny and beheaded (Golden Hind staff beware).

On the whole the experience was quite pleasant, seated on the restaurant terrace on Laurinská and hearing the whisper of live music drifting down from the Old Town (before being abruptly cut off at 10 p.m., according to the silliest city by-law in existence).

But something didn't quite sit right. The restaurant offers some of the cheapest meals in town (many entrees under Sk100, or $2) and good cold beer for Sk30, all in one of the nation's highest-rent districts. And it's not as if the place is bustling - on a balmy Wednesday night it was bone empty inside, as if the crew had either mutinied or was taking an extended shore leave. So how do they make any money?

It may have something to do with the treasure Drake brought back to England, estimated then at 600,000 pounds, more than twice the costs of fighting the Spanish Armada in 1588. But if it doesn't, the Golden Hind will be lucky to last beyond the turn of the tide.

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