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Review: A taste of favourite holiday destinations

VERY unfortunately located on one of Bratislava's busiest roads, hidden among many administrative buildings, Chez Michele has a hard time catching the attention of potential customers. Moreover, the unrelated café at street level looks like a cheap bistro, so a glance through the window doesn't exactly have you running through the door. But when you descend the stairs to the basement restaurant, you find a quiet and simple place with friendly wait staff, ready to satisfy your hunger for Mediterranean specialities.
Reading Chez Michele's menu is a pleasure because it presents customers with the kind of dilemma one enjoys in life. The starters include goodies such as goat cheese with avocado, but we chose the classics - tabbouleh and hummus. As both of them are truly Mediterranean dishes, with many countries in the region favouring particular methods of preparation, it was difficult to guess where the recipe for the one we were served came from. But the cracked-wheat salad - which had a lot of olive oil, parsley, and lemon, as it is meant to have - was very tasty, and so was the second classic, the chickpea-sesame spread hummus.


THE ATMOSPHERE remains Slovak despite the exotic menu.
photo: Saša Petrášová

La Méditerranée "Chez Michele"
Where:
Šancová 70, Bratislava
Tel: 02/5262-5237
Open: Mon-Sat 10:00-22:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

VERY unfortunately located on one of Bratislava's busiest roads, hidden among many administrative buildings, Chez Michele has a hard time catching the attention of potential customers. Moreover, the unrelated café at street level looks like a cheap bistro, so a glance through the window doesn't exactly have you running through the door. But when you descend the stairs to the basement restaurant, you find a quiet and simple place with friendly wait staff, ready to satisfy your hunger for Mediterranean specialities.

Reading Chez Michele's menu is a pleasure because it presents customers with the kind of dilemma one enjoys in life. The starters include goodies such as goat cheese with avocado, but we chose the classics - tabbouleh and hummus. As both of them are truly Mediterranean dishes, with many countries in the region favouring particular methods of preparation, it was difficult to guess where the recipe for the one we were served came from. But the cracked-wheat salad - which had a lot of olive oil, parsley, and lemon, as it is meant to have - was very tasty, and so was the second classic, the chickpea-sesame spread hummus.

Expectations were high after the first round of food. When I found the starters decorated with fresh mint leaves, I managed to convince the waiter to bring me some for my peppermint tea. Then the illusion of a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean lunch became almost perfect. (I would, however, recommend the chef or manager add pita bread and the aubergine spread baba ganoush to the menu; the very few things missing.)

Continuing with a sesame sensation after the hummus, I chose fish fillet with sesame sauce (samakah harrah), which was simple and balanced in taste and came with both potatoes and rice, and vegetables on the side. My friend was less happy with her choice because her kebab was not what she had expected.

Kebab, called kabob in some countries, is usually either cubes of meat (lamb and/or beef) cooked on a skewer, or meat fried on a vertical spit, which is then cut into thin slices (shish kebab). Chez Michele's version of the dish (yogurtlu kebab) was served with a yoghurt sauce but in the form of balls of minced meat, which was somewhat of a disappointment because lamb tastes best when it is roasted and crunchy.

Among the other choices on the menu are Italian, French, Spanish, north African, and Middle Eastern dishes, such as two kinds of paella, several kinds of pasta, fish and seafood dishes, and many original meat dishes. Vegetarians can chose from a variety of salads, and should be aware that some of the dishes that look vegetarian (like the caldo verde, a vegetable soup) might have ham, sausage, or bacon lurking in them.

Despite the Mediterranean food, Chez Michele could not conjure up a fully Mediterranean environment: The basement was rather chilly and the decoration did not bring back too many holiday memories. Nevertheless, the restaurant's menu and friendly service are inviting enough to get customers to return and try the other dishes on offer. It certainly makes a change from Bratislava's many pizzerias.

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