PLEASANT atmosphere, quality food.
photo: Eric Smillie
Where: Hlavná 95, Prešov
When: Mon-Fri 8:00-23:00, Sat 9:00-23:00, Sun 10:00-23:00,
English menu: Yes
Rating: 9 out of 10
IN THE ENTRANCE to the Carpe Diem restaurant, coffeehouse, and cocktail bar stands a table in the same elegant, elongated oval shape as Prešov's main square, which I had just spent a good weekend ogling. The table must often be occupied, as it was when I arrived at the odd time of three o'clock on Sunday afternoon for a late lunch before a train ride to Bratislava.
But, no matter: the other tables at the restaurant, with wrought iron bases and chairs to match, are just as inviting. The addition of flowers and a tiled floor assists in carrying off a light atmosphere. In finishing the walls, the decorators indulged in the style where plaster occasionally opens to expose the brickwork underneath. These spots harmonise with the building facades surrounding the terrace, where the picturesque disrepair is brushed with a few flower boxes hanging from windowsills.
When the very friendly wait staff revealed my dish, pasta in tomato sauce with basil and capers, I was delighted. It was well presented, with fresh green basil amid a light dusting of cheese, and the sauce, not at all shy on the garlic, was delicious. A full minute or two had passed before I remembered that it wasn't what I had ordered.
Happily savouring my dish, I thought it a shame that I hadn't received what I'd wanted, as it must be equally as good. It seems to me that the quality of pasta in tomato sauce can serve as an index of a restaurant's calibre; when it is raised from ordinary to exciting, then the other items offered by the kitchen must also be of a special quality.
The real shame is that I couldn't return to sample some of the other twenty-odd pasta dishes on the menu (all around Sk100), such as eggplant with capers (the meal that had originally caught my eye), or artichoke, or perhaps make my own selection from an array of vegetables to be grilled as appetisers. The soups looked tasty as well, running from Slovak staples like garlic soup, to French onion, and then to house specials like broccoli cream with salmon, or thick mushroom soup with smoked meat.
For main courses, the two pages of specials, each with its own history, attracted my attention. One, named Something Delicious in the local dialect, originates from an old quarter of Prešov and includes three different meats, three potato cakes, sour cream, and cabbage (Sk280).
Carpe Diem invites visitors to "seize the day" from the very morning - its breakfast, a meal still scarce in Slovakia, can be found there on weekday mornings from 8:00 to 11:00.
8. Sep 2003 at 0:00 | Eric Smillie