Although there are some varieties of wine that can be called typical to Bratislava, the same cannot necessarily be said about the city’s cuisine. But this is not cause for regret. Instead, because of Bratislava’s location close to borders and along significant ancient trade routes, food in the region displays influences from across Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria as well as more remote corners of the world. This remains true in modern times, when Bratislava has not escaped globalisation. Nowadays all the major fast food chains can be found here, as well as countless Italian, Greek, Chinese and Indian restaurants, and some high-end, swanky eateries too.
The fierce competition from global brands has also prompted a reaction among local foodies keen to ensure Slovak recipes continue to be cooked in the city. There are now a number of history books about local cuisine by a writer named Vladimír Tomčík, plus cook books containing historical recipes, including a popular series by Silvia Pilková.
Similarly a few restaurants in Bratislava have elevated traditional, local cooking to top-end restaurant standard. Try Leberfinger on the Petržalka bank of the Danube, for instance, which dates from the second half of the 18th century, or Restaurant Prešburg in the old city centre. There are also a reliable smattering of cheaper restaurants, popular with locals, that offer a vibrant atmosphere and good food. Try Verne, opposite the US Embassy, or the Slovak Pub, or Bratislava Flag Ship.
As the richest city in Slovakia, it is only to be expected that Bratislava offers a number of fancy restaurants that regularly top national lists for both cuisine and service, compiled by the economic weekly Trend. The restaurant at the top of the SNP Bridge over the Danube – UFO watch.taste.groove, to give it its full (but very infrequently used) name – is certainly the restaurant with the most attractive location in the city, and it also offers acclaimed cuisine to complement its spectacular 360° views over Bratislava.
However, Petržalka’s Fou Zoo, which also rides high in the lists and combines Asian and European cuisine, is proof that location is not everything. Likewise Liviano, a restaurant sitting in the high-rise office building in Petržalka, was recently named among the 101 best restaurants in Europe.
Messina, in Marrol’s hotel in the city centre, is another favourite. It focuses on modern gastronomy, but draws an influence from Slovak and central-European cuisine. The restaurant of the Albrecht Hotel near Slavín is also popular, especially now that its chef Jaroslav Žídek has become famous thanks to his TV show Áno, šéfe!, the Slovak version of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.
In the inter-war period, Bratislava used to have a strong café tradition, which it has been gradually re-gaining in the post-communist era. The local speciality is Bratislavský rožok, a fine, crescent-shaped pastry with filling made from poppyseed or walnuts, which is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee. After a five-year process and negotiations with Hungary and Austria (who were also part of the Habsburg empire when Bratislavský rožok was first baked) it earned its “traditional speciality guaranteed” (TSG) seal from the EU in 2012. It was the seventh Slovak product to get the TSG label. Austria and Hungary have their own variations of the pastry: the Pressburger Kipfel and Pozsonyi kifli.
Back in the days when Bratislava was known as Pressburg, residents of the city would often find fish from the Danube on their tables. But the tradition has sadly not survived. Rejoice, then, for Slovenský Grob, a small village just outside Bratislava, in which a long tradition for roast goose has endured and which was not interrupted even by the communist regime.
Roast goose or husacina is served with lokše (potato pancakes covered with goose fat), and often with goose liver as an entrée. The tradition of goose roasting in Slovenský Grob dates back more than 100 years and nowadays there are several venues scattered in the tiny village. Originally roast goose could be eaten only during the traditional season lasting from September until December, but now husacina can be enjoyed throughout the whole year – assuming you can get a table. These are mostly small family businesses with limited space offering a cosy, casual and rustic atmosphere. (One of the exceptions is the larger and better known Pivnica u Zlatej Husi.)
During the summer, Bratislava and the surrounding area hosts various food festivals, which are often worth exploring for the combination of both cuisine and culture. For instance, the zabíjačka festival (which translated literally means the “pig killing”) offers some good traditional specialties. Meanwhile, the best restaurants in the region will often attend the gourmet festival in Medická Záhrada, the Slovak Food Festival in Bratislava Castle, or the competition for the best fish soup, which is part of the annual festival of water sprites.
The Cabbage Festival (Dni zelá), which is held during the first weekend in October in Stupava only 19 kilometres from Bratislava, is becoming more popular. Even though cabbage is the main theme there is a wide selection of folk and cultural events linked to this festival.
In the autumn, the wine-making districts of Bratislava hold “vinobranie”, the name given to festivities marking the end of the grape harvest. These offer an excellent opportunity to taste burčiak, fermented grape juice, a specialty served only in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria.
This article was published in the latest edition of Bratislava City Guide , which can be obtained from our online shop.For those who would like to see it online first, you can read it for free here.
29. Nov 2013 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková