Don’t get us wrong. We love Christmas. But organizing Christmas Eve dinner (the main event of the holidays here in the Czech Republic) for the family? A nightmare. Finding all the ingredients (while still doing last-minute shopping because the presents for you that you’ve just found out about are way cooler than yours), stressing about the family members arrival times and seating orders, cooking the meals while constantly cleaning the mess because we’re running out of time and omg they’re here already?! No, not again. Thank you very much.
That’s why we actually decided to make a change this year and go out for a nice, relaxed Christmas Eve meal. Having met with the parents a few days later (they spent Christmas outside of Prague), we just planned two things for December 24: a visit to Zuzi’s sister and her boyfriend, and a Christmas Eve dinner at Aureole.
We kinda like Aureole. Although seated in a building Zuzi lovingly likes to call “The House of Evil” (she used to work there), Aureole is our secret tip for a “restaurant with a view”, a very popular category here in Prague that still deserves a proper representation in the centre. In the centre Aureole is not, but boy - you do get a view. Coincidentally, it also served what we thought was the best Christmas menu of all the restaurants we contacted before the holidays to compile our piece about dining in Prague over the holidays, so we decided to go.
The place was completely empty at 5pm, the time of our reservation. Another couple arrived shortly after us, and the restaurant was half full by the time we were leaving past 7pm. The staff indicated that they were booked out later that night. We were surprised to see mostly local families dining there. Still, the decor is quite striking at night, and the view is great.
Zuzi’s grandma would faint if she had learnt that Zuzi ate meat on Christmas Eve (that’s a big no no in her family) so she opted out of the meaty amuse bouche, roast dear with cranberry and apple jellies and gingerbread reduction. Instead, the kitchen prepared a pair of veggie California makis. One word about bread. We have to say it out loud: the bread served in Czech restaurants is seldom little more than the pre-baked stuff you can buy at any supermarket. Aureole is no exception to the rule. We hope things will change soon for the better.
The first course was the fillet of South Bohemian trout smoked in beech with horse radish mousse and lemon jelly. We liked the flavors but the trout was quite dry inside. We had a very similar entree recently at Mlynec, a restaurant we wanted to try after it reopened after the summer floods, and Aureole’s version was slightly better. The flavors were there and the horseradish blended nicely with the lemon jelly and the smokiness of the trout, but the texture of the fish was simply dry.
We followed with the fish creamy soup and butter croutons. Nice presentation, as always at Aureole, and the flavors were right. Again, nice smokey flavors from the salmon and the roe added a nice textural touch. We both liked the soup. The next course was the mushroom “Kuba” (basically a barley risotto with pork fat with grouts and mushrooms) served with roasted “wine sausage”. Zuzi did not have the sausage, of course, but we both liked the dish. The sausage was very mild and ground almost to mousse texture inside. The “kuba” had a strong mushroomy flavor and a great texture.
Finally, the main was a Czech Christmas classic: fried carp with potato salad, this time breaded in Panko breadcrumbs and served with fried zander in wine batter and with fried roe. Out of the meats, we would have assumed that carp would be our least favorite but we were wrong: we absolutely loved the carp. It was cooked perfectly and packed tons of flavors (the good ones). The potato salad was good but hey - it was not grandma's.
We loved the trio of desserts, too: a tartlet with forest fruits, an apple baked in puff pastry and gingerbread-strawberry sorbet, finished with warm (milk) chocolate. We liked the baked apple the best. Jan had coffee. Aureole serves Nespresso coffee. Obviously, coffee is not a priority over at Aureole but let's be honest: fine-dining restaurants generally tend not to focus on coffee. La Degustation clearly took a bold step when it started serving drip coffee over espresso but it's an exception.
All in all, we really liked our Christmas Eve dinner at Aureole. The price for the set menu was CZK 890 (about EUR 33) each. With wines (incl. the lovely New Zealand Marlborough Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc), we paid about CZK 2,500, which we think was fair.
As an added bonus, we received carp scales (pictured), which bring good luck and prosperity according to a Czech custom. Nice touch.