Letna, the district we love and recommend for a visit, has always been a place that attracted creative people. Heck, it’s the district that the National Gallery and the Academy of Fine Arts call home, after all. It is also the district of our rental apartment, so it must be good, right?
Recently, a small section of a small street in the middle of Letna has become a tiny hub for young creative types: the Veverkova street. A stretch of no more than 50 meters between the Kostelni and Milady Horakove streets accommodates a handful of places that offer fun shopping and eating opportunities. And because shopping and eating are two of our favorite things especially when we travel - and because Zuzi bought two Christmas presents for Jan there - we have to write about these venues. Some may be familiar, some may not. But they are all small, authentic and creative in their own right and create a sense of a small community.
Bistro 8 has progressed quite far since its humble beginnings. When it opened in 2012, the bistro was a combustive mix of sympathetic and informed ambition (witness the steamed bun with pork belly, Momofuku-style) and pure amateur-hour operation: they really started with a rice cooker, a pot of soup and a small grill. Oh boy, how time flies. Bistro 8 now has a full kitchen (the annexation of the apartment in the back really helped), a bar that spans nearly the whole width of the front room, and an extra room in the back, so the seating capacity has increased to nearly 30.
Still, the things that have remained from the start are the things we really like about this place: really nice and welcoming staff headed by Mr Jakes, the co-owner and - dare we say - mascot of the bistro, friendly atmosphere that really draws in local crowds and creates a big following, and an artsy flair - there is still something happening on the walls of that place. We do recommend Bistro 8 as a breakfast place to our apartment guests (heck, they can even open a tab there) and describe the cooking as your regular cooking at home: sometimes it’s delicious, sometimes… eh… well… you can’t win every day, right? But despite the shortcomings, we like Bistro 8. It’s nice, homey and honest.
Garage, the recently opened neighbor of Bistro 8, is two shops in one - a hip sneaker shop and a records store. Sneakers and vinyl records are, coincidentally, two things Jan absolutely adores, and it is no wonder that he could basically live in that shop. What gets Jan salivating is the selection of their vintage hi-fi equipment - proper aluminum with faux wood panels and such - we’re talking turntables by Thorens, Revox or old Bang & Olufsen, amplifiers by Rotel, speakers by Dynaudio and so on. Yes, the feeling you may have been getting while reading this blog is true: Jan is a total nerd.
Aaanyway. The two owners have knocked down the wall between the rented retail space, formerly run by Luciela Taschen, and the neighboring garage (hence the name) - and ran into problems as some of the neighbors started to question the legality of that procedure. Now they get audits nearly every month. We think the resulting space is actually designed quite nicely and does not interfere with anything: a few racks of old and new records on one side, and the sneaker section on the other. In any case, if you like any of the two kinds of products they sell, definitely give Garage a try.
Prague’s answer to the likes of Do You Read Me? in Berlin, Page Five has opened very recently. The joint project of Frantisek, Stepan and Nada tries to bring well-designed printed books, posters and magazines to the Czech market. The project also includes a publishing house, and Page Five has already published a few books (one with our friends and graphic designers of choice, Tomski & Polanski, who have decorated our rental apartment). This is the place to go to if you want to give a book as a gift. It worked for Zuzi, having bought a book about Czechoslovakia’s participation in the 58 World Expo in Brussels as a Christmas gift for Jan.
The design of Page Five is minimalist: just a corner shop with big display windows and nothing but books and magazines. The selection may not be overwhelming but it is very well curated. To top it all off, you get to meet Akira, one of the nicest and calmest dogs you will ever have the pleasure to meet. If you want to include some book shopping in your Prague stay, do yourself a favor and include Page Five in your list of shopping addresses.
Right across the street from Page Five you’ll find a quite spacious, well decorated place with a smiling person inside. The person is Helena Darbujanova, a living proof that you can achieve anything if you really want. A former architect, she has always secretly peeked at the world of furniture design, so she took a swing at the new field, and it worked: having just started the brand, she was chosen for the 2009 "Czech Selection” exhibition at the famous Maison & Objet fair in Paris, alongside giants such as Preciosa and Ton. When a Korean visitor wanted to know what the prices were, Ms Darbujanova had no idea what to ask for her creations.
The showroom and the designs are clearly feminine. The main room features one of her “boudoirs”, a piece of furniture that really gives a new definition to “a room of one’s own”. Her “macarons”, small seats that can be unfolded to create a cushioned seat and a table, dominate the room, along with other handcrafted tables. Everything is playful and uses the full color palette. Ms Darbujanova’s designs are not the only thing on sale here: we have seen Woo, the modern toys by the duo of Vrtiska and Zak, in the display window. In any case, if you want a solitaire piece of furniture with a strong design statement, Ms Darbujanova’s shop is definitely worth a visit.
Recycle with Love
OK, this one is not technically open yet, but all the shops told us about them with sparkles in their eyes. Recycle with love, a new vintage clothing shop, will open right next to Bistro 8 this Thursday (January 15). Veverkova definitely knows how to throw a party so be there at 6pm! Given the location and neighbors, we have no option but to hope the shop will be super cool. See you there!