Christmas dinner

Prague Christmas Dining Guide 2018, aka Hey dude, where's my Xmas meal?

Prague Christmas Dining Guide 2018, aka Hey dude, where's my Xmas meal?

So you may have heard that everything shuts down on Christmas Eve in Prague and the Czech Republic. Totally true. Christmas Eve is the only day of the year we do not run our Prague Foodie Tour, and the biggest holiday on the Czech calendar: most people stay at home with their families, only for things to revert back to some degree of normality on December 25, and fully on December 27, which is a regular working day.

Which means if you want to eat out on Christmas Eve, options exist, but are limited. And if you don’t have a booking already, you should act now. Okay, don’t panic: restaurants, especially in the historical centre, will be open and cater to tourism, but if you want to be smarter about your Christmas dinner plans, here’s our Prague Christmas dining guide.


Prague Christmas Dining Guide: Eating Out on Christmas and NYE

Prague Christmas Dining Guide: Eating Out on Christmas and NYE

If we got a penny for every email we get in November and December asking “Where should we eat on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve?”… we’d have lots of pennies. Yes. Dining out in Prague is hard over Christmas, especially if you don’t like hotel restaurants. (And yes, we don’t particularly like them either.)

It’s funny: while the Czechs may form statistically one of the most atheist societies in the world, they do like and celebrate Christmas. Heck, kids write letters to Baby Jesus, because he brings Christmas presents! (Sorry, no imagery behind that.) And Czech Christmas could also be easily called the National Day of Overeating at Home, which means that nearly all eateries will shut down to some extent, especially for Christmas Eve. So if you are hungry on Christmas Eve, you will probably stay hungry until Christmas Day. Mark our words.

Of course, you don’t have to be a foreign visitor to have a keen interest in Christmas dining options. We mean, have you ever hosted a Christmas Eve dinner for the family? Exactly. Everybody’s late, you’re stressed (honey, have you bought the sweet wine your mom likes?), the potato salad tastes funny and the carp has bones. And then bitter disappointments and fake smiles under the Christmas tree. Yeah. Thank you but no, thank you. Why not just skip it all and have a great dinner somewhere nice, like the solid and self-respecting humans we all are?

So we have rung a few numbers, talked to a few friends, browsed a few websites, and set up this Prague Christmas Dining Guide. Sure, you may now think you will not need it at all. But trust us: you’ll wish you’d paid attention to it when the morning of December 24 arrives. Bookmark this post. Act on it now. Or weep later. Merry Christmas!


Where to eat in Prague over the Christmas holidays

Where to eat in Prague over the Christmas holidays

Just like towards the end of any other year, the hottest question any foreign visitor - or a local for that matter - in Prague should ask in this cold weather is… where do I eat on Christmas Eve? What do I do on New Year’s Eve? Will the restaurants close for the holidays? You see, while Czech may be statistically one of the most atheist societies in the world, we still do celebrate Christmas and nearly everything shuts down for Christmas Eve especially. Which means that if you are hungry on Christmas Eve and don’t have a reservation or don’t like hotel restaurants or gas stations, you will probably stay hungry until Christmas Day.


Our Christmas Meal at Aureole

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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.

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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. 

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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.  

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Where to eat in Prague during the holidays?

Recently we have been getting desperate emails and calls from people planning to spend the holidays in Prague asking us to confirm whether the rumors that many restaurants would be closed over Christmas were true. Yes, they are. Although eighty percent of the Czechs are atheists or agnostics, Christmas remains the main holiday of the year and the majority of services, restaurants and shops shut down over the holiday season. Hey, those Christmas cookies won’t eat themselves, right?

We don't want you to end up with cheap booze offered by fake Santa (pictured above), so we have made a few calls, browsed a few websites and collected information about the opening times and special events some of the popular restaurants in Prague (that have our "seal of approval”) may have over the holidays. Here’s the results.


Merry Christmas, pt 2, aka Where to Eat on Christmas Eve

With a bit of exaggeration, food is what Christmas really is all about. That's the time to spoil yourself, then spoil yourself again and then a little bit more. When at home, there is usually plenty on offer to satisfy your cravings. But where to eat when you find yourself in Prague during Christmas? Well, we've put together our favorite places offering Christmas treats such as Christmas cookies, delicious ham, great roasts, sparkling or mulled wine, etc. - after all, it just wouldn't be Christmas without these - and we want to share them with you.


Christmas dining in Prague

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Czech Christmas in a nutshell: Christmas tree decorating and gift-wrapping with joyful songs in the background, family having a substantial meal followed by Christmas cookies and unwrapping presents. This all is done on the 24th - Christmas Eve. There is no Santa nor St. Nicholas, but Baby Jesus who delivers all the presents (the imagery stops there - there is no sled or rain deer; Baby Jesus just gets the job done without going into the specifics). Traditionally, one member of the family (my sister) decorates the tree while the others prepare dinner or watch fairy tales. When everything is ready, the whole family (except the mum who is finishing the dinner) usually goes out to get some fresh air and little kids are being taken for sleigh rides. Arriving home to a house smelling of wonderful fish soup, fried carp, potato salad, Christmas cookies and "vánočka" Christmas bread with a huge Christmas tree and heaps of present magically appearing out of nowhere is the best part of being a kid during Christmas.Spending Christmas abroad is another story, but it doesn’t necessarily mean having to miss out on the whole Christmas tree, Christmas dinner and presents business! In Prague, the whole city wonderfully becomes a Christmas wonderland with Christmas lights, fairs, and countless festive things to do and eat! Happen to be in Prague on Christmas Eve and Day? Do you want to celebrate Christmas with your family and friends in one of the outstanding Prague restaurants? We’ve rounded up some inspiration for a truly festive fun time.

Aromi

Italian restaurant Aromi has prepared a special four-course menu that combines both Italian and Czech cuisines and that aims to offer the best of both countries'   Christmas traditions.

Restaurant La Finestra

The meaty counterpart to its sister restaurant Aromi has also prepared a Christmas menu inspired by both Czech and Italian traditional cuisines.

La Rotonde and Alcron

For Christmas Eve, La Rotonde restaurant offers a special buffet menu featuring traditional Christmas specialties such as fried carp and potato salad, roast duck with dumplings and red cabbage, all accompanied by holiday music. 
The guests of the award-winning Alcron Restaurant, an intimate restaurant that seats only 24 people, can savor an exclusive seven-course dinner.

Terasa U Zlaté Studně

Terasa U Zlaté Studně (Golden Well) restaurant, a spot that boast one of the nicest views over historical Prague, offers an exclusive seven-course menu. However, they also serve a la carte dishes.

Chateau Mcely

If you feel like enjoying calm and worry-free Christmas, just take a short ride from Prague to the Chateau Mcely - their team will take good care of you. This place has a unique atmosphere that combines the aristocratic traditions of the Thurn-Taxis family with the magic of Advent, and the food is divine.