Kupe: Saladheads Rejoice!
It's not easy being a vegetarian in Brno - it's hard enough being in a relationship with one and finding decent places to go for a bite to eat. Around here you still get the sense that the older generations don't really know what a vegetarian is, and even some modern restaurants will think nothing of listing fish, or even chicken, in their "Bezmasa" section.
So going out for a meal with my hardcore vegetarian girlfriend can be a real ordeal, and I suffer with her. She made the moral choice to come off the flesh when she was about ten years old, and I respect her willpower - she is so strict with herself and how her food is prepared, but is not some tofu totalitarian. She has never once tried pushing me to change, and would never dream of trying to convert a carnivore to the ways of the cauliflower.
The options usually available to her tend to be fried cheese, fried cauliflower, fried broccoli, or sometimes just fries. It's not fun trying to have a nice meal with your loved one while she's poking around in her risotto to make sure there's no rogue sausages lurking around in there. And if she does find a stray piece of meat, then that's it, you're spending the rest of the meal on your own while she's out back purging herself.
So thanks to the heavens for Kupe, a sweet little cellar bar-restaurant on Veveri, which opened in the spring of 2011 and gave Saladheads and their familiars a place of refuge. There are other veggie restaurants in Brno, but they tend either to be the spartan, threadbare, Hare Krishna HQ-style joints serving up meager platters of Indian inspired fodder; or else expensive, belligerently healthy, buffet-style canteens like Rebio, which always smell like the inside of a pet shop.
There are no such problems with Kupe - they specialise in serving up super fresh, meat-free interpretations of classics from the Middle East and Turkey, and the smell of herbs and tasty cooking wafting up the stairs to greet you beckons you down into a warm, chatty cellar space below.
It's a small restaurant, with the non-smoking section occupying the front part of the cellar by the bar, while the smoking area occupies a lounge at the rear. The lounge area is more relaxed, decked out with mismatched retro furniture, with comfy armchairs to slump in. There is space on the walls for contemporary art by local artists (available to purchase), and mellow tunes on the stereo, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere, inviting you to take your time perusing the generous selection on offer in their plush, hard bound menus.
The menu is in Czech, and you can't help but get the feeling you're missing out on something, because their descriptions of the dishes are quite detailed. However, rudimentary Pub Czech should see you through the basic ingredients, and if not, the pictures tastefully and accurately depict what's going to be on your plate.
It's good fun in Kupe to just order a bunch of dishes between you and share, and they do have an option to order mixed platters of the starters, which include favourites such as hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed vine leaves and falafel. The falafel is actually the most disappointing thing on the menu, served in rather hard, dry little pucks covered in sesame seeds.
Far more enjoyable is the chunky baba ghanoush, served with fresh homemade arabic bread, although sometimes the chef gets a little excited with the lime juice; creamy tarator, topped with walnuts; or crispy Sambousek, cute little pastries filled with spinach and feta cheese. For daredevils, there is a ridiculously hot muhammara dip - if you can finish it off, you get to choose something for free off the menu.
A selection of starters to share are usually ample for a light bite, so it's very rare I delve into the Mains - but there you will find shish kebabs of marinated and grilled vegetables, couscous dishes, kashmiri rice with cashews and raisins, moussaka, and my favourite, Kushari - a popular Egyptian dish of lentils, rice, chickpeas and macaroni, doused with a spicy tomato sauce and topped with fried onions.
There is also a section of lunch salads, and some excellent Turkish pizzas to chose from - served on a board, these narrow, footlong pizzas come with toppings such as bell pepper and feta cheese; spinach and sheep's cheese; protein based salami substitute (not as horrible as it sounds); and a spicy option with muhummara, olives, red onion and cherry tomatoes.
It's all very tasty and filling, and you can take away any left overs with you for a nominal charge.
Almost everything is freshly prepared, fragrant with herbs, and may take some time to reach you - the service at Kupe is pretty laid back anyway, but during busy periods it can take up to an hour to receive your food. The menu helpfully specifies dishes that will take a while to prepare, but Kupe is perhaps not the best option if you're in a rush, or if you're starving.
The menu also highlights dishes that are suitable for vegans, and gluten-free meals. A chilli pepper symbol denotes how hot certain dishes will be, but be warned - their assessment of what's hot and what's not tends towards the higher end of the scale. I can handle pretty spicy food, but their muhummara topped pizza, rated only a three on their chilli scale, scalded the roof of my mouth and almost burnt my lips off!
Drinks on offer range from Cerna Hora beer and wine through to ginger ale, fruit juices, coffees and leaf tea. Prices are extremely reasonable - for a light bite, a couple of starters to share and a couple of drinks each, expect to pay around 300kc (Approximately ten pounds).
Brno is gradually improving in terms of food on offer, although so many pubs and restaurants in this town offer the same old variants of the same Czech menu. It's hard to find other cuisine of any quality as an alternative, so Kupe is one of the brightest things to happen to the city's food scene in the three years I've lived here. It's a meat free restaurant, but in terms of quality, flavour, choice, atmosphere, and service, it also provides a happy alternative for all us carnivores, too.
Other Info: English Spoken
Stravenky (Lunch Vouchers) - Accepted
Website: www.kupeorient.cz - (not finished yet)
Facebook - Links to daily lunch specials
Tram: 3, 11, 12, & 13 - Zastavka (Stop) - Grohova
(Review originally posted on Ciao!)
Favorite Dish: Baba Ghanoush.Related to:
- Budget Travel
- Food and Dining
Sport Bar ARENA: The Best of Numerous Evils?
Having burnt my bridges and barred myself from 'The King's Head', Arena soon became the default choice for watching the football.
It's the best of a bad choice, because there's not many reliable options for footie fans in Brno. If you find somewhere that is showing the game, likely there'll be no atmosphere. Or if you find a place with atmosphere, chances are it's because the locals are watching Ice Hockey instead.
Arena Sports Bar, with it's sliding doors, bookies upstairs, huge plates of grub, oddly placed screens, questionable beer, and strip joint ambience when they turn the neon lights on, at least show most big games on at least one TV in the building.
There's plenty of them, and attempting to cater for several sets of fans rooting for sometimes three or four different sports at once creates a strange atmosphere.
You might be watching the England game on the big screen, getting distracted by the women's beach volleyball on the screens above the oval bar, while a bunch of Italians might be watching their game on the TV directly above your head. Then you just end up leaping into the air and screaming in each other's faces when a goal goes in.
Favorite Dish: I don't know. The food is big, and tastes a bit like what it's supposed to be. I'm only here for the feast of football...Related to:
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Sherlock Holmes Pub: Moriarty's Evil Plan.
Something is afoot - the evil scheme of this pub's owners, or perhaps some criminal mastermind in the background, is simple - buy/rent an attractive building in the centre of Brno. Open a pub, and call it something really English sounding, oh I don't know, how about "Sherlock Holmes"?
Then proceed to offer a completely traditional Czech menu, except bump the prices up by 30-40kc per dish, disguising their Czech origins by calling them amusingly English style things, like "221b Baker Street Burger" or "Kensington Garden Salad".
The air conditioned, wood-panelled interior is attractive enough, managing to be both cosy and spacious, and offers either a warm retreat in the winter, or somewhere to cool off in the summer. In the warm months there is also a pleasant terrace out front, which is good for people watching and soaking up your surroundings.
Inside, the place is usually devoid of atmosphere during the day, with background music provided by MTV or VH1. There is a more intimate seating area upstairs, and an English menu, although some of the Czenglish translations are bizarre to say the least.
Not bad, but with a little further investigation, there are far more rewarding places to stop in the centre.
Favorite Dish: I have yet to eat here, because I refuse to pay the mark up on something I can get 20-30kc cheaper from round the corner. The food does look good, though...
The King's Head: Ain't That a Kick in the (King's) Head?
To paraphrase Capt Willard in 'Apocalypse Now', The King's Head...Sh*t.
Like many a new arrival in Brno, I'd done my research and was drawn to this "traditional restaurant in English style", encouraged by the prospect of English breakfasts and Premier League football on Sky Sports.
Typical - you take the leap, pack in your job, sell everything you own and move to a new country. You can manage without family, English newspapers, HP Sauce, PG Tips and Walkers Crisps, but then there's the football. And in my early days of an immigrant to the Czech Republic's second city, football was more to me than a mere game...it offered a little window to England for ninety minutes. And it was important to me.
Initially I enjoyed my visits to the King's Head - a small front room with an authentic-looking wood panelled bar more often than not packed with a friendly bunch of English, Irish, Scots & Americans. The punters sat on stools around the bar, the atmosphere was good, the food resembled things from England, and yes, there was football on the big screen, with the sound on, and with commentary in English!
Then things soured - the first indication was during an FA Cup match; several regulars had arrived especially for the game. Only problem was, no sound, because three or four Czechs were watching the Ice Hockey on the small TV in the corner.
Now, I understand that the locals should have priority, but the King's Head was deliberately pitching itself as a place for expats, and God Knew, these guys spent a great deal of their time and money in this joint. And the Ice Hockey was on every TV in every other pub in town, whereas the options for the football were limited to say the least.
Then came the crunch - my last visit to the King's Head. It was the Play Off Final, May 2009. The play off is always my favourite game of the year, far more exciting than the FA Cup Final.
I was the only person in there, and settled on a stool to watch the game. Except I couldn't hear much, because the barmaids had the radio on. Loud. I asked them if they could turn it down. They wouldn't. I then collared the owner, George, who I'd spoken to a few times and thought he might help. I said I only wanted it down a bit so I could hear the TV.
His response was; "Do I look like a f*cking idiot?"
An argument followed, culminating in him chasing me up the steps as I left, advising him his attitude stunk.
I haven't been back since, and I know it's not just me. From other expats I've learnt of similar, and in some cases more violent disagreements with the owner.
It's offensive for a place to claim to cater to foreigners, take their money then laugh in their faces. Not good enough.
As a small aside, I do have the King's Head wheelie bin in my front garden - I have no idea how it got there, but I did consider taking a picture and sending it along with a ransom note to the arrogant tosser.
Favorite Dish: All day breakfast - almost, but not quite, authentic.Related to:
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Nandu's: Nandu's what Nandu's Does...
Having clearly looked towards the popular franchise Nando's for inspiration on their sign, there the similarity ends, as Nandu's is a fairly standard kebab shop on Uvoz.
However, the kebabs are pretty good, with a choice of beef or chicken in a bun or a tortilla wrap, and at least it looks like it hasn't been sitting there all day, unlike some other joints in town. Standard trimmings, and the chilli sauce doesn't pack much of a punch.
The proprietor also keeps a special drawer of minced lamb which he doesn't always put up on the board - if you ask him nicely, he'll do you a kofta kebab with it. It'll start off at 100czk, but is worth the extra, as the meat is lightly spiced and beautifully soft and juicy.
Worth noting is some of their other options - fresh hummus, tasty falafels and salads make this a better than average option, and certainly one of the best take away options on this side of town.
English spoken most of the time, and lunch vouchers are accepted. Worth a punt after a few pints.
Favorite Dish: The chicken gyros in a tortilla wrap is my default choice, and it'll be hard to pry me away from it.Related to:
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More details to follow, this page is under construction. Please check out my other tips while you wait!
Favorite Dish: More details to follow, this page is under construction. Please check out my other tips while you wait!Related to:
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- Budget Travel
Empire 2: Lap up the Brno Skyline
There's really only one reason to visit Empire, and that's the rooftop terrace. Forget it on a rainy day, the interior's dreary and reminiscent of the conservatory breakfast area stuck on the back of a B & B.
The terrace offers excellent views of Brno's skyline, with all it's spires and smokestacks on impressive display. It's also good for a few drinks and catch a bit of a breeze in the height of summer, idling away under the parasols.
On the downside, it tends to be frequented by the types who think this whole thing is very cool indeed, with the tacky laminated cocktail menus displaying Del Boy-esque Pina Coladas superimposed over shots of tropical beaches. Which is not always a bad thing, except they forgot to put any alcohol in mine!
The food's average, and the service is rude and slow. But the views are what it's all about...
Favorite Dish: I have to admit, I've yet to eat here...however, the new menu does have a few tempting options on it.Related to:
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U Richarda: U Richarda
More details will follow - this page is under construction. Please check out the rest of my guide while I'm working on it!
Favorite Dish: More details will follow - this page is under construction. Please check out the rest of my guide while I'm working on it!Related to:
- Beer Tasting
DON MIGUEL'S: "The garden is certainly closed"
They cook great! I had my first steak at this place. I also had my second steak here :) But then I stopped eating pig/cow/sheep meat and had to chose something else. Salmon steak! Tortillas! Buritos! Delicious!
They make not only South American food but also Czech. You can sit outside in the restaurant garden and all the place is very comfortable and nice. There used to work a favorite waiter of mine, the quote in the heading is his :) I hope he is still there when I come to eat to Don Miguel's again.
Amsterdam Grill Bar: Cosy Central Hangout
Occupying a unit in a very central shopping centre, Amsterdam turns out to be a very decent little nook for a spot of food or drinking.
Cosy and wooden, it perhaps evokes a sense of English Pub that it may not be intentionally going for, unlike every other so-called "English" pub in Brno. Which is maybe why it's so popular with local Expats - but don't let that discourage you from dropping in for a bite and a beer.
The food is reassuringly OK, with a wider selection than many places in town. Not perfect, but the poor elements - such as the stale bun on the Harlem Burger are compensated by the good elements, such as the chunky beefburger inside it.
This may sound like faint praise, but compared to the offal shovelled up by some places in Brno, this is Michellin star material.
Non-smoking upstairs area and friendly waiting staff are also provided, and there is also seating outside on Panska when the weather's nice.
Favorite Dish: The Chicken Burrito - big enough for two to share if you want a light bite.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Caffe Tripoli: Gaddafi's Favourite Restaurant in Brno
Although Caffe Tripoli disappointingly fails to offer any Libyan Cuisine on the menu, it makes up for it with a clean, modern interior and excellent terrace seating just off Zelny Trh.
A wide range of coffees, shakes and soft drink cocktails are available, as well as booze. The food is dependable, well presented and above average for Brno. There is a decent breakfast menu, daily lunch specials, and the usual pastas, risottos, steaks and 'Specialities'. For those with a sweet tooth, there are plenty of pancakes and sweets to chose from.
Usually frequented by a smart local set, there is also branches in the Olympia and Vankovka shopping centres.Related to:
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Restaurace Varna: Good Eating Food...
Restaurace Varna gets maximum thumbs up for doing the simple things well - which goes a long way in a town like Brno, which is around ten years behind Prague in terms of quality and service, and eating out can be a frustratingly random experience.
With it's bright, modern interior, Varna serves up tasty, unpretentious grub to a lively crowd, and the atmosphere can be quite buzzy in the evenings. Traditional Czech, decent pizzas and pastas, and steaks all make an appearence on the menu, and while there's nothing to wow the gourmets among us, it is at least good food for eating.
One drawback is no English menu as yet, but the waiting staff are unusually helpful here. Lunch specials are also a draw before 2pm.
Favorite Dish: Everything I've had from this place has been enjoyable, but the pizza is particularly good, with plenty of choices. Thin, crispy & served hot.Related to:
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U DVOU KOZLU: At Two Billygoats
When I was here last time, old ladies had their annual meeting there drinking wine and mineral water :) This used to be my favorite place for drinking bear. Now, however, the place is empty! What's happening?
COCTAIL BAR SILINGRAK: Coctail in black and white
Nice simple restaurant with gooood coctails (Swimming pool!) and gooood meals (chicken pocket with bacon and garlic plus fried potatoes! And the lovely hot chocolate!
They made a renovation recently and the place is not so cosy anymore, but still worth trying.
L. says: I don't know why, but everytime I am going out with somebody (anybody!) and we cannot really decide where to go, we always end up here!
Vytopna: Restaurant on railway tracks :-)
Quite unusal and really great experience - drinks in this restaurant are being served by small trains :-) Meal was tasty, prices are maybe little higher, but still it is worth visiting.
Mo - Thu: 11:00 - 23:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00 - ?
Sun: 11:00 - 23:00
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